Published: August 5, 2008
Hot weather greeted exhibitors and shoppers returning to the fields here for the July 8‱3 edition. Much like life in the southern Mediterranean, the midsummer Brimfield show typically adopts a more languorous pace and offers more space for exhibiting dealers. Forget adjectives like “bustling” and “frenzied,” but do remember to shop early, stay hydrated and wear lots of sunscreen.
To be sure, commerce gets done on both sides of Route 20 †and this year, despite record high gas prices, there were still license plates to be seen from places like Texas, Florida and the Midwestern states †but, hello, it’s July, and the week’s activities seem to be geared as much around dealers and customers checking in with one another and enjoying the flea market camaraderie as about consummating the hunt for The Great Antique. More than one exhibitor intoned the word “inventory” in less than hallowed terms, and most show promoters candidly gauged their venues at about 75 percent capacity. Anyone expecting the crowds and buying energy that pervaded last May’s event would be disappointed, but it was hardly “Grimfield,” as one shopper waggishly opined.
Daybreak was at 5:22 am, and already John Smith of Steep Falls, Maine, was readying his space at Quaker Acres, one of the many free fields opening early on Brimfield’s first day. Smith, who specializes in country primitive and Shaker, was thumbing his nose at the day’s predicted high temperatures by showing a sleek “Airline Cruiser” sled from the 1930s that had recently come out of a New Hampshire barn. The manufacturer was unknown to Smith, but he said, “They named it [the sled] after the fledgling airline industry. It was the first year they began making them with rounded backs on the runners.” Nearby, a shopper was already admiring an early 1900s Maine buttocks basket that Smith had also set out.
A Quaker Acres regular for the past 12 years, Bob Conley of Rochester, N.Y., was situated just off the street that was beginning to fill with shoppers. He carries mostly glassware and smalls, but also happened to bring a 2½ horsepower Johnson Seahorse boat motor from the mid-1950s.
Silver Springs, Md.-based Fred Grogower turned his hobby †collecting posters and advertising ephemera from the 1870s to the 1950s †into a business that he has been conducting for the past ten years, He only does shows and flea markets and was set up at Quaker Acres with a large and colorful selection.
Other early Tuesday fields available to the first arriving shoppers were Mahogany Ridge, The Meadows, Central Park, Faxon’s Midway, Sturtevant’s, Shelton and Collins Apple Barn, which in addition to presenting antiques dealers also serves up breakfast and lunch at its on-site deli/bake shop.
Over in The Meadows, Roger Baker of Sparta, Tenn., was brewing a morning pot of coffee and providing laconic commentary †”I specialize in everything but furniture” †while Alma Silverman of Springfield, Mass., pointed out the museum quality of one of her pieces, a large bronze planter with champleve decoration, and Steve Wheeler of One Stop Antiques, Marietta, Ohio, fielded an interesting collection of tin watering cans and a turn-of-the-century grape press out of Reading, Penn., among other items.
An interesting facet of markets like Brimfield are the “threads” of provenance that sometimes tether bits of merchandise across the various fields. Such was the case with items from the landmark 146-year-old Yankee Silversmith Inn in Wallingford, Conn., that was damaged in a 2007 fire. The blaze prompted the inn’s owners to shut down for good, and the family hosted an estate sale in June, auctioning just about everything that was salvaged from the fire.
Bob Sheldon of Newtown, Conn., was in the audience and was not interested in buying memories. Instead, he snatched up a corner cabinet, circa 1800s, all pine with two upper doors with glass, center drawer and two lower doors as well as a copper-lined dry sink. “They just needed a little wiping off and were not damaged in the fire,” said Sheldon, who was set up in the Meadows.
Just across Route 20 at Central Park, was another survivor of the inn †an antique “velocipede” that Travis Worrell and Kate Wannamaker of Westport Auction had scooped up at the same estate sale. Artifacts of the Victorian age and precursor to the tricycle, these three-wheeled, pedal-powered vehicles featured pedals mounted on the front wheel.
Faxon’s Midway show, also on the north side of Route 20, was open for business. Linda and Arthur Mahfuz of Tribal Art, Boston, were there with their collection of antique Oriental carpets. The couple said they sell mainly to people who do restoration, finding “gems” in the rough, such as a 4½-by-6-foot Baktiari from Iran, circa 1920s, that was priced at $950. The Magoun Bros of South Paris, Maine, were also on the field with their trademark collection of early canoes, including a birch bark example, circa 1890, that came out of the St Lawrence area.
“This must have been done by a famous child,” someone reportedly said after seeing the outsider works by self-taught artist Cher Shaffer. Shaffer of Creston, N.C., unique at the show and participating for the first time, is a first generation folk artist whose works have been shown alongside those of outsider artists like Mose Tolliver and Thornton Dial. Her paintings, softly colorful, are sometimes portraits, sometimes everyday objects and other times recollections, such as “First Haymowing, Ash County, N.C.” and another view depicting the last mowing in the fall, which she displayed at Central Park.
At Shelton’s, antique prints aficionados know to look for Anne Hall, who concentrates in early animal, floral and bird engravings and lithographs that were produced from 1650 to 1900. A pair of birds of prey by Francois Martinet, circa 1761, and watercolor on linen prints of birds and florals from the 1920s were among the inventory of the Sturbridge, Mass., dealer.
Another Shelton’s dealer, Interiors with Provenance, Amesbury, Mass., came with a cross section of merchandise that includes Oriental rugs, textiles and period fireplace equipment. Included was a pair of Bradley & Hubbard sunburst andirons.
His business motto is, “You want it, I find it,” but a corollary is, “Everything you don’t need, I have,” said Ed Uditis of his eclectic collection of unique and weird items. The dealer, who divides his time between Connecticut and St Petersburg, Fla., was set up in Sturtevant’s with a smorgasbord of old diving gear, restaurant memorabilia, military and nautical items, an old wooden propeller from a 1935 Curtis Wright Jr plane, “dead” (taxidermy) animals and even a Braille edition of Playboy magazine from March 1975.
At 11 am, Dealer’s Choice, one of the pay fields ($5 admission), opened to an enthusiastic crowd. Owner Lori Faxon gauged the field “at about three-quarter capacity, typical for July,” and that made things a bit easier for the shoppers who needed to quickly scan the offerings, home in on the merchandise, negotiate, make the deal and then be on their way to the next field opening at 1 pm. “A lot of the dealers are getting older and can’t take the heat of July,” said Faxon.
Indeed, out on the field, things were moving pretty slowly just before the gates opened. Greg Hawriluk of Point Pleasant Galleries, Point Pleasant, N.J., had yet to unload from his truck an Arts and Crafts bookcase, circa 1910 and maker unknown.
Another Arts and Crafts furniture item, an L&JG Stickley “cube” rocker, circa 1905‱5, was set out at Hill House Antiques, Sheffield, Mass., priced at $3,295 due to its very desirable and scarce design
Americana dealers Kelly Kinzle, Steven Still (Elizabeth, Penn.) and Steve Smoot (Lancaster, Penn.) were all on the field, and Tommy Thompson had come down from Pembroke, N.H., with his collection of smalls and a great zinc-lined planter and sign advertising “Rose Bushes.”
As the heat of the day built up, exhibitors set up in the covered pavilion at the southern end of the field were beneficiaries, as shoppers moved into its cooling shade to check out the merchandise. There was little time left, however, for across Route 20 the gate at Brimfield Acres North was poised to open at 1 pm. Operated by Robert Hopfe and Colleen James, this market is open Tuesday and Saturday.
Among the highlights noted on this field were a large selection of antique lanterns and three Whatley stoneware pieces shown by Bear Hollow Antiques, Williamsburg, Mass; a two-piece American pine cupboard, circa 1880, shown by Rebecca Painter of Lion and Phoenix, Tolland, Conn.; a game wheel from the 1920s″0s at Antiques at 30B, Cambridge, N.Y.; and a Dutch cupboard with single board back and a folky secret door, probably from the late Eighteenth to early Nineteenth Century, seen at Andrij Roman Antiques, Brookfield, Conn.
Again, relief from the day’s heat, not to mention a nice grouping of dealer collections, could be found inside the Barn. Louise D. Hardie, Northwood, N.H., for example, displayed an early tole box, circa 1880, from Vermont, a circa 1860 document box and assorted early wooden butter molds. Assorted pieces of white ironstone †plates, serving dishes, gravy pitchers and tureens †were being offered by Sally Van Den Bossche of Ashaway Antiques, Ashaway, R.I.
Wednesday’s action began early, 6 am, at New England Motel. Owner and manager Marie Doldoorian admitted an enthusiastic group of about 60 people onto the field to the ritual accompaniment of a school bell. “I used to have a large wrought iron cowbell, but it got too heavy, so now I use this smaller one instead,” she said. Dealer count was “typical for July,” she added.
As eager opening bell shoppers entered the field, Dennis Easter of Made in Russia, Palm Beach, Fla., was readying his collection of Russian icons and Eastern European religious art. Easter’s collection is museum quality, as evidenced by the $175,000 price tag on a late Sixteenth/early Seventeenth Century example from northern Russia depicting the “Hospitality of Abraham,” sometimes referred to as the “Old Testament Trinity.”
Colorful Hungarian pottery and furniture was the draw at Singleton Antique Imports. Pat and Kathy Singleton arrived from Tyler, Texas, with a large selection of this decidedly “country style” merchandise, and were next heading for the Virginia Highlands festival in Abingdon, Va.
One notable item among those offered by Fred’s New England Antiques, North Kingston, R.I., was a large and colorful horse racing game of chance marked “Mason & Co., Newark, N.J.,” one of the best known manufacturers of gambling equipment during the “Old West” period. The wheel, missing one panel, had come out of a carriage house in Providence, R.I. Another oddity was a large dog’s traveling cage from the turn of the century, constructed of oak and metal and bearing tag that read “Valuable Dog: Please Feed & Water.”
Southwestern jewelry and accessory collectors always head for Jody Wilson’s space, which has a strong showing in Native American, Mexican, Scandinavian, Modernist and costume jewelry. Calling her business J&J, the Tucson, Ariz., dealer has been in business for about 20 years and has done the New England Motel show at Brimfield for about half that time.
Bill Joyce of Milo, Maine, took a couple of minutes from assisting customers to point out the features of a Nineteenth Century Native American mackerel or cod slitter that had come out of Maine. The early tool, probably made out of maple, was decorated with pewter inlay symbols, whose meaning was unknown to the dealer.
Warren, R.I., dealers Ron Cioe and Michael Collins, collectively Waterhouse Antiques, had recently “rescued” five pieces of circa 1915′0s wicker, all with original paint and upholstery, from a three-seasons porch in Cape Cod, Mass. And a similar rescue had been performed to bring a 1912 Seeburg electric upright grand nickelodeon back to life. Bob Chilson of Purple Monkey Antiques, Weedsport, N.Y., discovered the device in the Thousand Islands area and refurbished its mechanical innards. To the delight of passersby at his space, the nickelodeon churned out a selection of about 50 tunes, most of them, ironically, Christmas melodies and carols.
The three Dealer’s Row pavilions were also seeing activity. The Flo-Blue Shoppe, Beverly Hills, Mich., operated by Judith Keefer, was getting established clients coming up from the Washington, D.C., area. A set of 12 Wedgwood dinnerware, circa 1850s, with the impressed Pearl mark, along with a service for 12 in the Gainsborough by Ridgway †122 pieces in all †were among Keefer’s standouts.
Also in Dealer’s Row was Jackie Lantry, who when not selling flowers from her Rehoboth, Mass., business, Five Acre Farm & Flower Co., deals in antiques. She was showing a handcrafted marquetry box, an example of prisoner art, that had been made in Sing Sing Prison in 1866 or 1867.
By 9 am, attention shifted across Route 20 to Heart-O-The-Mart. Tim Kiser and Gil Hahn, proprietors of the Silver Butler, Flourtown, Penn., were keeping a relative cool, benefiting from the breeze coming off the small lake on the field. Carrying an inventory of sterling as well as silver plate flatware and hollowware, along with coin silver, the dealers said one of the most notable items they had brought to the show was an 1860 sterling water ewer by Tiffany & Co.
From Voorhees, N.J., Arnold and Bernice Conn brought a selection of antique walking sticks and gadget canes, schoolgirl samplers, hearth equipment and vanity items. The Conns are veteran dealers, having been in the business for 20″0 years. “You just have to keep doing it,” said Bernice.
Rare and unusual are the guidelines David R. Johns uses to stock his merchandise at a group shop, the Interstate Antique Mall in North East, Penn. Johns was showing a compelling pair of Nineteenth Century cast iron Indian brave andirons. The figures, each 19½ inches high, wore feathered headdresses and brandished tomahawks in hand. Also on offer was an early Nineteenth Century tiger maple five-tier corner étagère from an Erie County, Penn., estate, along with a rustic workbench from the late Nineteenth Century whose top was placed on a 36-inch log base.
The terms rare and unusual also applied to a folk banjo that had been made around the turn of the century and was being offered by Robin Stelmach, Albion, N.Y. “He [the maker] used a French horn for the resonator, ” said Stelmach, who also pointed out a mother-of-pearl button that had been inlaid as a fret marker.
On Wednesday at noon, David Lamberto, show manager of Hertan’s Antique Market, rang the symbolic bell and announced the beginning of commerce on this field.
It was a slightly truncated event, as shortly after 1 pm, the Brimfield Police Department sent their officers through all the shows with an alert about an impending storm. They were giving a warning to make ready for high winds and heavy rain in about an hour. With one eye on the sky and the other on their merchandise, dealers made hay while the sun shone, including Southington, Conn., dealer Frank Scott with his collection of early pressed metal toys, featuring a Marx salesman sample racer from the 1930s‱940s with its original company tag still affixed to it; Samuel Herrup of Sheffield, Mass., highlighting a large Liverpool pitcher, circa 1810, decorated with a wealth of Masonic symbols; and Bruce Wylie of Great Meadows, N.J., who in a house cleanout had discovered a circa 1935 sorority drinking table from the University of Miami, complete with horn beer and shot cups bearing their owners’ names that were fitted into holes that had been cut into the table †hands-free fun.
A 1930s National guitar featuring a “straight and true,” neck, according to Michael Markley of Webster, Fla., was a rare find on the field, and Markley demonstrated its sublime sound by putting a glass slide on his left ring finger and coaxing some blues riffs from the vintage instrument.
At 3 pm, there was indeed a severe storm, but the open markets had all buttoned up, and most of the visitors had left for the day. In fact, May’s parking lot, which had been full at 11 am, had only four cars left in the entire lot.
May’s Antiques Market opened to spectacularly beautiful weather Thursday at 9 am. The sun was shining, the was air dry and warm and there was not a cloud in the sky for the more than 400 dealers and a great crowd that came together. As usual, when the May family†Laura, her five adult children and numerous grandchildren †opened the gates, customers came running to their favorite exhibitors to examine the antiques available to take home for their collections.
The unified comment from dealers was that the action was good for July at Brimfield.
Mark Puccetti is a local dealer, from nearby West Boylston, Mass. His sales “weren’t bad! I sold a full Nineteenth Century bedroom set, several other beds, early toys, some Wallace Nuttings [photo prints] and some stoneware.”
The look for Overlook Farms is that of a country farm with furniture frugally made in the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries. Owner Cathy Stacy and her husband collect for their own taste and preference, which fortunately is the very popular American country style with native woods and soft natural colors, such as the clay red cupboard and azure blue dry sink they offered.
Waitsfield, Vt., is home for two dealers, each with their own collections but sharing one exhibit area under the trees at the east line of the May’s family property. Art Bennett was selling his favorite antique collectible, Old Sheffield plate, that special fused silver plate from England, circa 1740 to about 1840. As well as selling, Bennett found some pieces on the field to add to his collection. He also had sales of furniture and early earthenware. His friend, Malcolm Ross, was showing more than 100 pieces of antique copper articles for cooking †pots, pans, roasters, teapots and mugs and measures †in the adjoining booth.
Milford, N.H., dealer John Anderson makes his setup short and sweet. Trading as Candlewick Antiques, he simply finds some good examples of early American furniture, pulls them off his truck and offers them in their as-found condition. For this July gathering, he came in with two mule chests, a blanket chest with a drawer or two at the bottom and a hinged lift top for the blanket storage. In addition, he was offering a tall pantry cupboard and some American mahogany veneer Sheraton-style pieces. Small antiques in his inventory included an early weathervane of a full-bodied running horse.
The Woods Hole was a ferry from Falmouth to Martha’s Vineyard running for many years. A model, probably used as a sales and advertising display about 100 years ago, according to the owner, Butch McGrath of Scituate, Mass., was found in very good condition. He offered it at $9,500.
Sturbridge auctioneer Dave Straight uses Brimfield as both a buying and selling opportunity, but also to get out a little publicity for his auction business. Here, his exhibit at May’s included period portraits, butter churns, primitive and fine hardwood furniture.
Specializing in English earthenware, Dennis and Dad of Fitzwilliam, N.H., was selling well within minutes of the opening. Dennis and Ann Berard and their crew of four helpers were rapidly unloading their collection of a few thousand dishes for the customers’ perusal.
Friday was the opening for the original Brimfield antiques market, J&J Promotions Antiques & Collectibles Show. Known by several nicknames, including “The Sisters” or “The Girls,” this field was started by Gordon Reid in 1959 as an outgrowth of his auction business and has been continued by daughters Judy Reid Mathieu and Jill Reid Lukash.
For the July gathering, there were many exhibitors who can only make it in the summer due to their other business or family obligations. Glenn and Vickie Freeman have been regular exhibitors at the July J&J for many years. Their other business is Bel Air Auction Gallery in the Baltimore, Md., suburb of the same name. At this summer market they hoped to accomplish two things †make sales and promote their antiques auctions that are conducted on the first Saturday of each month in Bel Air. Sales were “better than expected,” according to Vickie. “We came with several tables filled with smalls and stayed busy,” she said. “Given the economy, we were pleased.”
Jan Lapore is from near Northfield, Mass., and has collected early dolls and their paraphernalia for part of her inventory. As a dealer at all three J&J markets, she has had a regular spot on the field for many years, along the tree line on the west side of the property. Buyers for her include many who find their way to her tented space early and peruse the latest additions to her exhibit.
As a member of the J&J family, Pete Lukash is also an exhibitor, offering his collection of early American furniture and a large collection of early glass. Lukash said he was nearly out of Windsor chairs just before the show, so he had spent extra time collecting just for this week’s show. With several pairs and a couple sets, he collected well, and by late Friday morning was selling “very well for July.”
Many show regulars bring special things that they have saved just for here. Ed Seidel from Lewisburg, Penn., had an iron alligator that had been a match safe with a striker on the side of its belly. Hartman House Antiques, East Bridgewater, Mass., was selling furniture. Fairly new to the business, Peter Murphy of West Roxbury, Mass., was offering a collection of fine early porcelain and Chinese Export dishes. Virginia Newell found a collection of early tie-backs near home, Naugatuck, Conn., for inclusion in her tent.
Aged to Perfection, Harrison, Maine, is primarily a sporting goods business for partners Irene Finch and Linda LaBonte. More selections came from Doug and Diane McElwain of Goldsboro, N.C., who carry a similar line, but also include some early uniforms and even foreign sports gear.
A comparative newcomer to the show was Bill Macina of New Haven, Conn. He said he “sold well, some modern art and abstracts, silver, painted furniture from Germany and smalls.” He was showing for the first time a japanned lacquered lowboy server with gilt and mother-of-pearl decoration as the center piece of his collection.
Selling small antiques, smalls is the full-time profession for Pat and Neal Blodgett of Higganum House Antiques, Higganum, Conn. Their collections of great early little things can take hours to study and consider. For this July edition, their sales were fairly good, according to Pat.
For the last several years, Nipper’s Choice was set right up front, greeting all the visitors with many colorful speakers from the early record players, recorders, gramophones, Ediphones and more. The Keene, N.H., dealer has them ready to play, restored in their works and finish for many to be taken home and relive and listen to the past.
The future continues for Brimfield. Sales at all the fields were typical for July, with traffic and exhibits rivaling last year. Some fields were reporting year-to-date gains, and there were many dealers returning after a few years’ absence.
The next time for Brimfield will be the last for 2008, beginning Tuesday, September 2, at first light, with several thousand exhibitors ready to sell to the many thousands of shoppers. For information, www.brimfieldexchange.com .
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