Published: September 14, 2021
Review and Photos by Rick Russack
PIKE, N.H. – Josh and Archie Steenburgh sold a portion of the White Mountains paintings collection assembled over several decades by Dick Hamilton, their longtime friend. The September 5 sale was live under a large tent and drew a crowd of 150-200, since there was no internet or phone bidding. Hamilton was well known in the White Mountains region, as for more than 30 years he led White Mountain Attractions, the trade organization credited with expanding tourism at the region’s attractions, such as Clark’s Trading Post, Santa’s Village and several others. He also headed Ski New Hampshire, dedicated to increasing skiing in the state. More recently, he was a founder and president of the Old Man Legacy Fund, created to memorialize the Old Man of The Mountain, which collapsed in Franconia Notch during the night on May 3, 2003. He and that fund created a lasting memorial to the Old Man, raising more than $250,000. Hamilton was honored for his achievements by New Hampshire governor Chris Sununu at the Memorial Plaza on the anniversary of the collapse, May 3, 2021. Hamilton had a special interest in the Old Man, (also known as “the Great Stone Face”) Franconia Notch and the adjacent Profile House, one of New Hampshire’s “Grand Hotels,” which was destroyed by fire in 1923. Steenburgh will sell more of Hamilton’s collections of photographs and stereo views later this year.
Steenburgh is a multi-generation family business. Senior member of the firm, Archie, conducted his first auction in 1972. Son Josh got his auctioneer’s license in 1990 although he had been helping his father since he was about 10 years old. His family is also involved in the business.
As expected, the highlights of the sale were some of the White Mountains paintings, especially those by Benjamin Champney (1817-1907), Edward Hill (1842-1923) and Frank Shapleigh (1842-1906). Each produced many paintings of the area; Shapleigh was the resident artist at the Crawford House from 1877 to 1893, and Champney’s home and studio were in Conway, N.H. For 15 years, Hill was the artist in residence at the Profile House in Franconia Notch, and he also had studios at other hotels in the area at various times. Leading the group, and the sale, was Champney’s small painting of Glen Ellis Falls in nearby Pinkham Notch, which is in the town of Jackson, N.H. The falls are and have been a popular hiking destination and the subject of countless paintings, stereo views, photographs and postcards over the years. Champney’s painting sold for $12,075 to a collector from Dunbarton, N.H. Discussing the painting later, the collector said, “It’s a great painting and I thought I’d have to pay more for it.” A small Champney of Mount Washington brought $1,150. Edward Hill’s large painting of Echo Lake with Eagle Cliff sold for $7,475. Hill lived in Littleton, N.H., and the public library there has a large collection of his works on display.
Frank Shapleigh is known for often framing his subjects as though they were being viewed from inside a barn. His painting of Mount Washington, from Jackson, was the third lot of the sale and brought $10,350. One buyer bought several of the White Mountains paintings. A particularly nice unsigned but classic view of the Old Man overlooking Profile Lake realized $4,715. Some of the other paintings were also unsigned and seemed like good buys. One was a scene of the Flume in Franconia Notch state park. It reached $230. There were more.
In addition to the paintings, the Hamilton collection included a rare wall map, Map of the White Mountains of New Hampshire created by George T. Crawford (1828-1905) in 1890. The map depicts the region’s network of river and stream systems, along with the railroads, roads and walking paths. It includes the names of many of the area’s inns and hotels. It was drawn by Crawford, a forester and surveyor. The map is large, 56 by 30 inches, and is drawn to a large scale of one mile to one inch. From Michael Buhler’s website, Boston Rare Maps, discussing a copy of the Crawford map, which he had sold, “Crawford’s map is very rare: This is the first time I have handled one in 18 years in the trade, and I locate but three holdings in American institutional collections. In all, the largest Nineteenth Century map of the White Mountains by someone who probably knew them as well as anyone else alive.” The buyer of the Champney Glen Ellis Falls painting also bought this map, paying $2,990.
The first item sold was a small full-bodied eagle weathervane, which Josh Steenburgh said had come off a nearby Methodist church just two days before the sale. It brought $1,955. Probably one of a kind, a weathervane made for Hamilton, depicting the profile of the Old Man, sold for just $115. A wooden ship weathervane earned $862.
The sale included far more than paintings. There was stoneware, tools, fly fishing gear, early furniture, a collection of cap guns, a collection of crooked knives, Schoenhut circus figures, railroad lanterns, clocks, souvenir china, which was sold in small lots, and more. One of the first items sold was an early indigo linsey-woolsie coverlet, which finished at $2,990. Another early textile, an embroidered bedcover, reached $719. Three paisleys were offered. A large one in good condition with an overall pattern went out for $144; a smaller one with a black center went out for $173; and one with significant condition issues sold for $12. When the runners brought this one up, Steenburgh said, “Don’t even open this one” and knocked it down quickly when someone bid $10.
Furniture included a small, one-drawer blanket chest with a salmon wash, which earned $460; a sawbuck table with heavy stretchers and a one-board top, which sold for $604; and a cherry dropleaf table, which earned $316. A tall cupboard with yellow grain painting reached $547.
After the sale, Dick Hamilton said that he was very pleased with the prices his paintings and the Crawford map brought. “Some of those paintings I bought 20 years ago – they weren’t a whole lot of money then so the prices of the Champneys and the Shapleigh were nice for me. I’ll be giving Josh some more stuff for their next sale. I wish I had been able to be at the sale.”
Josh Steenburgh also said he was pleased with the results. “We had a large crowd, which I’d hoped for, but you can’t be certain of that these days. They came to buy, and many stayed throughout the day. Some left after Dick Hamilton’s paintings sold, which brought good prices. Furniture did well, the textiles did well, and I was surprised at some of the prices for Schoenhut circus figures and the fishing rods. So, all in all, it was a good day.”
Prices given include the buyer’s premium as stated by the auction house. For additional information, 603-303-3072 or www.steenburgh.com.
October 26, 2021
October 26, 2021
October 26, 2021
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