Published: April 10, 2001
By Laura Beach
HARTFORD, CONN. – It wasn’t too long ago, at the Cleveland Antiques Show, that Janice and Ted Strauss met a lively Indiana couple with an absorbing interest in fine antiques.
“If you are serious about collecting American furniture you really ought to visit the Connecticut Spring Antiques Show,” Janice told them. The South Salem, N.Y., dealer was more than a little surprised when the couple walked through the Connecticut State Armory’s heavy oak doors on Saturday, March 24. Her Midwestern acquaintances had flown to Hartford on the strength of her recommendation, and they ended up making a substantial purchase.
Stories like Janice’s were told by a number of Hartford’s 64 exhibitors, who said a notable increase in knowledgeable, serious buyers helped make this year’s Connecticut Spring Antiques Show one of the best in recent memory. Concerns about the battered stock market seemed nil as shoppers stocked up on furniture, which sold particularly well. Competing shows didn’t diminish attendance. If anything, upcoming shows in Philadelphia stimulated dealer-to-dealer sales. There was speculation – not provable, of course – that the antiques trade is actually benefiting from Wall Street’s woes as the moneyed classes look for investment alternatives to stocks.
“The gate was up both days, and the right people were here. We saw people who made it to the show for the first time in several years,” noted Linda Turner. Exhibitors complimented the Portland, Me., based manager on her skillful handling of this year’s fair, but Turner was as hard-pressed as anyone to identify the reasons for its resurgence. “I did more local advertising than I have in the past, more TV and radio,” she said. A show section ran in Antiques and The Arts Weekly, while the Hartford Courant carried an advertising supplement with a color cover and several pages of exhibitor advertising. Channel 3 broadcast live from the floor of the show on Sunday, capturing an antique bidet on film at Jacques Berten, a Fort Lauderdale, Fla., dealer in unusual maritime antiques. “Somebody saw it on television and came immediately to his booth,” Turner laughed. Berten also sold a 1750s leather pirate’s belt, always a convenient way to carry one’s cutlass.
For the past three years, Turner has stuck to a 9 to 10:30 am “show opening” on Saturday, a bargain at $15. General admission, $8, is from 10:30 am to 5 pm. To the manager’s satisfaction, lines formed before each opening. “I give my dealers two ‘show opening’ tickets each, and two ‘general admission’ tickets. A lot of the tickers were collected at the door. Quite a few buyers came from New York and New Jersey, as well as from Connecticut and Massachusetts,” she noted.
“I’d just come from the Alexandria show and I’m doing Southport-Westport. I don’t know where I am going to get more material,” exclaimed Janice Strauss. Her many sales included two Chippendale chests, one of tiger maple, the other a narrow, 33-inch wide piece from Wethersfield, Conn.; a mirror; a serpentine-top, taper-leg stand; a shaped-top candlestand; a fireplace fender and fireplace accessories; and a big tiger maple bowl. “I had a very good show, not only because I sold but because I had good conversations with people who are likely to follow up. I’m also selling well on my Web site and at my gallery.”
At least three highboys were rumored to have sold on the floor: one at Peter Eaton’s, one at Jeffrey Tillou’s, and one in the booth of Stephen Garner. “It was the best show I’ve had at Hartford in ten years, and one of my three best shows at Hartford in 26 years,” said Eaton. The Newburyport, Mass., dealer sold a pair of Rhode Island Queen Anne chairs; an ogee-footed Chippendale chest; a desk in tiger maple; a Queen Anne drop leaf table; a Daniel Balch tall clock, $17,500; a William and Mary highboy, $45,000; two candlestands; and a number of small things. “Two things went to dealers and the rest went to private collectors,” said Eaton. “They were all new customers, though I had spoken to each before.”
At Wilton the week before, Yarmouthport, Mass., dealers Charles and Barbara Adams sold Bennington pottery, their specialty. This time they couldn’t keep furniture in stock. Some of their sales were to two women from Texas, Hartford regulars who are often among the show’s biggest buyers. “Their shipper came on Sunday and took a lot away,” confided Barbara. “This year they seemed to be looking for tiger and bird’s-eye maple. We sold a bird’s-eye slant front desk and a bird’s-eye stand. We also sold a drop leaf table, a black painted washstand, a couple of Currier & Ives prints, and three or other pieces of furniture. This Hartford was the best it has been.”
Dan and Karen Olson also moved furniture. “We sold five cupboards, which is kind of unusual. This was our fifth or sixth time at Hartford since we left the show in the mid-1980s. It was the best show we’ve had since we’ve been back,” said the Newburgh, N.Y., dealers.
“I went in with fear and trepidation, and dealer business on the floor on Friday was not very good. But when the show opened on Saturday it was excellent,” said Lewis Scranton, who, after 23 years, is one of Hartford’s most seasoned veterans. “People were very enthusiastic.”
“I was thrilled,” said Don Buckley, another old-timer. “Hartford has always been our favorite show. It reflects the kind of stuff we deal in.” The Salisbury, Conn., dealer sold two Eighteenth Century tables, two tole chandeliers, two Eighteenth Century children’s chairs, a lot of early glass and treen, and a “carload” of smalls.
Ed and Margaret Weissman were on the road after the show, heading back to their winter retreat in Florida when we reached them on their cell phone. The dealers, who return to Portsmouth, N.H., on June 1 to reopen their shop, sold three pieces of furniture, brass, and two paintings. “I was pleased with sales, and I think many other exhibitors were, too. I was anticipating gloom and doom. Instead, we had a big line-up of early buyers.”
“We sold quite a few paintings: miniatures, watercolors, and paintings on ivory,” said Ray Van Gelder. The Conway, Mass., dealer theorized, “People are always interested in antiques and they will continue to buy. The only trouble is finding merchandise.”
Show highlights included a Chippendale mahogany drop leaf table with shapely ball-and-claw feet and a C.L. Prickett & Sons label attached to its underside at Chesterfield Antiques, Chesterfield, Mass.
Hilary and Paulette Nolan of Falmouth, Mass., offered a New Hampshire tester bed with reeded posts, circa 1810-20; a dramatic Federal doorway in apple green paint; a Philadelphia side chair attributed to Savery; and a circa 1730 joint table from coastal Massachusetts, in untouched condition, $32,000.
Litchfield, Conn., dealer Jeffrey Tillou included a highboy, $24,000, from the Woodbury/Newtown area of Connecticut. A New London County octagonal candlestand, circa 1760, was $6,500.
Nathan Liverant & Son featured a beautiful Federal mahogany and flame-birch inlaid serpentine-front card table. Dating to 1790-1810, the North Shore, Mass., piece was $27,500. A Queen Anne maple highboy with lobster-tail pendants typical of Stonington, Conn., was $65,000.
Prominent in Joan Brownstein’s choice array was a rare, 12-paneled New Hampshire flame birch and mahogany cross-banded chest of drawers, $29,000. A New Hampshire bowfront chest with ball and claw feet was $17,500. Accents included a collection of 14 graduated, free-blown chestnut bottles, $6,900.
Two attractive candlestands kept the company of an Eighteenth Century banister-back side chair, $5,200, with nicely carved crest and turnings at Brian Cullity, Sagamore, Mass. The dealer also featured a Hepplewhite chest of drawers with bird’s-eye maple fronts and a wonderful baroque continental mirror with eglomise panel, all original except for its beveled glass. “It dates to about 1740 and is one of the biggest I’ve seen,” said Cullity.
Harold Cole of Woodbury, Conn., was on hand with a walnut Queen Anne lowboy, $32,000, from Massachusetts, circa 1750.
It would have been hard to squeeze more casepiece furniture into Morgan MacWhinnie’s booth. The Southampton, N.Y, dealer arrayed two flat-top highboys, two reverse serpentine chests of drawers, and a cherry, ogee-foot bonnet-top secretary bookcase, $32,000.
Derik Pulito’s piece de resistance was a Federal tray-top cherry candlestand with pinwheel and band inlays. The Connecticut River Valley piece, $16,000, is signed by its maker, Obadiah Ingraham. “If anyone has information on this craftsman, let me know,” said the Kensington, Conn., dealer.
A Rhode Island brace-back Windsor side chair was an irresistible rdf_Description at John Keith Russell. The South Salem, N.Y., also had one of the show’s most remarkable finds, a pole light with its original paint, still housed in its pine shipping box.
Sam Herrup’s stand was handsomely appointed with a double-scroll easy chair; a Rhode Island or Massachusetts corner chair, $55,000; a Boston slant-front desk, $55,000; a Federal Massachusetts bow front chest, $18,000; and an English Queen Anne mirror with veneered and gilt detail, $3,500.
An extremely rare New England fan-crested side chair of circa 1770 was $3,900 at Hollis Brodrick, Portsmouth, N.H.
A good show for early textiles, Hartford this year boasted a New Haven, Conn., sampler worked at Mrs Mansfield’s School, $36,000, at Stephen and Carol Huber, Old Saybrook, Conn.
Framed and hung on the wall, a fragment of a Seventeenth Century Jacobean-work bed hanging was a vivid addition to Colette Donovan’s display. The Merrimacport, Mass., dealer also incorporated two blanket chests, one an early Eighteenth Century example with untouched surface, and a mid-Eighteenth Century candlestand of maple with traces of old black paint and a beautifully turned shaft, $6,700.
Though not primarily a show for folk art, Hartford was outfitted with a sheet metal Angel Gabriel, $2,600 at Jackie Radwin, San Antonio, Tex. A heart hooked rug dating to the late Nineteenth Century was $4,500 in the same stand.
The Barometer Shop of Cushing, Me., featured European and American instruments, including marked pieces by New York makers.
The 28th Connecticut Spring Antiques show honored two of its best-known and most beloved exhibitors, the late Zeke Liverant of Colchester, Conn., and the late Paul Weld of Middletown, Conn. Both were profoundly missed, yet still very much present in spirit.
Exhibitors complimented the Haddam Historical Society, sponsors of the Connecticut Spring Antiques Show, and the Federated Garden Club of Connecticut, on their thoughtful efforts to make both exhibitors and customers comfortable, and to make the show beautiful.
Forbes & Turner’s next engagement is the Dorset Antiques Show on July 14, followed by the Riverside, Bath and Hildene shows. The Fall Hartford Antiques Show, also managed by Linda Turner, returns to the Connecticut State Armory on September 29 and 30.
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