Published: August 28, 2012
“It was a perfect storm,” said a prominent dealer who came away empty-handed from Russ Antiques & Auctions’ August 18 onsite auction of the contents of the Charles H. Mallory House.
Not even a sale-day downpour dampened the enthusiasm of bidders, mainly members of the Mallory family, now spread from coast to coast; local history buffs; yachtsmen who reside part-time in Mystic and Stonington; and a handful of seasoned dealers and collectors. Their combined activity pushed total sales on the 300-lot session to $559,670, including premium.
For the Russes, the sale was a family affair. Paul and Bonnie Russ are partners in the Waterford, Conn., appraisal company Russ Antiques & Auctions. Paul’s brother, Dan, a sales associate with William Raveis real estate, presided from podium. Paul and Bonnie’s daughter Amanda executed bids. Her brother Garrett worked as a runner, as did some of his cousins.
The family did a superb job marketing the sale, featured prominently in local publications such as The Day . Advertised in trade publications, the contents of the Charles H. Mallory House were also listed on the online auction site Artfact, where the sale got 78,814 views.
“It all went very well, particularly given the weather,” Paul Russ said after the dust had settled.
Precipitating the sale was the January death of Mayburn Koss (1922′012). Born in Wisconsin and trained as a journalist at Northwestern and Columbia Universities, Koss was a career woman who worked for the Chicago Tribune , General Foods, Lever Brothers and The New York Times .
She enjoyed a long friendship with Thayer Mallory “Pete” Kingsley, who left her his property when he died in 2010. Pete Kingsley, as he was known, was the son of Paul and Elizabeth Mallory Kingsley, the grandson of Julius Forsyth Mallory and the great-great grandson of Charles Mallory. An intelligence officer attached to the Burma Campaign and later a captain in the US Army in Europe, Kingsley was an avid sailor and member of the New York Yacht Club, Off Soundings Club and the Royal Ocean Racing Club.
The Mallory family of Mystic and New York have a long and distinguished history. Patriarch Charles Mallory (1796‱882) set up a sail loft in Mystic in 1816. By 1836 he was managing his own fishing, whaling and shipping interests. From about 1850, he and his sons built sailing and steam vessels at their Mystic shipyard. Son Charles Henry Mallory (1818‱890), who lived in the house on Willow Street, worked for his father in the New York branch office before co-founding the shipping and commission house, C.H. Mallory & Co. The family built ships for the Union Navy and, by 1886, operated steamship lines between New York, the Gulf Coast and the West Indies. Charles H. Mallory served one term in the Connecticut Senate. At his death in 1882, he was the richest man in Mystic.
“The Mallory family has played an extremely important role in the life of Mystic Seaport. Besides having the sail loft that belonged to Charles Mallory, we have the Mallory Building that houses exhibits, the Mallory Membership Building, Mallory Anchor Circle and more. We have thousands of objects, photos, books and papers donated by various family members over the years, and board presidents from the family included Clifford D. Mallory Sr; P.R. Mallory (for 20 years) and Clifford D. Mallory Jr ,” Paul J. O’Pecko, vice president for collections and research and director of the G.W. Blunt White Library at Mystic Seaport, said in an email. Dating from 1808 to 1966, the Mallory family papers at Mystic Seaport include 12 linear feet of documentary material.
O’Pecko continued, “I bid on probably a dozen lots and got five that were most important to the museum in terms of research. Those research pieces include three photo albums, a couple early photos of Charles Mallory and his wife and a couple of boxes of family papers. Additionally, I purchased a small etched box made of baleen and a charcoal portrait of George Mallory. I am very happy with what we got but hope that some of the other pieces eventually make their way back to us, especially the half-models of Mallory ships. We have a fine collection of paintings and models of Mallory ships, so it would be an appropriate place for them to come to if the buyers ever part with them.”
Of nearly a dozen half-hull models offered by Russ, the best may have been a Nineteenth Century example, 54 inches long, that sold to local collectors for $9,200.
Mallory descendants bid on the phone and in the room. At least one party was represented by William N. Peterson, Mystic Seaport’s curator emeritus, who acquired two of the most pleasing lots in the sale †an inscribed sterling silver Tiffany & Co. tazza, $8,338, presented by C.H. Mallory to his mother on the occasion of her 50th wedding anniversary; and an 1863 drawing, $1,840, for a marine engine built by Mystic Iron Works for Charles Mallory.
The day’s biggest buyer was Glenn C. Randall, a longtime antiques dealer who is best known for formal English and French furniture, and for his 1988 purchase of Clarendon Court, the former Newport residence of Sunny and Claus von Bulow. Randall sold Clarendon Court in July for a reported $13.1 million. Seated beside Stonington, Conn., dealer Roberto Freitas, Randall claimed a youthful portrait of Charles H. Mallory, $49,450; two Jack Gray marine paintings, including a labeled example of men at sea, $28,750; and portraits of the ships Varuna , $33,350; Eliza Mallory , $32,200; and Aeronau t, $17,250. Arthur C. Goodwin’s oil on canvas view of the Boston Statehouse also went to Randall for $20,125.
“I recently bought the only brick building on Water Street in Stonington. I’m downsizing,” noted Randall. The building currently houses an antiques shop with two apartments above. He added, “I bought everything for myself, for the pure pleasure of it. I love marine paintings. One of the first things I had was a Fitz Henry Lane that I sold to John Wilmerding.”
“It really was a magic moment,” concluded Paul Russ. “There was the combination of the provenance, the significance of the house, the family, the community, the quality of the objects and the fact that we held the sale onsite. It just all came together. We did as well for the material as we possibly could have.”
Prices reported include the buyer’s premium.
For additional information, www.russantiques.com or 860-444-7966.
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