Published: April 8, 2003
By Laura Beach
HARTFORD, CONN. — The Connecticut Spring Antiques Show has been around so long — 30 years to be exact — that the question of whether it is up or down no longer seems relevant. Year in and year out, through good times and bad, in up economies and down, during war and at peace, the fair delivers a quality selection of early New England furniture and choice accessories. Dedicated collectors are always there to buy.
The surprise this year was how good the show was with so much in the world so bad. When the Connecticut Spring Antiques Show opened at the Connecticut Expo Center at 9 am on Saturday, March 22, the usual number of hardcore shoppers filed in. But at 10:30 am, when general admission began, the crowd swelled.
“Saturday was terrific. The people just didn’t stop coming in. They kept coming until around 2 pm, and we got another little surge after that,” reported show manager Linda Turner. “I’m thankful to the dealers, who all put in their best efforts, and to those who came and bought. We were all holding our breaths.”
With nearly 70 exhibitors, the Connecticut Spring Antiques Show maintains its longtime emphasis on pre-1840 American furniture, which is perhaps one reason why furniture sold well in the show’s latest installment.
“What’s moving is the best,” said Salisbury, Conn., dealer Don Buckley, who advertised that he was bringing a perfect Durand banister back side chair but sold it before he could get it onto the floor.
“I sold a couple of rdf_Descriptions in the five figures and a few rdf_Descriptions in the four figures. Most of my higher-end stuff went. That’s where the market is,” agreed Mercer, Penn., dealer Chuck White, who paired a petite cigar store Indian maiden, $52,000, with a Lancaster County tall-case clock, $24,500, and a New Hampshire barrel back corner cupboard, $11,500.
“It was an expensive little thing, but it sold immediately after the doors opened,” Woodbury, Conn., dealer Harold Cole said of the William and Mary transitional to Queen Anne high chest of drawers, marked $48,000, from eastern Connecticut. The piece was made of tulip wood, or yellow poplar, and boasted old surface and brasses.
“It was a good show,” Peter Eaton said with considerable understatement. The Newburyport, Mass., dealer confessed sales of a two-slat Pilgrim Century child’s chair, a four-slat New York State armchair, a New Hampshire card table, three candlestands, two mirrors and a country server.
One of the most intriguing rdf_Descriptions in Eaton’s booth, an “as found” chest with frame, made in the first quarter of the Eighteenth Century and possessing its original stile back feet and ball-turned front feet, also sold. The eastern pine piece, marked $28,000, was from Connecticut and had been first purchased by Eaton from Jewett City, Conn., dealer John Walton in the 1980s.
Another piece that never made it onto the show floor was a circa 1725-35 Boston William and Mary daybed that Eaton recently advertised and was bringing to Hartford as the centerpiece of his booth. “A man saw the ad, called me in my truck on the way down, and said he’d take it. It’s that kind of business. The really good things, reasonably priced, sell,” explained the dealer.
One person who was disappointed not to see Eaton’s daybed was Merrimacport, Mass., dealer Colette Donovan, who had the perfect yarn-sewn bed rug to go with the daybed. Decorated in satin stitch in a loose, colorful pattern of leaves and flowers on a patched, homespun wool blanket, the exceedingly rare circa 1780-90 textile was $18,000.
“I really love the patch. It’s such a thrifty, New Englandy, make-do or do-without idea,” Donovan, a bona fide folk art fanatic, confessed.
Whether Hartford is a buyer’s market or a seller’s market is hard to say, since the buyers and sellers here are often interchangeable. John Keith Russell of South Salem, N.Y., withdrew this time as an exhibitor but, like many of his colleagues in the trade, came to buy. Meanwhile, dealers such as Stephen-Douglas of Rockingham, Vt., returned as exhibitors. Stephen-Douglas’s colorful booth was full of folk painting, notably a portrait on panel Masonic sign, possibly by Jonathan Poore of Maine; and a bootmaker’s trade sign, marked L. Porter, $6,250.
Also new to the show were noted Washington Boro, Penn., dealer and show promoter Jim Burk and the Captain’s Quarters. The Amherst, Mass., specialists in marine and China Trade art and antiques arrayed a set of four deeply carved Chinese rosewood chairs for the Western market, and a pair of matched China Trade views, $14,000, of the USS Wachusett, on view in Hong Kong harbor, the other in a Pacific storm.
“Hartford is a great buying show for us. There is wonderful quality and variety on the floor,” said Ohio dealer David Good. Good and his booth mate Sam Forsythe, also an Ohio dealer, were having trouble keeping redware in stock.
Brian Cullity anchored his display with a pair of full-length, watercolor on paper portraits by Jacob Maentel, $25,000, that he snapped up on the floor only hours earlier. Inscribed on the back side of the frames, the likenesses depict Samuel Richardson and Lida Ernest, married in 1812 or 1815, in York, Penn. The Maentel portraits flanked two choice pieces of redware, a boldly decorated Maryland plate and slip decorated covered jar from Maryland or the Shenandoah Valley.
Gloria and Jim Hagadone of Charlottesville, Va., sold four hoop back Windsor side chairs to a customer who acquired two more across the aisle from Ron and Penny Dionne to create an assembled set of six chairs. The Dionnes also had luck with redware, selling a vase-shaped jar, $16,000, from southeastern Massachusetts.
“It’s almost pale turquoise and has emerald green splotches. I’ve only known three pieces like this one in 25 years. One is in my cupboard at home, another is in private collection,” said Penny Dionne, who also sold a two-drawer blanket chest, a demilune table, a candlestand, a chest of drawers and a Queen Anne table.
“I sold the world’s greatest drying rack, shoe-footed and made of mahogany, and a Connecticut blue blanket chest,” said Janice Strauss, just as the doors were opening on Saturday. The South Salem, N.Y., dealer featured a Boston fall front desk with waterfall interior and hidden document drawers, $27,500, and a choice Connecticut River Valley Hepplewhite cherry Pembroke table with simulated inlays, $4,250.
From a fellow exhibitor, Rye Beach, N.H., dealer Joan Brownstein acquired a pen and ink family record that, remarkably, appears to be from the same school as the large, unusual schoolgirl painting, $58,000, suspended on the back wall of her booth. About five feet square, the colorful map of the world, made of paper laid down on linen and acid-free board, is inscribed “Harriet Abbey Monson 1820.” Brownstein also featured two thumb back Windsor side chairs, $9,800, with town’s capes painted on their crests. Similar chairs are in the collection of the Museum of American Folk Art and are illustrated in American Painted Furniture by Schaffner and Klein.
“I sold a big cupboard — a pot bank, as the Dutch called it — with shelves for cooking, two blanket chests and the painted bed that was in the middle of my booth,” said Sam Herrup. The Sheffield, Mass., dealer also parted with several ceramics and a circa 1770 embroidered bed cover from the Demarest family of New Jersey.
A cupboard in old mustard paint with a big “v” cutout in the base left Daniel and Karen Olson’s stand. “We sold it to a collector who bought a set of Windsors from us as well,” said Karen Olson. “This was the best Hartford we ever had.”
Ron Chambers, a pewter specialist from Higganum, Conn., parted with one of his best pieces, a pair of American pipe tongs. Across the aisle, Wallingford, Conn., dealer Jane Wargo was off to a good start, having sold an early settle and a Nineteenth Century game board.
“We sold this clock 17 years ago and just got it back,” Ohio dealer Warren Kemble said of a Levi Hutchins of Concord, N.H., dwarf timepiece, $65,000, with original dial and eight-day movement.
Lewis Scranton of Killingworth, Conn., had no trouble selling his Middletown, Conn., two-drawer blanket chest in red paint and a slip decorated redware dish inscribed “Aunt Sally.”
Nathan Liverant and Son sold what might have been the fair’s emblem, a superb cast-bronze statue of Connecticut patriot Nathan Hale by American master sculptor Frederick MacMonnies (1863-1937). The beautifully articulated figure was cast at the Jaboeuf and Rouard foundry in Paris around 1890. Around the state, programs are being planned to commemorate the 250th anniversary of Hale’s birth in 2005.
In the same stand, four coastal Massachusetts side chairs with deep carved volutes and great old color were $72,500; a Rhode Island tavern table with super turnings was $45,000. The Colchester, Conn., dealers also unveiled an impressive tall-case clock by William Burr of Fairfield. Its brass dial is engraved with charming pastoral views reminiscent of needlework of the period.
Kirt Crump of Madison, Conn., featured another appealing Connecticut tall-case clock, an elegantly simple flat-top example in cherry wood by Samuel Stiles of Windsor, circa 1785, $22,500, with an engraved, silvered-brass dial.
Litchfield, Conn., dealer Jeffrey Tillou’s rare Hartford blockfront cherry chest of drawers with a conforming, molded top seemed like a bargain at $48,000, after the $669,500 paid for a Connecticut block and shell-carved chest with shaped top at Christie’s in January.
Other rdf_Descriptions of Connecticut interest included a cast-iron gate, marked Lincoln & Co, $1,500, at Paul and Karen Wendhiser, Ellington, Conn.; a Norwich, Conn., cherry serpentine front high chest of drawers, $89,000 at the Kembles; and a Connecticut River Valley banister back side chair, $3,900 from the Spencer school, at James Kilvington, Dover, Del.
“As far as I could see, it was the biggest gate in four or five years,” said Peter Eaton, who occupies the front center booth and is one of four exhibitors who has been in the show since its beginning. “I saw all the early buyers come in. I didn’t know half of them. It’s encouraging to think that we’re attracting new people.”
Forbes & Turner Antiques Shows return to the Connecticut Expo Center September 20-21 for the Fall Hartford Antiques Show. Also managed by Forbes & Turner, the Dorset Antiques Show is planned for July 12. The Riverside Antiques Show in Manchester, N.H., is set for August 5-7.
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