Published: December 14, 2004
A good selection of Americana was served up by Freeman’s, America’s oldest auction house, on Saturday, November 20, with solid prices realized throughout the auction. The sale was attended by a large crowd who bid actively throughout the afternoon. Phone action was heavy during the sale, yet the majority of the lots seemed to have been claimed by those in attendance.
Freeman’s Americana specialist Lynda Cain commented that they were very pleased with the overall outcome of the auction. “We had some good fresh stuff that did quite well,” she said, “Things from the Muhlenberg family did very well.” A couple surprises during the auction included a group of ice cream molds that soared past the $6/800 presale estimates, selling at $5,287, and a lot of Halloween ephemera that eclipsed the $5/800 estimates, bringing $4,406.
“I had no idea that there was that much interest in ice cream molds,” stated a pleasantly surprised Cain after the sale, “and those crazy jack-o-lanterns. I had not been aware of the tremendous interest in Halloween ephemera. It was fun, though,” she said.
Leading the auction was one of several paintings featuring political figures or historic events involving the nation’s Founding Fathers. George Washington was available in several paintings; however, the top lot came as a likeness of the newly popularized Alexander Hamilton was offered. Attributed to William J. Weaver, the painting is one of ten known related examples by Weaver, an itinerant painter who worked from 1794 to 1817 traveling between Nova Scotia and South Carolina. The painting had an interesting provenance having descended in the Muhlenberg family of Reading, Penn. The painting was thought to have possibly been acquired directly from the artist by John Peter Gabriel Muhlenberg who “served with Hamilton in a number of significant Revolutionary War battles and at Valley Forge.”
Another painting that attracted a great deal of attention was a lively American School painting of Washington entering the City of New York on horseback amid cheering crowds. The painting was signed “H. Kent,” who, according to the catalog, was a button manufacturer who was listed as a painter in the Philadelphia directories in 1860. Bidding on this lot, estimated at $6/10,000 was also brisk with the lot selling at $27,025.
A prime piece of Pennsylvania/German folk art was offered as a paint decorated rectangular box with slide top was offered. The raised panel top was decorated with a stylized vase of flowers and the inscription “Margared Alberd 1793.” Provenance listed the rare box as having descended in the Alberts family of Adams County and Philadelphia until the last member of the family gave it to a friend who shared the Pennsylvania/German heritage. Estimated at $1,500/2,500, the rare and folky box brought more than ten times the presale estimates selling at $25,850.
A pair of Lancaster County portraits by Jacob Eicholtz of Benjamin and Maria Schaum, circa 1810, also did well. The portraits, which also carried Muhlenberg provenance, sold between estimates at $24,675.
Furniture included a nice Philadelphia Chippendale carved mahogany card table with gadrooned skirt, cabriole legs with carved knees and a well executed ball and claw foot. An extra-shinny refinished surface hurt the otherwise attractive table. It sold between estimates at $23,500.
Other furniture included a Pennsylvania Chippendale walnut lowboy that hammered down at $18,800, a Massachusetts oxbow slant front desk brought $4,700 and a Chippendale camelback sofa with reeded legs and pierced stretchers realized $6,462. Although it was an unusual rdf_Description for Freeman’s to be offering in an Americana sale, the Boston mahogany and marble pier table was well received, as were several other Classical furniture lots. The pier table, estimated at $1,5/2,500, sold at $17,625. An Empire marble and mahogany sofa table sold at $4,406, while a pair of Classical armchairs, circa 1830, realized $3,818.
A collection of walking canes also saw some good prices posted. Two rare cane display cabinets with glass globes were the first rdf_Descriptions for the collection to cross the block and they sold at $3,525, and $7,050. A walking stick with a robust carved head handle of a black man was among the top lots selling at $2,350 to Pennsylvania dealer Dianna Bittel. She also purchased the next lot of canes, a group of five snake carved sticks, for $2,115. Another cane to do well was an ivory bust handled cane with lignum vitae shaft that sold at $2,585.
Prices include the 17.5 percent buyer’s premium charged.
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