Published: August 23, 2022
Compiled by Madelia Hickman Ring
By the time I met him in the early 1980s, Scudder Smith had become well known to collectors, dealers, curators and other inhabitants of the American antiques and art world through his Antiques and The Arts Weekly. This was the first-ever publication of its kind, begun in 1963 in Newtown, Conn., and devoted to coverage of upcoming antiques and art events from Maine to Pennsylvania and beyond.
Antiques enthusiasts of the 1940s, 1950s and early 1960s, participants in the post-World War II surge of interest in all things American, operated on the hit-or-miss basis of searching for antiques in the shops and at the auctions they just happened to know about. Scudder, as a collector himself, recognized the need for a comprehensive source of information on where – and when – to find art and antiques. It was an idea whose time had come.
Scudder from the beginning recognized the importance of involving dealers in his new enterprise – as advertisers, subscribers and contributors – and many readers felt that advertisements were as essential as show and exhibition listings. Buyers as well as sellers benefited from advertising: one collector told an interviewer that he had acquired rare and important additions to his toy-train collection by placing two full-page ads in Antiques and The Arts Weekly.
I hadn’t thought of comparing Scudder with Homer Eaton Keyes, founding editor of The Magazine Antiques, until Laura Beach asked me to reflect on Scudder’s place in the American antiques and art world. It then occurred to me that Scudder had created, as Keyes had, a publication that became a major component of the development and growth of that world. Scudder’s focus was on the marketplace – on bringing buyers and sellers together. Keyes, too, understood the importance of cultivating dealers, attending auctions and reporting his findings, but his chief focus was on digging out and presenting new scholarly information. The two publications complemented one another admirably.
Scudder Smith and Homer Eaton Keyes were alike in loving “the stuff” and in being collectors of it – Keyes of Chinese export porcelain and Scudder of folk art. And both men brought passion and commitment to the tasks of shaping and editing their publications – each of which became the Bible in its domain.
author of The Antiquers and A Kind of Archeology: Collecting American Folk Art, 1876-1976
Thoughts about Scudder…There is such a deep and happy well of thoughts and memories I have about Scudder, running the length and breadth of my career and life from the early 1970s to the present.
It’s difficult to pinpoint the moment that I met Scudder (with his movie-star looks and elegant demeanor, I should remember) – but he was, most likely, the first journalist of major consequence I encountered in my career who covered the then nascent but rapidly developing field of American folk art on such a consistent, in depth and supportive basis.
It was his love, fascination and commitment to the material that gave him (and Helen) the stamina and the determination to cover all that was humanly possible to cover and publish it on a weekly basis. For collectors, dealers and public at large, the access to information of what was happening in the field was refreshed and reinforced weekly. This weekly informational “watering” reinforced our collective understanding that this material was important and worthy of such in-depth and consistent coverage and made it so.
One of the remarkable aspects of inhabiting what now in retrospect seems to be the “golden age” of Americana collecting with it profusion of sales of bold face single owner collections fueled by determined dealers and determined collectors were the friendships that formed which went beyond normal business roles. Helen and Scudder became much more than well-liked professional colleagues for Michael and me. When Michael and I were thinking about purchasing an Eighteenth Century house in Greenwich, Conn., we asked them to come and walk the property and the house with us for their assessment (“It will be a ton of work, but we’ve got a contractor who can help”).
Helen and Scudder introduced us to St Bart’s – in its early days before its current mega-yacht configuration – and to Cristal champagne, sipped on the patio of their home at the summit of a very steep hill overlooking St Jean Harbor at sunset (Note: Better to climb the hill before the Cristal than after…).
David Davies and Jack Weeden were a part of the Scudder and Helen circle of friends, and they became close friends of Michael and mine and we spent lots of wonderful time jointly and severally with the Smiths and the Davies-Weedens.
I think of Betty Ring’s standing dinner date with Scudder after the opening of the Winter Antiques Show, usually at The Leopard at Des Artistes – Betty’s favorite spot in New York. Betty would be as giddy as a high school girl getting ready for a special prom date to be squired by Scudder (those movie-star looks and charm)!
So, a deep and happy well of thoughts and memories of Scudder – an indefatigable advocate and supporter of our field, through thick and thin, and with Helen, treasured friends.
In founding Antiques and The Arts Weekly nearly 60 years ago, Scudder Smith became one of greatest boosters of the antiques business in the United States. Long before the ease of internet browsing, his weekly paper became a portal into the world of American antiques. The eagerly anticipated weekly advertisements for shows, tag sales and auctions became the beating heart of a rapidly growing marketplace. The paper brought together a community of collectors, dealers, auctioneers, museum professionals, scholars and enthusiasts with Scudder at its center, a gentlemanly and kind-hearted fatherly figure. His modest personal demeanor masked a professional who set a high bar in standards of journalistic integrity, class and fairness with a measure of old-fashioned New England charm. Scudder was a very loyal person who unhesitatingly stood by his friends and always preferred to see the best in people. One of my fondest early memories as a dealer involved Scudder and Helen Smith. About 1979, when I was in the ninth grade at Rye Country Day School and still a part-time dealer, I was exhibiting at the “Danbury Dealers Show,” an innovative and successful series of one-day events organized by Jackie Sideli. The highlight of my offerings that day was a wonderful Nineteenth Century paint-decorated sheet iron horse weathervane that I had discovered on a carriage house belonging to a family friend who was thrilled by an unexpected windfall from its sale to me. As a teenager I was incredibly honored when such highly esteemed collectors as Scudder and Helen Smith purchased that vane from me for $1,900, a large sum in those days, and my highest priced sale of the day. For those of us who experienced those exiting halcyon days, we are all blessed with a lifetime of memories of Scudder and his remarkable circle of friends in the antiques business. For me a torrent of names come to mind that must include Mary Allis, Avis and Rocky Gardiner, Stewart Gregory, Russell Carrell and his “family” of dealers, the Tillous, Guthmans, Bisnoffs, and so many others whose spirit live on in a business and field of collecting they lovingly fostered and brought about for the rest of us to carry on.
David A. Schorsch
Scudder had a wonderfully positive impact for both museums and the art and antiques trade. I have read for years, and with great pleasure, what we in the “trade” always called The Newtown Bee. Fortunately, his legacy lives on and continues to prove the value of what he so enthusiastically promoted.
Seeing Scudder and Helen (Boodee) appear at our booth was always a highlight of any show. The humorous banter that followed had few boundaries. Scudder had strong work ethics, never tiring of his responsibilities associated with The Newtown Bee, while simultaneously always showing a childlike delight with life. A small stuffed dog “Buddy” traveled everywhere with him sporting a variety of wardrobes and needed to have the TV on an interesting channel if left in the hotel room while we went to dinner. Buddy also had his own email address and would “usually” edit the outrageous stories that accompanied the publicity photos we would send him. Scudder, always with a sense of fun, loved and cherished everything from his bow tie collection to his old Lincoln Town Car, which he made sure outlived him. But what really nurtured his soul was his deep love for his wonderful wife Helen, their children and grandchildren. His passing will leave a deep void in the antiques world, but his memory will always make those that knew him smile.
Steve & Carol Huber
Scudder Smith had a passion for bow ties, great American Folk Art and the latest discovery in the art world. A fixture at shows and auctions – with his camera at the ready – he was a benevolent newsman whose grace and dignity earned the love and respect of all. We will all miss him dearly.
As much as I admired Scudder and loved talking with him about antiques, the main thing was I loved the competition about who wore the bow tie better. I was also jealous of Scudder’s full head of hair!
My favorite Scudder story is how he would tease my Tom that he would eventually be working for me wearing a Santa suit. We will miss him. The end of an era for sure.
It is with much sorrow that we extend our deepest condolences to the Scudder Smith family and the entire Newtown Bee family. Words cannot express what Scudder has done for the antique community over the years. When Ida and I first met him more than 40 years ago, it was like meeting an old friend. He will surely be missed by all who knew him, but he will always remain in our memories.
Ken & Ida Manko
Scudder was a man of grace and style. I will always appreciate his support. He was so welcoming of me when I joined the antique business. I was always happy to see him at the shows. I enjoyed our conversations. He was a wealth of knowledge. He was always so well dressed. He loved what he did, his passion always shined through. I will miss him. But, I will always think of him and remember him fondly as he was one of the greats. The antique business was built on great people of tradition like him. How lucky are we to have known him.
The first time I met Scudder was in the early 2000s. I had been to St Barth’s before and loved it and finally got my husband Wayne to check it out with me. It was Wayne’s first time being in St Barth’s, and my first time meeting Helen and Scudder. During my time at Sotheby’s auction house in the 1980s/early 90s, I had always admired the way Antiques and The Arts Weekly put a positive spin on its reportage of auctions and exhibitions. Getting to know Scudder put all the pieces into place. It came from the top down.
It became a tradition every year and the only vacation Wayne and I took without the kids. The trip was always in early February after the long Winter Antiques Show in New York City in January. It was the perfect respite – no antiques, very little antiques talk, just relaxation, good food and wine. Scudder and Wayne were both off-duty and just enjoying each other’s company and the beautiful setting. After Wayne died in 2007, I continued to go during the same week for another 15 years with family and friends. The last couple of years I have been sad not to see Scudder and Helen there.
In St Barth’s, Scudder was perpetually tan, fun, kind, smart, wholesome and highly perceptive. I think back fondly of Scudder driving his green Moke with the press badge, puttering around in his garage or Dr Seuss-like Garden, floating in his pool overlooking Saint Jean, drinking large quantities of rosÃ© and never being drunk. Most of all, I think of our walks together. We would often meet in the driveway at 6 am. He was always fresh and ready to go with the car running, no matter what festivities had occurred the night before. No matter how tired I was, I got myself up to go with him because I enjoyed his company so much. We would drive to Gustavia before sunrise, park the car at the fish stall and start walking all over the hilly town. Turns out that Scudder had a lot of secret friends along his regular walking route – various stray dogs and chickens who, when they saw him coming, became excited because they knew he had treats in his pocket. Sometimes we’d pop into the church to see if Charles Darden was practicing the piano for an upcoming service. We always stopped at his favorite patisserie to pick up a baguette and croissants for Helen, and the fish stall to see what had come in that morning. Many people and animals will miss Scudder’s peregrinations, whether it be through antiques exhibitions or the back alleys of St Barth’s.
Sarah Shinn Pratt
I met Scudder Smith many years ago while exhibiting at various antiques shows. As a member of the press, he was permitted to circle around the show before it opened. This allowed him to make notes and take photos for his review before the crush of people obscured his view and hindered his abilities. He would always make several turns around the entire fair and look into every nook and cranny, as if to search out the hidden gem in every booth. He often stopped to catch up with a dealer/friend to hear stories about new discoveries in their field or perhaps just to share a good joke. Wherever he sauntered, he did it with such style and elegance. He wore brightly colored shirts and bow ties; he possessed a deep knowledge of art and antiques, and he had great wit and easy charm. This made a very positive indelible impression on many of us who had the good fortune to call him a friend.
Such sad news. Our world of good guys and gals is getting smaller and smaller.
Turning a relatively small, local hometown journal into an international voice for the world of antiques and art, an essential “what-when-and-how” for lovers all for the wonders of finding that one treasure. The Bee, the encyclopedia to keep the interest and fun of collecting and dealing. What a fantastic legacy.
Whenever Scudder and I crossed our respective paths, there was always a joke to be shared. There was a serious side, discussing the market, who was doing what and so on. On such a sort of serious side, for more than 40 years, or so, Scudder and I had a master plan for a historic event, a flea market for the older folks. The kicker was: there was to be early buying, 11 am. Each time we met, we would continue that conversation. No more!
Having grown up with Scudder and Helen, starting with flea markets in the 1960s, his passing leaves a deep hole for one of the greats of our world.
Burton and Helaine Fendelman
Scudder used to collect beehives for his office; he bought many of them from me. I first met him maybe 30 years ago, when I came over from England to work with Jesse Leatherwood. He has always been a magical figure to me with his dry sense of humor, his dapper style with wonderful and unique bow ties. He had immaculate taste. I remember him as being larger than life. He never spoke a lot, but he would say things that were to the point, very precise and always with a smile.
I have 50 years of memories. We’ve been friends since 1971 and my children grew up with Scudder. Right now, there’s just sadness. I’ve spoken to him through this whole period, and I knew it was inevitable, but the reality is another thing. We could still laugh, still touch bases, even with his weak voice on the phone.
He was hysterically funny. He teased me about anything. My daughter’s favorite memory of him was him buying an ice cream cone, telling her to smell it to see if it was the kind she liked, then pushing her nose into it. One of my favorite memories was when I was getting into the car, he’d blow the horn as hard as he could.
He was my absolute and complete mentor throughout my 50-year career. He really guided me in his own wacky way. Behind the curtain, he was always making things happen. I have him to thank for a 50-year-old business that’s been nothing short of wonderful.
When I was president of the NHADA, we did show sections and it was my dream to get every dealer to take a full page. One of the last years I was involved, we achieved it, so we had some amazing triumphs.
I keep thinking of the poem by W.H. Auden, “Funeral Blues,” which starts “Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone…” It’s kind of the way the world will never be the same for me without Scudder.
He was just beloved. This business has lost its absolute spotlight. I don’t think anyone represented the antiques business in our lifetime in the same way.
From my perspective, Scudder’s love for this country was shown in all the wonderful things he collected. His enthusiasm for the various areas he collected, whether folk art or country store, whatever, he had an extraordinarily informed eye, and was active participating in the perpetuation of Americana.
He was always so visible at shows, tall, handsome, impeccably dressed, slightly outrageous in the most beautiful way possible. He exemplified what is exciting about collecting and set a great example. He was eager and accessible.
In the early days, he was very friendly with Bob Skinner. When he showed up to our sales, the feeling was “Yay, Scudder is here!” His presence made the atmosphere that much more rarified.
The antiques business, as well as all the dealers, were supported by Scudder and with The Newtown Bee’s Antiques and The Arts Weekly every week. He wanted our business to thrive as much as we did. Not only did he cover events, he went to auctions and shows and collected folk art himself. Helen and Scudder were two people you always looked forward to seeing when exhibiting at a show. He will be missed by all of us.
Penny Dionne (via Facebook)
I knew him when he was young and really dapper and wore such dapper suits. He was just a wonderful guy. He had so many interests and had such a great eye. I first met him when I was in the Folk Art Society; we were the young ones in the group then and it was fun to have a lively crew to be with.
He had such a wonderful eye and was such an enormous force. He was so welcoming and kind to me and Mike; he always had our back as trustees of the Folk Art Museum. He was serious without being heavy, he had a twinkle and was a great combination of knowledge and kindness.
R. Scudder Smith, A gifted newspaper man to many… an inspiration to us all. Twenty seven years ago, my life’s career took a new direction from antiques dealer to show manager and with that an endearing friendship was born with Scudder. My phone rings and “Hi Frank,” the familiar voice would say, “It’s Scudder” as a smile beamed across my face. The memory of that cheerful salutation will never fade. Scudder was a well-respected driving force in the antiques and art industry as a gifted editor and serious collector of many disciplines. His passion and excitement when discovering a new still bank for his collection was like a child on Christmas morning, joyful beyond words. I recall with great fondness a vacation I took with dealer Jim Grievo and collector Lyle Mohr scuba diving off the coast of Anguilla, when we had an off day and decided to charter a plane and fly over to Saint Barth’s for a surprise visit with Helen and Scudder. In true “Smith style,” Scudder greeted us at the airport in his open air Moke sporting four telephones and a bag of freshly baked croissants… our hero!
When we arrived at their oceanview home, Helen welcomed us with trays of fresh fruit, giant shrimp and a medley of other local delicacies, simply magnificent. At the end of a remarkable day, upon departure, hugs were exchanged and an offer to visit again was extended. Scudder was also a man of silent pride who enjoyed delivering hundreds of copies of Antiques and The Arts Weekly to my shows weighing down the trunk of his treasured 1994 blue Lincoln Continental, his ride of choice! I can go on about conversations of inspiration Scudder shared with me when my own confidence waned, but he always gave positive reinforcement which I will treasure dearly. To the Smith family and those at The Bee, we at Barn Star Productions extend our most sincere condolences for peace and love at this time.
Frank Gagilo, family and staff
Our rudder is lost! Such sad news.
Phil Zea (via Facebook)
What a great guy! He was the man! He was always there, and he was the nicest guy. I really admired him at all the shows. He took everything and his job very seriously, but he had a great sense of humor. I don’t admire many people, but I really admired him; he was a class act.
He was larger than life. I first met him exhibiting at the Salisbury flea market 65 years ago and have fond memories of that. He was 100 percent the most caring person I’ve probably ever known.
I admired Scudder for how he took care of business and our show and was always there visiting. He was always just a great man; I’m just so sorry to hear the news.
Melvin “Bud” Arion
Scudder’s passing brought the curtain down on a great friendship. He and Helen shared their life with us. I’ve known Scudder since the late 1960s, when he did Russell Carrell’s flea markets. We had a tradition of going out to dinner with him and Helen, Tom and Butch, and Tommy Thompson – at the Accomac Inn – after setting up at the York Show. It was wonderful to chat about the business, people who had run through our lives and where the business was going. I always looked forward to having supper with him. He would watch our beagle when we were in the show. We’d laugh about how we used to be so young and naïve and would put up with things then that now seem impossible. His humor and style were so obvious. He was a gentleman personified. I was happy to be his friend, and happy he considered us his friends.
I first met Scudder in 1973, when he and Charles Montgomery were working together to produce a special issue of The Bee to feature the new installation of American Arts and the American Experience at Yale. We used to refer to it as “The Tabloid.” I always thought it was such an inspired idea of Scudder’s. He was a master at communicating what was happening in the scholarly and commercial world devoted to art and antiques. I remember him running around at antiques shows, camera in hand, really recording what was going on. Going through the pages of the paper, I would think, “he goes everywhere!” He brought the whole world of what was going on the antiques world to your door, every week.
We loved to get together with him in St Barth’s every year. We started going in the 1980s; in those early years, he would share the inner sanctum secrets, where you could get baguettes, or which beach to go to for fresh fish from the fishermen. He was so generous in that way.
I have so many memories, they’re overwhelming. We met the first time we ever did one of Russell Carrell’s indoor shows. He was sitting with the dealer next to us and she was distressed, and he was so patient and sat and listened to her. I had no idea who he was, but I thought he was the nicest man to listen to her. He spent a lot of time with me, directing me on how to be a show manager. I learned so much from him, he had such experience. He always had suggestions on how I could do things better; most were valid and I tried to adopt a lot of them.
I met Scudder when I joined my dad 51 years ago; we were always a supporter of Scudder. He was always so easy to work with. He didn’t guess at what the story was about, he wanted to get the facts. There wasn’t anything controversial about what he wrote. He was a gentleman whether walking around or in what he wrote.
When we founded the ADA (Antiques Dealers Association of America), he was very supportive and helped us in whatever way he could. And he was quite supportive of the ADA Award of Merit, which we started 22 years ago. We felt he so embodied the mission statement of what the award was about that we gave it to him (in 2006). He contributed in so many ways to our industry and our field; for a long time, he’s been a column that has supported the industry. He saw the whole bell curve of the entire Americana field; he saw it rise and he saw it get soft but he never lost his enthusiasm.
About 15 years ago, I was offered a booth at the Winter Antiques Show and was considering if it would be wise to do it. I asked several people I trusted and I called Scudder. He was very enthusiastic that we do it and I’ve no regrets that we did it.
I’ll miss his ties. One day, I went to his house for a meeting, and he said we could walk around. In one room, I could see his bow ties hanging on the inside of a door. I had to go over and take one, so I took the most outrageously garish tie and I put it on. Now, I can wear some pretty loud ties, but mine were wimpy compared to his. I went downstairs wearing his tie; he noticed right away and gave me a lot of grief about it.
I first met him what seems like 100 years ago when I was running shows for the Antiques Council. The Bee has been so important to me, to our field. He was always out there, always finding stuff out. He did his job and loved it. I always had such a fun time with him in St Barth’s, too.
Scudder and Helen have been fixtures at antiques shows across the country for the 46 years we have been in business. Scudder was dedicated to the best interest of the dealer through his coverage of the shows and auctions with unrivaled enthusiasm. He had the collector sensitivity and love of Americana both in his personal life and through his press. A most memorable day occurred when he opened his house to the Antiques Dealers’ Association, and we were free to roam among his prized possessions, gardens and general store. Scudder’s passing is a major loss to the many dealers he helped to elevate by his coverage of the countless shows.
Patrick Bell & Edwin Hild
We are so saddened by the news of the passing of Scudder. He was a friend of the Bertoia family for more than 30 years when he first shared the collecting passion with my late husband, Bill. He was a good, kind man with integrity, charm and such a sweet smile. We loved his enthusiasm – Scudder was always excited for the next bank to add to his shelf. We will miss him!
Jeanne Bertoia & Family
R. Scudder Smith greatly assisted in publicizing folk art to a wide audience. He was a good friend to the American Folk Art Museum and we greatly respect the fair, thoughtful and well-informed way he worked and covered our exhibitions and activities. On behalf of my colleagues at the museum, I extend my deepest condolences to his family.
Jason T. Busch
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