Published: October 22, 2002
By W.A. Demers, photos by R. Scudder Smith
RHINEBECK, N.Y – First, let’s talk about what was usual at Rhinebeck. For Tim Brennan, an antiques dealers from Rochester, N.Y., the usual included “terrific” sales, “exactly in line with our other fall shows for the past 19 years — and doubly interesting, given the current business climate.”
Consistency, as almost any dealer will tell you, is a big part of the Rhinebeck experience. The spirit of fun and the unexpected, however, is the just-as-vital flip side. Thus, the real news, according to Brennan and many of the other dealers, is no news at all. “If there is anything like a recession-proof show, it’s got to be Rhinebeck,” said Brennan. “You’ve really got to give credit where it’s due – Jimi works constantly to keep the show fresh and ‘buyable,’ and it shows.”
Against the backdrop of reliably high production values, competent and energetic support from the show management and the longtime camaraderie among dealers, there were pockets of the unexpected at Rhinebeck. For Brennan and Dave Mouilleseaux for example, the usual ebb and flow of the show was somehow different.
“As far as the unusual, it started at set up, where we bought heavily and well, but sold far less than we normally do,” said Brennan. “Then there was the rain. It rained all four days, heavily on Saturday, although that didn’t seem to affect the crowd. Selling began early on Saturday, which is also different for us in A Building, and it didn’t let up until 5 pm. In fact, at times, we could barely keep up.”
Specializing in American Federal and classical period furniture, antique garden ornaments and decorative accessories, Brennan and Mouilleseaux displayed a pier mirror, circa 1810, completely original and with a surface that Brennan described as “scruffy.” A pair of cast-iron sconces in a gothic manner from Connecticut had great patina. Also featured was a pair of English oil on panel pastoral portraits of peasant girls.
“Rhinebeck consistently maintains a spirit of discovery,” said Kathy Schoemer from Acworth, N.H., whose inventory includes American country furniture from the early Nineteenth Century, folk art, textiles, early baskets, pottery and folk toys. “Jimi runs a first-class show. He keeps us relaxed, and dealers know that with Jimi’s wonderful crew, they’re in the hands of professionals all the way. There’s no pretentiousness or attitude. Jimi also he keeps his base of dealers varied so there’s always something new.”
Schoemer displayed a wonderful horse rug, a watercolor with New England winter scene, porch bench in old green paint and a hooked country hearth rug, circa 1880, along with a featured grouping of dolls. “I sold six of those,” reported Schoemer, “along with an oval country table and a set of pressed back Victorian chairs, a figural hooked rug and a tabletop desk in blue paint.”
Jerry and Audrey Paden, from Schohairie, N.Y., pointed out a 200-pound, one-piece, cast-iron garden urn from around 1860 that they had bought from a picker in the Albany, N.Y., area. They also had brought a nice pine wood sorting table, fresh from a house in Albany County that had been closed up for more than 40 years. A pair of finials from Vermont and a folky sail boat diorama from New York were also among their wares. Their second fall show, the Padens were upbeat and credit advertising as their chief ally.
“Advertising does work,” exclaimed Jerry Paden. “We sold a sign and shaving mirror that we had advertised in the ‘Summer Magic’ show,” he said. “We have always been pleased with what we do here,” agreed Audrey Paden. “It’s one of the more interesting shows we do.”
“We had a wonderful show,” said Doris Haug, who with husband Bob owns Cedar House Antiques, Strasburg, Penn. “The rainy weather did not deter the crowd. In fact, we were surprised by how strong the sales on Sunday were,” she added.
The Haugs specialize in country furniture, hooked rugs, woodcarvings and toys. They sold a secretary desk in yellow paint, toys, Gaudy Welsh and a number of hooked rugs. Also at their booth was a striking large wooden bowl from late Nineteenth Century Lancaster County, Penn., that defied a precise diameter measure. “I would say it’s between 23 and 24 inches in diameter and shows wonderful wear,” said Doris Haug. A wonderfully expressive folk art carving of a black man was also on display. The Haugs reported “a good set up,” echoing several dealer comments about strong dealer buying activity. Bob Haug summed it up with, “If you can’t sell it at Rhinebeck, you can’t sell it anywhere else.”
George Walowen of Walker Valley, N.Y., in southern Ulster County, has been trading in antiques for 45 years. He started with mostly historical Staffordshire ware, but branched out into country antiques and folk art. His criteria: “If I can live with it, I’ll buy it,” he said. Walowen related that he had sold a portrait by Ammi Phillips (1788-1865), the Colebrook self-taught artist, during set up and a number of decorative accessories and smalls during the show itself. Among the treasures in his booth were a cupboard from Western Pennsylvania in original paint with some damage to the feet. “I love it for its simplicity,” said Walowen.
He had also brought an unusual Hummer rooster mill weight on its original base, as well as a cow mill weight. Walowen said these weights were used until about 1937 and the advent of electric motors to regulate water from wells. The rooster perched a hollow metal ball that could be filled with sand or other material to adjust its weight.
A carved and painted carousel horse visually pranced in one corner while a presidential print featuring names of US presidents from Washington to Theodore Roosevelt held office on one wall, and a portrait of a child by a Philadelphia area artist in the 1820 gazed soulfully from another. He also had six green painted and decorated side chairs dating from the Nineteenth Century.
Walowen said he actually got his start in antiques by way of working as advertising professional in New York City representing photographers for magazines such as Good Housekeeping and McCall’s. All of the set-up shots for food and lifestyle articles used antiques for props.
It is easy to see why antiques have such a big attraction for Ron Chambers from Higganum, Conn. Chambers lives in a house that was built in 1776. He specializes in early American furniture, American and English pewter, brass candlesticks and accessories. His booth was getting a lot of appreciative looks from dealers during set up for his late Eighteenth Century standing sconce, which featured a base that could be filled with sand and a hook for hanging on the wall. The back reflector though darkened with age, appeared to have at one time been painted with a gold or yellow paint. “I sold that right off the bat,” said Chambers, who also reported selling some good pewter, a Chippendale tiger maple mirror, small artwork and brass candlesticks. “The show was great as far as smalls were concerned,” he said.
John Maggs of Conway, Mass., reported turning in a good show following a slow start on Saturday. “We had some return business on Sunday and through emails following the show,” said Maggs, who specializes in Seventeenth to Nineteenth Century country furniture and accessories, period smalls, hearth iron and hardware. His notable sales included an English Queen Anne highboy, an early Eighteenth Century slant lid ball foot desk and a Seventeenth Century settle table.
Americana and country furniture could be found at Grotheer & Gifford Antiques, Huntington, N.Y., and periods spanned from the 1700s to the early 1900s. “We brought some interesting painted boxes and good, clean pieces of furniture from upstate New York houses,” said William Grotheer. Robert Gifford pointed out a very nice solid inlaid wooden document box from New York state. “It’s got its original finish,” said Gifford of the box that dated from the third quarter of the Nineteenth Century. “I just cleaned it up a bit.” Underlining some of the patriotic themes of the times, they also displayed a copper flag holder.
Marilyn Draper Carr of Thistle Art and Antiques, Barrington, Ill., looked more like an artist working on an installation rather than a dealer setting out wares. Carr showcases “nature inspired” forms, in this case, a number of artistically arranged pieces that she had been saving for the Rhinebeck show. One wall juxtaposed some industrial mesh baskets with penmanship pieces that Carr had assembled and framed, along with Nineteenth Century printing blocks.
Other graphic forms were created from a steel mesh barn mat from Illinois, metal cultivator stars from Michigan, a sailor-made dory jug, a Bucks County drying rack, an American bee skep and sawfish bills. “I had a lovely show, and most of my sales were to new customers,” said Carr. “I was so busy on Sunday that I did not get a chance to sit down until 4 pm.”
A whimsical folk art clock greeted visitors at the booth of Charlton Bradsher, Ashville, N.C. The Rube Goldbergesque piece was an intricate carving featuring a steer’s head, a snake and a playful flock of carved human hands. Bradsher said the clock was made by a man named Gregg, one of three or four “mountain entrepreneurs” who built the fanciful carvings in the 1940s and sold them from a roadside stand. The mixture of American and folk art also included a decorated chest from Pennsylvania, an early Twentieth Century oil on artist board landscape of a winter encampment, and an interesting grouping of naïve crayon on paper drawings from the 1930s. “This is the first time out for these,” explained Bradsher, adding that he was testing the value of the drawings at the Rhinebeck show.
As it was his first Rhinebeck show, Bradsher said it was hard to gauge the strength of the gate on the two days but “Saturday’s gate did seem to be pretty strong while Sunday had some gaps. I sold an Odd Fellows arc of the covenant to a dealer in the next booth after the close of the show! I had purchased it on the trip up to New York and couldn’t fit it into my booth plan, so I did not show it. During pack out he saw it and bought it.”
Among the country furniture and decorative accessories of Jef and Terri Steingrebe, Bradford, N.H., were a French drop leaf table, an open cupboard, a duck toy, Calloway urns, zinc lamps, a whirligig, floor lamp, duck andirons, a banner weathervane and an interesting carved and polychrome point of sale countertop figure of a nude gentleman sitting on a coiled snake. Dating from the late Nineteenth or early Twentieth Century, the figure, probably made for a tobacco store, was designed so that smoke would come out of the snake’s mouth.
Linda K. Johnson, Woodbury, Conn., displayed an Eighteenth Century New England tavern table featuring a stretcher base a cherry wood top and traces of original paint. An early New England hooked rug with a floral decoration and a pair of wooden blanket boxes were also on view as was a dove tailed cabinet and drawers in old green paint. A New England early Nineteenth Century chimney cupboard with cutnail construction, “H” hinges and grooved interior shelves sported an original old painted surface. On one wall, a sign of the times proclaimed, “Unemployed. Buy Apples $5.”
Despite such signs, “Collectors are out there,” said Corinne Burke of Ridgefield, Conn. “I had the second best show ever, going back to the 1970s.” Burke, who displayed country furniture and accessories, rdf_Descriptions such as a straw bee skep, wooden spoon holder, vintage child’s clothing, early hooked rugs, hat boxes, pewter dishes, trivets, aprons, etc, said she sold some big-ticket pieces. These included a blue dry sink and a grain bin. “Rhinebeck is a tradition for a lot of people, and I think the serious collectors will always come to look for their specialty.”
Those seeking antique rugs, quilts and textiles needed look no further than the booth of Carol Telfer and Larry Foster, Ontario, Canada. “We ended up having a very good show,” said Telfer – and again it was the unusual that turned the tide.
“I decided to change my centerpiece quilt at the booth to put up some Grenfell mats,” said Telfer, referring to the hooked mats produced by a cottage industry set up by Wilfred Grenfell in Newfoundland and Labrador in the first half of the Twentieth Century. “As a result, a man stopped by and told me he’d like buy all of them.”
For Telfer, this example again underlined the spirit of Rhinebeck. “So many people are out there looking within a unique area of interest.” Telfer had also brought a rabbit and squirrel hooked rug, circa 1880 and a Baltimore album quilt featuring exceptional workmanship and dated 1844. Also showing intricate work and excellent condition was an 1828 sampler and another one that was dated 1742.
Jane and Phil Workman, New Boston, N.H., specialize in American country furniture of the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Century, along with smalls, folk art, paintings, textiles and hooked rugs, schoolgirl art and weathervanes. A light blue painted jelly cupboard was a nice small size at 63 by 32 inches. Other accessories and folk art included a green trellis, a pistol trade sign with original surface, a generously large French gathering basket, early hand hewn skis and a red hanging shelf with door.
“This fall’s Rhinebeck was interesting and we came out all right,” said Phil Workman. “We had a very good preshow, slow sales on Saturday — which is usually the best day — but some good sales on Sunday. Sunday is usually the tough day. Even though it rained for four straight days, the gate was unbelievable.”
The Workmans sold mostly smalls, with two pieces of furniture, an apothecary set of 15 drawers in blue paint and a six-foot bench with a back in brown paint. “We sold across the board, a wallpaper box, two baskets, hooked and braided rugs, and folk art,” Phil Workman added “We had a lot of interest in a number of other rdf_Descriptions and plenty of people to talk to”
Carlton Antiques, Rockville Centre, N.Y., sold a classical breakfast table of solid one-board construction from plum pudding mahogany with base and columns in original condition. The piece, measuring 421/4 by 25 by 51 inches is attributed to Meeks of New York City and was purchased by Carlton at auction on Staten Island. Denis Carlton, who with his mother Rita and daughter Alexandra represented three generations of antiques dealers, characterized the show as “excellent across the board. We sold furniture, such as the table and a classical server, a candlestand, paintings and good pieces of glass,” said Carlton, who specializes in Eighteenth and Nineteenth Century American and English furniture, ceramics and glassware. “Typically for us on Sunday it’s a bit slower until about 1:30. This year, it got busy in the late morning and continued that way until 4 pm.”
A centerpiece of Carmen and Jerry Davis’s booth was an early Nineteenth Century folk carved crucifix from the Chiapas highlands of Mexico. Flanking the attention-grabbing crucifix framed by old green shutters of the West Winfield, N.Y., dealers was an eclectic assortment of rdf_Descriptions that included a dish shelf in old blue over blue paint, pottery, a wooden cupboard, steel baskets, cider jugs and pitchers and an interesting table in yellow paint.
“We were happy with the show and the preshow as well,” said Jerry Davis. “We took a lot of smalls with us, including something new for us — Italian pottery — and sold a third of it at the show.” Davis said they also sold furniture, including a bucket bench in original dark red paint. “The great thing about Rhinebeck is that everybody seems to be having a good time,” said Davis. “They come with their friends, walk the show, have a bite to eat and come back for more.”
Jane F. Wargo, Wallingford, Conn., is known for her “mostly country, some folky” rdf_Descriptions, and her booth at Rhinebeck was certainly stocked a variety of these. “A lot of decorators come to this show,” said Wargo, “so my booth is more eclectic than normal.” Wargo said the rdf_Description that had the most attention was a primitive, unpainted potting bench that she had found in Pennsylvania. “It dates to the late Nineteenth, turn of the Twentieth Century,” said Wargo. “I heard several people discuss various plans for its use. Ultimately, it went to a home just south of Rhinebeck to be used in the kitchen. “
Wargo also sold a child’s wheelbarrow to a private collector. “I would date it very early Twentieth Century,” said Wargo. “It was in red paint with yellow trim and stenciling; a desirable size and in excellent condition.”
A stove store sign from Maine from the mid-Nineteenth Century measuring about ten feet long hung among metal architectural stars, a free-standing double-sided Polar Wave Ice Cream sign from Pennsylvania dating from the early Twentieth Century and a painted tray from the Humpty Dumpty Nursery School in Warwick, R.I. Besides wall art there were many other gems, including a handmade model boat named the Russel D from Bridgeton, N.J., a nice small size plant stand in green paint with cross brace, and a dark green storage box from the mid-Nineteenth Century featuring dovetailed construction.
At Joyce Kirschner Fine Arts, New York, N.Y., art was on parade. Included were a Twentieth Century American oil on canvas titled “Seeking Treasure” by Rudolph Al Voelcker, a New Jersey artist; a portrait by Bill Paul of a blond woman with red and white shirt, done in 1941; a Twentieth Century oil on board American painting of “Speers Run Pennsylvania Village Street, near Monessen, Penn.,” rendered in 1947 by Morley Hicks, a Wisconsin artist; and a Twentieth Century American oil on canvas titled “El Traje de San Pedro,” by Rosamond Turdor, who was born in Massachusetts.
A mix of traditional Nineteenth Century and Nineteenth and Twentieth Century art greeted visitors to Jaffe & Thurston, Wawarsing, N.Y. There was a classical pedestal base mahogany games table from Boston, circa 1840, and a late classical mahogany two-drawer drop leaf work table, circa 1860. On it was a diamond-quilted boat-shaped cut glass bowl on a cut glass base, an Anglo Irish piece dating from the late Eighteenth Century. A painting by Wiliam Rockaby Miller (1818-1893) of Staten Island from Union Hill, N.J., included provenance from Gov Lawrence W. Cramer, governor of the Virgin Islands. Another painting, this one by George Arthur Hays (1854-1934), was an oil on canvas titled “Sheep Grazing.”
Eighteenth, Nineteenth and early Twentieth Century Continental, English and American furniture and decorative accessories was on view at Doyle Antiques, Hudson, N.Y. These included a mid-Nineteenth Century Empire desk with faux paint, a Nineteenth Century Chinese kitchen cabinet with stone inset top, Nineteenth Century Staffordshire platters with Oriental scenes; a Nineteenth Century etagere made of cherry wood, a collection of Nineteenth Century hand colored botanical engravings, “Flora of the Sate of New York,” and a Eighteenth/Nineteenth Century Swedish Gustavian clock.
At Pumpkin Patch Antiques, Searsport, Maine, a very unusual chair table from the Holleran Thomas family of Portland, Maine, was displayed, along with a Hepplewhite chest of drawers, circa 1800; a wonderful gilt mirror with three-dimensional frieze found in Maine, signed Marie Blessing, dated 1874; a folk art totemnic family tree, circa 1920; a mustard vinegar grained domed-top document box, all original from a Bethel, Maine, estate, circa 1820.
Lori and Charles Breuel, Glenmont, N.Y., deal in traditional Nineteenth Century furniture and clocks, but their eclectic offerings include paintings and accessories as well. An English gallery clock manufactured by the Preston Clock Company, circa 1840, featured an eight-day brass fusee movement. A Seth Thomas, circa 1910, “Arcade” model featured a 30-day time. Also displayed were a French clock, circa 1890, from Tiffany, an oval crystal regulator and a Chelsea ship’s clock with original box and factory record.
Diana Elliott, of Elliott & Elliott, Harbor Springs, Mich., brought a cross-section of their offerings, which include furniture and decorative rdf_Descriptions from the Eighteenth through the Twentieth Cenuries, Early Native American art, textiles, carvings, pottery, folk art, paintings and jewelry. A “Mountain Boy,” a rare and striking Navajo woven blanket with Germantown yarns in superior condition from a Forida estate, featured a storm pattern with unique black ground center. Of the circa 1900 blanket that had intact tassels, Elliott said, “It doesn’t get any better than this.”
An Amish crib quilt from Wayne County, Ohio, circa 1920, showed off its “crisp” blue and black squares. Also offered were an exceptional late Nineteenth Century horse weathervane with graceful form and unusual, unrestored integrity, attributed to J.W. Fiske, and an extraordinary pair of elegant cast-iron grey hounds with untouched painted surface.
“We had an excellent show. We were very pleased,” stated Mary Carden Quinn, of Floral Park, N.Y. Quinn, who specializes in hooked rugs, American country furniture in paint, folk art and baskets, sold three hooked rugs, some iron pieces, several baskets, an early Pennsylvania dough box, a blue sled with folky bird and flower decoration, a very early child’s decorated armchair, among other rdf_Descriptions. Among the interesting and unusual rdf_Descriptions, Quinn displayed was a “Nesting Hens” on a hit or miss background with geometric border, a red, blue and black hooked rug from Maine, and a “naughty Nellie” iron bootjack with upswept hairdo.
“There was an extraordinary crowd on Saturday,” she said. “It usually stars petering out at about 3 pm, but the crowd stayed strong right up to closing time. There was a lot of looking and an increase in the number of serious buyers, those who ask pertinent questions.”
For Barton and his staff, the fall Rhinebeck Antiques Fair wraps up the 2002 season and sets the stage for 2003. For a listing of next year’s show dates and information, 845-876-1989 or rhinebeckantiquesfair.com.
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