Harold Sack was born with a knack for leadership, but the role of guide and mentor was one he assumed from his father. Israel Sack’s immigrant beginnings on Charles Street in Boston had everything to do with his passion for antique American furniture. In its formal strength and simplicity, he perceived this country’s founding principals and core ideals. He bequeathed those beliefs to his sons, Harold, Albert, and Robert.
We owe Harold Sack a great deal. He taught us to look at American furniture and to love it for its wordless grace. He made us time travelers, linking the past with the present in a lively continuum of expression. Drawing dealers, curators, and collectors together in a common bond, he made Americana collecting a vital pastime.
In his professional conduct, Harold Sack taught us integrity, decency, discretion, and restraint. He taught us abandon as well. We’ll never forget the crackling heat at Christie’s the morning that Harold, seated in the front of the salesroom, raised the barely perceptible tip of his gold pen to win the Nicholas Brown desk-and-bookcase for $12.1 million, a record for American furniture unbroken today.
Of all the virtues Harold Sack taught us, the most overlooked are patience, persistence, and a humble dedication to calling. To read Harold’s memoirs, American Treasure Hunt, is to be reminded that the Sack firm stared down defeat more than once over the last century. Reverence for the past, steely determination in the present, and untarnished hope for the future kept the dealer going.
“In the Depression, Harold and I had taken over this disaster area where we had consignments and no real inventory in a five-story building. We had consigned some Indian baskets and ironwork by a man named Connors. He was partially crippled. He had a cane that opened so that he could sit on it. He’d come in and watch his wares, and was the most boring man you’d ever meet. For years, every time we got a slack period Harold would say, ‘You watch, Connors is going to come.’
“Once a Congressman gave a Philadelphia highboy to the Governor’s Mansion in Kentucky and Harold was invited to make a presentation. He flew down and was met by the governor’s wife. When he arrived, people were waiting for this marvelous gift to be presented. They unveiled the highboy and Harold saw that it was a Centennial piece. Searching for words, he said, ‘This is a wonderful, unique piece that requires much further study.’ He promised to get back to them, then left.”