Published: December 17, 2019
Review and Photos by Rick Russack
MARLBOROUGH, MASS. – Last year’s Gurley Thanksgiving Antiques Show had about 80 dealers, and this year’s edition, on Sunday, December 1, had about 100. Rachel and Josh Gurley assumed management of the show a few years ago. It had been started by their late mother more than 30 years ago. They admit the first couple of years were a struggle, but the show is now on an upward trajectory. For buyers – both collectors and dealers – the show has been one of those “do not miss” events for years.
One of the interesting things about the show is that, like the other shows the sister and brother team manage, it is primarily a tabletop show, although several dealers leave plenty of open space in their booths for furniture. That format means it is not expensive for dealers, and the Gurleys have no objection to booths being shared by two dealers. A noticeable result is that the offerings are varied – there was a Rhode Island chest-on-chest priced at $25,000, and there were Christmas ornaments priced at just a few dollars. And many choices in between.
Those interested in folk art, early ceramics, good samplers, trade signs, early glass and so on, had plenty to look at. For those interested in old painted objects – furniture, baskets, cabinets, firkins and assorted woodenware – there was also plenty to see.
“Tabletop,” perhaps, but there was high-quality “brown” furniture in several booths. Heller-Washam, Portland, Maine, had, among other things, a small, circa 1755 high chest of drawers that was attributed, based on construction and design details, to the Connecticut River valley, perhaps Windsor or Wethersfield, Conn. Made of cherry and maple, it had a secret drawer, engraved brass, shell carvings in both sections and an old finish.
Stephen-Douglas Antiques, Walpole, N.H., had an Eighteenth Century New Hampshire lolling chair priced at $1,600 and an early open splat back corner chair priced at $295. Brian Cullity, Sagamore, Mass., had a reasonably priced, cherry four-drawer chest on a bracket base for which he was asking $650. He said, “Nothing has been done to it. It’s one of my favorite forms.”
Rachel Gurley, Gurley Antiques, Scarborough, Maine, had an early highboy base to which a top had been added, and she was asking $465. Morgan Macwhinnie, Southampton, N.Y., had a booth full of furniture, as he always does, including early Windsor chairs and a selection of children’s chairs. Jason Hietala, Lancaster, Mass., had about a dozen large pieces of furniture in his space, spread out along the back wall of the show. His offerings included a circa 1785-1800 Dunlap chest-on-chest with a blanket drawer, in old red with original brass, for which he was asking $14,000. He also had a 1770-80 Rhode Island tiger maple chest-on-chest that he said bore the cipher of Abraham Tortellout, a Huguenot cabinetmaker who had settled in Gloucester, R.I. It was front and center of his booth and priced at $25,000.
Some furniture was not as easily identifiable. Greg Hamilton, Stone Block Antiques, Vergennes, Vt., had a table that was a traffic-stopper. You simply couldn’t miss this table – it was more than 11 feet long. Hamilton said he thought it was Mexican but was unsure of the age. It had four drawers, a heavy top and heavy, shaped legs. The wood was not readily identifiable but was the subject of much discussion during set-up. Brett Downer, Wayland, Mass., had an unusual piece of painted furniture. Lecterns are not uncommon, but this one was in the form of a stand or small table. It was grain-painted in red and black and was priced $675. Linda DeCoste, sharing her space with Robert Brocher, Newburyport, Mass., had a large, heavily carved chest that they thought was Spanish or Italian. It was priced $2,800.
Folk art, no surprise, was prevalent in many booths. Stephen Score, who you might not expect to see exhibiting at a tabletop show, had a wonderful, weathered, birdhouse of wood and tin, painted red, white and blue, with a painted wooden tall hat, representing Uncle Sam. Added to it were tin designs, including a six-point star, an evergreen tree and much more. It was only $425. His barber shop sign was $325.
Jewett-Berdan, Newcastle, Maine, had an exceptional framed overmantel painting. It was a circa 1830 primitive, colorful Vermont scene, possibly of Middlebury, showing a young woman, dogs, homes atop a hill, along with trees and a country church, all within a border of drapery. It was priced at $3,200. Dave and Bonnie Ferris, Lake Luzerne, N.Y., had a bench (?) in the form of an elongated dog. Of unknown age, it was well carved, and perhaps best described by their teenaged granddaughter, Fern Schrader, as “funky.” For $290 you could have taken it home.
A crossover piece might have been a trade stimulator, or it might have been a piece of folk art, depending on your outlook. It belonged to Gene Laparle, Newport, R.I., and had a double-sided countertop dispenser for pipes and tobacco. It had a large sheet metal Indian wearing a headdress, holding a bow and arrow, watching over it. It was priced at $1,850 and probably dated to the 1930s.
Selections of other folk art: painted wooden ware, hooked rugs, redware, mocha and stoneware, etc, were available in several booths. Stephen-Douglas had a number of hooked rugs; Walker Homestead, Brookfield, Mass., brought several pieces of redware and stoneware; Pat Hatch, Harvard, Mass., had numerous cloth dolls and Stephen-Douglas had a very large one. And, in keeping with the season, holiday decorations were offered in at least a half dozen booths.
A few days after the show, Rachel Gurley said that they closed the show a little bit early because of the weather – which really did turn out to be messy. “Josh and I are concerned about our dealers so as soon as we saw the snow, we cut it short. I don’t think it hurt anyone; customers also headed home a little earlier than they otherwise might have.
“I saw some ‘real’ antiques being hauled out; a nice bowfront chest, a multi-drawer apothecary chest – that kind of thing. Overall, we had a good show. It’s our third year of running the show and although a few dealers from prior years didn’t do it this time, we added 30 new dealers. And most of those were young dealers. Those are the ones who are the future of our business.
“Many of those younger dealers are doing our Boxboro shows [January 5 and March 8]. We added a September date [to be announced] for this year and next year we’re planning to add an April date. We’ve already booked the facility for next year. I’d like to think we’re developing a good reputation with our dealers. We are also extensively using Facebook and Instagram. That’s helping with younger folks.”
For additional information, www.gurleyantiqueshows.com or 207-396-4255.
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