Published: October 17, 2000
Furniture Fans Make an Annual Pilgrimage
HARTFORD, CONN. – Spring or fall, the old “Hartford” shows are long in tradition and rich in the kind of rare, wonderful New England furniture that makes the hearts of true-blue collectors palpitate.
Many of those self-same collectors were restlessly waiting in line when opened on Saturday morning, September 30. It would be a stretch to say that the show was packed, but it was certainly supported. Shoppers assiduously worked their ways through the fair, zeroing in on favorite dealers and claiming choice rdf_Descriptions.
Though technically only three years old, has its foundations in the decades old Connecticut Antiques Shows managed by Frances Phipps and Betty Forbes. The current manager of the Hartford shows, Betty’s niece Linda Turner, started as a pumpkin seller in the fields of Phipps’ flea market in Higganum, Conn., nearly 40 years ago. “Frances’s house was at the end of a long, dirt road,” she recalled. “There were two fields: one for the cars, another for the exhibitors.” Linda worked the pumpkin concession while her uncle sold hot dogs and her mother handled cup cakes.
In some ways, Hartford hasn’t changed much since then. Timelessness is part of its charm. It is disarmingly – and, to some, alarmingly – low key. Until recently, it has been strictly limited to pre-1840 American furniture, mostly from New England, and appropriate accessories. That’s starting to change a bit as Turner adds new exhibitors and others leave. Still, is as traditional as they come.
The latest edition of coincided with the Jewish holidays and several popular antiques fairs in Vermont, perhaps accounting for the slight decline in attendance. The drop in gate wasn’t missed by some exhibitors, among them Massachusetts dealer Brian Cullity and New York dealer John Keith Russell, who had already registered good pre-show sales.
The Hartford show prides itself on its broad selection of ‘early’ rdf_Descriptions. In that category, dealer Rick Russack outdid himself with pairs of petrified wood bookends, which neatly sandwiched the Danville, N.H. dealer’s extensive selection of antiquarian reference books. “These are the oldest thing in the show,” Russack boasted. “They predate anything here by 25 million years.”
Maine dealer David Morey tacked up a rare Eighteenth Century pit saw, $1,200, calling to mind the memory of the late Paul Weld, who could be counted on to bring such rarities to Hartford. Morey suspended the saw over a very early Massachusetts pine blanket chest, $8,750, that, coincidentally, came out of Skinner’s recent sale of the Weld collection. Later, Massachusetts dealer David Wheatcroft was seen poring over another rdf_Description in Morey’s booth, a carved and painted New England wall box. The early Eighteenth Century piece was $12,500. Morey saves his best for Hartford. His Maine shop, as he explained, serves a different clientele.
Early in the show, a red tag appeared on Brian Cullity’s mahogany oxbow chest, a Boston piece of circa 1780. Cullity, who said the chest was “going back to the Cape,” also featured a pretty Queen Anne walnut drop leaf table in original condition, circa 1740-60, $11,500.
Collectors had their choice of several wonderful scrub-top tables. Janice Strauss of South Salem, N.Y. presented a Rhode Island example with slim, delicate legs, $11,500. Nearby, Peter Eaton offered a William and Mary tavern table with scrubbed top. Dating to circa 1720-40, the Maine or eastern Massachusetts piece was $9,200. Eaton was asking $33,000 for a Rhode Island Queen Anne drop leaf table with turned legs, slipper feet. He boasted, “the table has the finest scrubbed maple top I’ve ever seen.”
Two superb Queen Anne candlestands at Eaton’s included one with a molded top and shapely shaft and cabriole legs, $4,200. A Rhode Island example with a thin top and a crisply carved shaft, circa 1770-1780, was $6,500. Another highlight was a Pilgrim Century joined chest of south central Connecticut origin. Purchased from a Branford, Conn., family, the chest is dated “1707 H I.” The compelling historical artifact cost $19,500.
Occupying a prominent front booth, Joan Brownstein combined a small, inlaid serpentine and bow front table, $36,000, possibly of Portsmouth, N.H. origin, with a set of six fiddle back chairs, $22,000, and a pair of elegant Philadelphia or Baltimore Hepplewhite games tables, $38,500. The Ithaca, N.Y. dealer’s favorite rdf_Description was a group of miniature likenesses, $18,500, of the family of David Budd. Brownstein combed 400 old Sotheby’s catalogues before she found the illustration she was looking for: a signed pair of portraits supporting the attribution of the Budd group to the artist R.M. Norton.
Nathan Liverant & Son’s homage to Connecticut included a Queen Ann flattop maple highboy with the so-called ‘lobster tail’ pendant on its skirt that is a hallmark of Stonington, Conn., design. The circa 1750-80 casepiece was $65,000. The Liverants also featured a Lebanon, Conn., architectural corner cupboard with scalloped sides and old red paint, $24,500, and two country Chippendale vase-back side chairs with flared ears that are characteristic of Litchfield County. A painted blanket chest in the booth was from the important group attributed to South Shaftsbury, Vt., decorator Thomas Matteson.
Harold Cole of Woodbury, Conn., was on hand with a Litchfield County cherry four-drawer chest, $14,500, and a New London county desk and bookcase attributed to the Loomis cabinetmaking shop. The circa 1760 piece with a punchwork decorated cornice was $85,000.
Hilary and Paulette Nolan of Falmouth, Mass., brought a wonderful little Massachusetts stretcher base table with crisp vase-and-ring turnings, $22,000, and an assembled set of New York City brace-back bow-back side chairs, $8,500. One of the chairs was branded “H. Vosburgh N. York,” making it a rare, perhaps unique, signed example by this listed chair maker. John Keith Russell also had a signed piece of interest, a vividly grained yellow and black side table inscribed “Mathilda Thane 1859.”
A favorite piece in Samuel Herrup’s stand was a small Connecticut slant-front desk on frame. Its scalloped skirt matched the valances of its cubbied interior. The Sheffield, Mass., dealer also featured a Boston mahogany slant front desk, circa 1760, with three carved shells in its interior, $55,000. A New England bow front chest with French feet and figured veneered drawer fronts was $18,000.
Jeffrey Tillou’s handsome, well-stocked booth included a Massachusetts Queen Anne vase back side chair, $9,500; a Queen Anne cherry candlestand from New London, Conn., $4,500; and a coastal Massachusetts Chippendale reverse serpentine chest of drawers, $16,500.
Windsor chairs were in stock at Michael Regan Antiques. The Greensboro, N.C. dealer paired a diminutive high chair in Victorian paint over an old green surface, $5,800, with a muscular writing-arm chair attributed to Anthony Steel of Philadelphia, 1790-1800, $8,800.
Though up and coming young dealer Jeff Bridgman exhibits at a remarkable 40 shows a year, his booth at Hartford was as fresh and well-presented as could be. One exceptional rdf_Description was a Hepplewhite settee with spade feet. The Newport piece dated to circa 1800.
At the Windle’s, a Connecticut Queen Anne flattop cherry highboy was $28,000. Susan Stella’s winning display combined a geometric hooked rug in a soft, olive palette, $750, and an Eighteenth Century ball-and-claw foot dining table, $7,500. Plummer & Philbrick of North Berwick, Me., sold a Connecticut painted blanket chest with two false drawers above two graduated drawers.
With this year’s suspension of the show run by the Antiques Dealers Association of America’s (ADA), regained some notable dealers, both as exhibitors and customers. Elliott and Grace Snyder of South Egremont, Mass., were on hand, decorating their booth with brilliant, figural hooked rugs and a stretcher-base tavern table of unusual height. The mid-Eighteenth Century New England piece was $7,500. A rare pine settle was $8,500, while an attractive pair of Rhode Island bow back side chairs was $6,800.
A veneered Massachusetts Queen Anne highboy was a highlight at Mark and Marjorie Allen’s. The Amherst, N.H. dealers, also new to the show, were asking $35,000 for the circa 1735 casepiece, which they decorated with an Eighteenth Century garniture set of Dutch delft.
Another well-appointed stand belonged to Thomas and Julia Barringer. The Stockton, N.J. dealers featured a lift-top blanket chest in old red paint, $2,150, and a set of four smoke grained, plank seat sidechairs from Lebanon County, Pa., circa 1825, $6,200.
As lovely accompaniments to the Queen Anne through Federal furniture on the floor, Stephen and Carol Huber of Old Saybrook, Conn., stocked samplers and silk embroideries. A silk embroidered picture from Sturbridge, Mass., circa 1820, $18,000, featured a charming pastoral scene of a harpist wooing a maiden.
Next to the Hubers, Bob Gunn and Fenton Brown of Francis Bealey American Antiques and Gunn Gallery, Essex, Conn., unveiled a set of six Baltimore classical side chairs with elegantly painted decoration and embossed metal mounts, $24,000. The back of the booth was lined with paintings by Charles Morris Brown, a Pennsylvania painter who spent time in Maine and Old Lyme, Conn., where he is remembered by the panel he contributed to the famous artist’s dining room at the Florence Griswold Museum. Perfect for fall were the autumnal tonalities of J. Francis Murphy’s “Evening,” $22,000 at Frederic I. Thaler, Cornwall Bridge, Conn.
Margaret Ofslager, a fixture of the Hartford shows for as long as anyone can remember, unveiled a fascinating collection of Connecticut books and ephemera. In addition to works on Connecticut’s Nineteenth Century industries, including clockmaking, there were county records and a leather-bound volume of John Barber’s Connecticut Historical Collections. Published in 1838, the book was $125.
“The people who came bought. There were quite a few happy faces,” said Linda Turner, whose next show will be the 28th Connecticut Spring Antiques Show at the State Armory in Hartford on March 24-25, 2001.
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