Published: August 20, 2002
Shoppers Storm New Hampshire Dealer’s Show in Search of Treasures
Story by Laura Beach, photos by R. Scudder Smith
MANCHESTER, N.H. — “I need a sold sign,” Hillsborough, N.H., dealer Paul Scott called to his wife Cheryl across the fray.
Welcome to Manchester. Year in and year out, Wall Street’s mishaps notwithstanding, the New Hampshire Antiques Show lives up to its reputation as one of the hottest antiques markets in the country.
It began in the wee hours of Thursday, August 8, as collectors from all over the country began their sit-in vigil in front of the two sets of double glass doors separating Holiday Inn blandness from merchandise madness. A moment before 10 am, the first customer in line, young Christopher Herman from Denmark, Wis., poked his head through entrance. “Cuckoo. Cuckoo,” he chirped. With that, the doors swung open and buyers were off, racing from booth to booth.
We made a list of some of our favorite things before the show opened. Good thing, because they were gone in a blink of an eye. A painted tin eagle plaque at Walters/Benisek Art & Antiques. Sold. A country Classical pier table and sculptural arrow back chair at Constance Greer. Sold. Ed Weissman’s fabulous Portsmouth wing chair, all serpentine curves and ring turnings. Vanished. Ted and Carole Hayward’s Massachusetts candlestand, a perfect ten with beautiful proportions and chip-carved urn support. Gone. Stephen-Douglas’s subtle oil on panel ship’s portrait of the General Brown of Boston. Sailed away.
Other prizes were snapped up in a nanosecond, too. “Very rare and the best, $48,000,” read the tag on a St Julien horse and sulky weathervane, circa 1885, traded by Hawk’s Nest Antiques, Hinesburg, Vt. Estelle Glavey parted with a North Shore, Mass., Sheraton sofa. Minus upholstery, it was $2,500.
Peter Eaton sold a country Chippendale tall clock with a Maine family history. Judith and James Milne wrote up their rare Concord, N.H., two sided cupboard. Linda Brennan Whittemore said goodbye to an Eighteenth Century Pennsylvania hanging cupboard. Russ and Karen Goldberger wrapped their patriotic eagle Bellamy-style plaque, $24,500.
Just what is it that collectors love about the New Hampshire Antiques Show? “Unlike so many of the better shows, it’s warm, lovely and casual,” observed Karen DiSaia, an exhibitor from Old Saybrook, Conn., who remembers her first NHADA show 20 years ago: “My husband Ralph had no idea what to expect. He got trampled in the hallway.”
The spirit of the past lingers, in part because the show has such a long collective memory. Carolyn and Howard Oedel of East Hebron, N.H., have not missed a year. Other exhibitors — among them Peter Eaton, Bill Lewan, Estelle Glavey, Steve Rowe, Paul Scott and Betty Willis — have participated for two decades or more.
How long has Pam Boynton done the New Hampshire Antiques Show? “Do I have to answer?” quipped the Massachusetts dealer. “When I started out, I shared the booth with three other dealers.” Boynton this year shared her booth with only her daughter Martha. The dealers offered a chair table with a 45-inch top, $26,000; a striking pair of R.H. Bascom pastel profile portraits, $28,000; and an elaborate memorial on paper for Mr Joseph and Mrs John Palmer, $6,500.
“I was right out of college when I first did this show in 1972,” remembered Steve Corrigan. “Russell Carrell, who managed it then, was nice as could be about helping young dealers. The show was really a mix of things, including cottage and refinished furniture. But it was a nice show and everyone did well. The business has gotten so much more competitive. Every year the ante is up. Exhibitors work very hard here. All of us save for this show for months.”
The New Hampshire Antiques Show is a fair by dealers for dealers, a quality, ironically, prized by the show’s huge retail following. Though a new exhibitor this year, Corey Daniels struck just the right note, organizing a booth that in its subtlety, variety and novelty was very much in the NHADA tradition. The veteran dealer from Wells, Maine, mixed Eighteenth Century Chinese chairs with French ceramics, a large still life of melon and peaches, and a carved table attributed to Duncan Phyfe, circa 1820, $26,000.
Fortunately for those who arrived after the opening bell, there were still treasures on the floor. Impressively, several dealers devoted their booths to New Hampshire furniture.
“Maple, birch and cherry. That makes it New Hampshire right there,” laughed Peter Sawyer, turning over a Dunlop School candlestand with fluted, reeded and chip-carved urn pedestal and incised feet, $5,500. Also for sale by the Exeter, N.H., dealer was a chest-on-chest, $38,500, by Moses Hazen of Weare, with peacock fan carving in Dunlop tradition and a large top drawer whose front was carved to look like five drawers; a Bartlett School fan-carved, high-chest of drawers, $55,000; and tall-case clocks by Levi and Abel Hutchins of Concord and by Philip Brown of Hopkinton.
“I went all out for New Hampshire,” said Ed Weissman. In addition to his Portsmouth wing chair, he retailed a Levi Hutchins tall clock; a country Classical sofa from the Portsmouth area, the only one of its kind known, $13,500; and a small Portsmouth sideboard, possibly by Judkin and Senter, with bird’s-eye maple and mahogany veneers, $28,000. The only signed piece of furniture by Joseph Cate of Portsmouth, a mahogany and birch lady’s secretary desk, was $18,750 in the Portsmouth dealer’s booth.
Cheryl and Paul Scott of Hillsborough, N.H., offered three pieces of country furniture — a card table, a one-drawer stand, and a chest of drawers — all found in the same house in southern New Hampshire and created in the same shop, at the same time, from the same cut of mahogany. A New Hampshire reverse serpentine chest of drawers made of birch in their booth was $23,500; a slim cherry corner cupboard, probably from Ohio or Pennsylvania, circa 1825, with pinwheel rosettes and urn finals, was $21,500.
Another rarity was the Essex County, Mass., paneled chest, circa 1660-75, at Peter Eaton Antiques. The Newburyport, Mass., dealer said the chest is one of about a dozen of its kind, and the only example that he has owned in 30 years.
Three of Courcier & Wilkins’ great loves — Shaker artifacts, nautical folk art and painted furniture — came together in their sharp display. Harkening to the beginning of the Shaker chairmaking tradition was a circa 1820 rocker by two members of the religious community. Signed and touchingly inscribed, it was $9,500. A Shaker tall chest, circa 1840, was $29,500.
Courcier & Wilkins also offered one of two pieces of Shaftsbury, Vt., furniture on the floor with distinctive red and black “cat’s eye” decoration. Both the two-drawer blanket chest in their booth and the chest of drawers at Newsom and Berdan Antiques were $9,500. The Hallowell, Maine, dealers also featured an Eighteenth Century Maine dish dresser in original brown paint. Newsom and Berdan bought the dresser and the house it came out of in 1970, resold the house and its furnishings, reacquired the dresser last spring, and saved it for the New Hampshire Antiques Show.
Jeannine Dobbs of Merrimack, N.H., featured a New Hampshire maple card table in old red paint, $4,400, and a small rooster weathervane, $3,500. A country store counter with a red and green painted base and a well-worn birch top was $4,200 at Thomas Longacre, Marlborough, N.H. A chrome yellow splay-legged stand with a shaped top was $5,300 at Nancy Sevatson, Dublin, N.H.
David C. Morey Antiques brought a New England slant lid chest of drawers with a maple exterior and contrasting red and blue painted interior, $18,500. Betty Willis, one of several exhibitors to memorialize Bert Savage, the late chairman of the New Hampshire Antiques Show, brought a New England Queen Anne tilt-top tea table $4,600, with Savage provenance.
Color was a unifying theme of the show. Steven J. Rowe’s booth, featuring hooked rugs and painted furniture, exploded with it. Paint, pattern and form came together at Jef and Terri Steingrebe’s, where a nine-paneled door in old white paint faded to puce combined with a pair of carved marble floral compotes, $3,200, and three pieces of marquetry furniture.
“It’s the best of its kind,” Don Walters said of the folk art sled that, despite the season, slid into a prominent spot on his back wall. Painted red, the circa 1870 artifact, $29,500, bears the image of Ham Fat, a black, banjo playing minstrel whose name is inscribed beneath his portrait.
A curvy Eighteenth Century French Canadian dressing table of ebonized pine, and a grained red and yellow lift-top blanket chest with dry, chalky surface, shaped skirt and molded top were stand-outs at Stephen-Douglas Antiques, Rockingham, Vt.
A collection of calligraphic letters and drawings promoting the Dodge Family School of Penmanship in Mount Vernon, N.H., was $1,650 at Candlewick Antiques, Milford, N.H. Meryl Weiss of American Classics, Canaan, N.H., brought a group of 15 sample sign designs, framed, from St Albans, Vt., circa 1920, $7,500.
Hooked rugs were everywhere. Barbara Ardizone of Salisbury, Conn., featured one worked in a brilliant tree of life design, $24,500. Sandy Jacobs sold one with peacocks on it for $1,750. Dozens of colorful coverlets in near mint condition brightened Melinda and Lazlo Zongor’s booth. The dealers’ centerpiece was a red, white and blue Ohio spread in the “Silver Dollar” pattern with American eagles, $4,500.
Ron and Penny Dionne sold redware from the collection of NHADA exhibitor Lewis Scranton for more than a week before the New Hampshire show and continued once the expo opened. Still for sale was an ovoid jug by Seymour of Hartford, Conn., $8,500, and a Hervey Brooks of Goshen, Conn., vessel, $10,000.
Lewis Scranton, who kept 63 pieces of redware from his private collection for himself, admits to buying more ceramics since his deal with Fred Giampietro and the Dionnes. On view was one of latest acquisitions, a redware vessel decorated with the words “Give Drink to the Thirsty.” Scranto showed the piece (it sold) with a New Hampshire flat-top highboy and a heart-and-crown chair attributed to Thomas Salmon of Stratford, Conn., circa 1730.
One of the rarest ceramics on the floor was Hollis Brodrick’s English salt glaze miniature of a stag, circa 1740, $4,750. “It’s the only one of these I’ve ever owned,” said the Portsmouth, N.H., dealer.
An anniversary tin shoe in Tommy Thompson may provide new insight into these uncommon Nineteenth Century artifacts, often thought to have been made by individual tin smiths. The shoe, priced $1,450, bears the label of Musgrave and Son, New York City.
Dublin, N.H., dealer Tom Seaver cleverly created a scholar’s retreat, full of such wonders as a collector’s case, $2,200; bone collection, $395; shell collection, $195; drafting set, $110; and approximately two dozen bowling pins, $500.
Happily for shoppers, there were many bargains on the floor. A pair of China Trade oil on canvas paintings, atmospheric harbor scenes in ebonized black frames, were $4,900 at Drummer Boy Antiques, Bedford, N.H. Everything in Bob and Debbie Withington’s booth said “buy me,” from a $65 autograph book of 1889 to a country Chippendale ribbon back chair, $850, and a raised panel chimney cupboard in old yellow paint, $3,800.
“Every year you wonder if the New Hampshire Antiques Show will stay healthy,” Linda Tate, NHADA’s president said after all had packed up and gone home. “But I thought things went beautifully. All of our fears about the economy disappeared in the first 20 minutes of the show. People were happy and in a buying mood. The cooler weather really helped. Lots of dealers said it was their best show ever. I know it was mine.”
“Over all, the gate was about the same as in past years. We actually had more people on opening day,” reported show manager Terri Steingrebe. Anticipating a possible decline in the gate due to the general economic slowdown, NHADA expanded its marketing efforts, advertising for three months on WGBH’s Antiques Roadshow and benefiting from good local television coverage in the days before the show. “I was thrilled that exhibitors did such a great job at finding fresh, wonderful merchandise. It’s what maintains the reputation of the New Hampshire Antiques Show and keeps customers coming back.”
Will there be any changes to next year’s New Hampshire Antiques Show? “We’ll stick to our formula,” Steingrebe said unhesitatingly. “It’s worked for 45 years.”
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