Purchase Story

Amelia Jeffers Conducts Peter Chillingworth Auction

Amelia Jeffers, Auctioneer, Scenery Hill, Pennsylvania

Photos courtesy Amelia Jeffers
Prices in captions include the buyer’s premium.

It’s a standard question most reporters ask an auctioneer after a sale. And the answer is usually, “It was a great sale. We were very pleased with the auction.”

“The Chillingworth Auction,” featuring the 57-year personal collection of Peter Chillingworth and his wife, Kathryn “Cappy,” was held at the couple’s Scenery Hill, Pennsylvania, homestead October 18-20, 2018. Also included in the auction were the contents of Pete’s cabinetmaker workshop and his business, Peter W. Chillingworth Antiques, both located on the couple’s farm. 

But when the question “How did you feel the sale went?” was put to auctioneer Amelia Jeffers in reference to the unreserved auction held on site for Peter Chillingworth in Scenery Hill, Pennsylvania, October 18-20, 2018, Jeffers honestly replied, “It did not meet my expectations.” And then she smiled and said, “But I am pretty competitive.”

Those who know Jeffers would not be surprised by this response, though, and would point out that Jeffers’s reply was quantified with “my expectations.” The fact that Jeffers expects much from herself is the secret to her success.

“It’s why I hired her to do our auction,” Peter Chillingworth explained. “I have known Amelia for many years, and I know she has very high standards she holds herself to. Amelia and those she worked with exceeded our expectations from start to finish. Cappy and I are very pleased with the outcome of the auction. We knew we were in good hands with Amelia and are so grateful she took this on for us.”

Of the tall-case clocks in the Chillingworth collection, this Hepplewhite example by William Gorgas, marked as number 9, drew the most attention. The clock was made sometime between 1800 and 1815 when William Gorgas worked in Greensburg and Mount Pleasant, Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania. The clock has an eight-day movement and a painted iron dial with a sweep second hand. The walnut and crotch walnut case is exuberantly inlaid with herringbone and a vine, leaf, and dot design. Adding to its appeal is the rectangular crotch walnut door and base with herringbone and applied beading. Line inlay on the waist has herringbone and swags with flowers, and the broken-arch top has inlaid fan rosettes and a herringbone center medial strip below the finial. This outstanding clock stands 99" high, and it sold for $13,800 (est. $6000/8000). “I was very pleased with how well all the clocks sold,” Jeffers stated.

This early 19th-century southwestern Pennsylvania inlaid tall-case clock, 97½" tall, made by Thomas Hutchinson, sold for $10,062.50 (est. $8000/12,000). Hutchinson worked as a clockmaker and watchmaker in Washington, Pennsylvania, from at least 1800 to about 1824, but he trained earlier as a silversmith in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. Made of cherry, the clock has a painted and signed iron dial. The eight-day movement had been restored by Edward F. Lafond Jr. and is in working order. The hood and case have elaborate inlay including vine and leaf, banding, and marquetry.

This circa 1760 Queen Anne low-back Windsor armchair from Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, is made of mixed woods and has scrolled arms, a sculpted seat, and an H-stretcher. At 28¼" high overall and with a 16¾" high seat, this lovely chair sold for $2990 (est. $1500/2500).

This early 19th-century New Geneva amber bottle with a globular body, tapered neck, and rolled rim is 9" high and sold for $2300 (est. $400/800).

From Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, this circa 1799 Chippendale dower/blanket chest in its original blue paint is lettered “Chatharina Conrad 1799” across the front panel. The birth record of Chatharina is attached to the inside of the lid, protected by Plexiglas. Having a dovetailed case with a wooden pinned lid molding and lipped drawers on an ogee footed base, fishtail strap hinges on the interior, and its original brass keyhole escutcheon, this 29" high x 52½" wide x 23½" deep chest sold for $1610 (est. $1200/1800).

This late 18th-century Chippendale mahogany mirror, with a scrollwork top and bottom and cutout ears, sold for $1322.50 (est. $250/450). The mirror is 42¼" high.

And it was a lot to take on. The auction included the lifetime personal collection of Peter Chillingworth and his wife, Kathryn “Cappy,” and the contents of the Chillingworths’ Scenery Hill, Pennsylvania, antiques business, Peter W. Chillingworth Antiques, established in 1961. The couple’s collection and the shop inventory consisted of fine Federal, Chippendale, and Queen Anne American furniture and decorative arts that included an impressive assortment of furniture and decorative arts from western Pennsylvania. Also up for bid was historic plank wood from Pete’s workshop and the workshop’s contents.

Chillingworth is a longtime dealer and has been a show manager of several iconic events (Oglebay Institute’s Antiques Show and Sale in West Virginia, and the Brandywine River Museum of Art Antiques Show in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania). Chillingworth and his wife had decided it was time to downsize and sell their things. The couple plans to set up residence in nearby Washington, Pennsylvania, in a smaller home sans stairs. They wanted to do an unreserved on-site auction, and they wanted Amelia Jeffers to put it all together.

Simple enough, except that Amelia Jeffers is no longer associated with Garth’s Auctioneers & Appraisers, a company she co-owned and helped run for more than 20 years. And while Jeffers has more auctioneering experience and auction-organizing success stories than many, she had never put together on her own an event quite like what the Chillingworths desired.

To most, this would be too daunting a task to even consider, and for Jeffers that’s exactly why she said yes. That and her love for the Chillingworths. Jeffers stated, “I just adore Pete and Cappy. I have known them forever. I talk to Pete on the phone often and visit when I can. They are true friends. It was such an honor to be approached by Pete and Cappy to conduct this auction. I truly think whatever the outcome, I would have wanted it to be better. The work involved with the auction was doable. Thinking I would possibly let down this couple whom I love was just unacceptable to me. Thankfully, it all came together.”

Jeffers also specifically pointed out that this was not even close to being a solo effort on her part. “Jim Frio and Shane Stack of Frio, Stack, and Associates, Wheeling, West Virginia, personal friends and auction veterans, when they signed on to help run the auction, that sealed the deal for me,” Jeffers explained.

Shoveling Snow, a 26" x 36" oil on canvas by Dorothy Lauer Davids (1904-1980) showing a street scene of a snowy day and a man shoveling snow, sold for $3680 (est. $3000/5000).

“I was really pleased with how the sandpaper drawing took off,” Jeffers said about this early 19th-century ink and watercolor on paper of boats on water, A Scene in Italy. It is signed by the artist in the lower right corner “By S.T. Olmstead of New York” and inscribed in lower left corner “For Annie Lewis, Mt. Vernon, Ohio, June 1854.” It sold for $3737.50 (est. $200/400).

This circa 1836 Pennsylvania ink and watercolor on paper family record for Elias Worrell and Sarah Allen of Marianna, Pennsylvania, sold for $1955 (est. $250/500).

Small in height at 2¼", this New Geneva, Pennsylvania, tanware pitcher with anodized decoration including scallops and dots and with an anodized brown-glazed interior was a baptism gift to Emily, one of Peter and Kathryn Chillingworth’s daughters. Pete explained, “Charlie Momchilov was Emily’s godfather, and this was his gift to her. I told Emily, since it was given on her baptism, whatever it brought was hers. It was a very emotional moment for Cappy and me when it sold but how wonderful for Emily.” The tanware pitcher sold for $4887.50 (est. $200/400).

Two small circa 1830 boxes sold together for $1150 (est. $150/350). This Sheraton example, made of walnut with a turned foot base, is actually a bank with a dovetailed drawer and a bone inlay coin slot on top. It is 6¼" high x 8½" wide x 6¼" deep. The second box in the lot was a walnut dovetailed keeping box (not shown), a bit larger at 8" high x 13¾" wide x 9" deep.

As did the help from many others. Jeffers acknowledged that group on social media, stating, “I hope for my kids, my friends, and really anyone, that at some point in your life you are able to accept a call, take a risk, and put yourself out there—and that when you do, your people surround you with the love and support and encouragement and grace with which I have been met with this endeavor. Forever grateful to my friend Pete for believing in me and pulling me out of semi-retirement.”

Having stepped away from Garth’s several years ago, Jeffers has kept her fingers in the antiques and auctioneering business but had not taken on a full-blown sale from soup to nuts, such as the auction for the Chillingworths.

Hundreds of hours, lots of laughter, and lots of tears later, when Jeffers stepped to the auction dais positioned within the opened doors of the farm’s barn, she looked out over those within the auction tent and stated, “We are here to sell you things you want to buy, and while it is an unreserved auction, if there is no interest, the item will be passed. No one will be walking away from here with a five-dollar high chest, but hopefully, you will all win something you love.”

And so began three days of selling.

Thursday, October 18, was the day set aside for liquidating the workshop’s contents and wood. When asked how the selling of the lumber fared, Chillingworth responded with his own question, “Just fine, but then again, what do you compare it to?” For example, some of the walnut sold was from the interior of an 18th-century log house.

Chillingworth noted, “The fellow that bought my 1870 manufactured treadle lathe for $1300 was just delighted with his purchase and assured me it would be well taken care of, which just made my day.”

Small in size at just 3¾" high, this early 19th-century Pennsylvania redware mug has a small lip at the base and a strap handle. It has a yellow-brown glaze and slip decoration in brown, green, and yellow of a tulip, ferns, and sun, and it sold for $4140 (est. $1500/2500).

Thought to have been made between 1790 and 1810, this two-piece walnut Chippendale Dutch wall cupboard has 18 panes of glass in its top doors and a dovetailed bracket base with three dovetailed drawers over two double paneled doors below. The top portion is 45¾" high and the base is 41¾" high. It sold for $6037.50 (est. $4000/6000).

Maybe that’s the truth behind this auction. These items for sale—the regional paintings, the decorated blanket chests, the glassware, the furniture—were not just random objects acquired without a sense of time or place. Pete loved and was a steward of his things; he loved their importance and their history, and he loved sharing his passion with others. The selling of his and Cappy’s things was quite emotional. Jeffers felt the same, and that is why this pairing made for a successful auction.

Jeffers stated, “It never ceased to amaze me. If I had a question about an item when Steve [Sherhag], Kristin [Crump], and I were putting the catalog together, I’d call Pete and say, ‘You know that chest, candlestick, whatever,’ and Pete would immediately know what item I was referencing and tell me where he got it, how he found it, and its history. Pete knew his things intimately, and I just loved that.”

Because of this, both Chillingworth and Jeffers were hoping that these pieces would find appreciative new owners. “I really enjoyed having someone buy something who was thrilled with it,” Pete explained. “I could tell they planned on giving it a good home, which was my goal from the beginning, and why I wanted an on-site sale. I couldn’t imagine taking these pieces out of their context and lining them up in an auction gallery somewhere. No, the auction on our farm was what Cappy and I wanted, and Amelia and those she gathered together to do the auction did a wonderful job.”

Thursday’s woodshop and wood auction and Friday’s uncataloged event enjoyed fair weather, but then it got a bit ugly Friday afternoon into the evening, and come Saturday, those arriving at the Chillingworths’ 19-acre homestead for the cataloged portion of the auction were met with some drizzle and some mud, though none of this dampened their enthusiasm.

“I wanted 600 buyers under the sales tent, and that didn’t happen, but we did have around 125, and our online platforms [Invaluable and AuctionZip] made Pete and Cappy’s things accessible to all,” Jeffers stated. “We had some glitches, but what auction doesn’t? Still, in the end, Pete said he was very satisfied. Our goal was to move a lot of volume, and we did. Our goal was to find new homes for the wonderful things Pete had acquired during his career, and I feel we did that as well.”

Maybe the Chillingworths’ son John said it best when he thanked everyone publicly: “The Chillingworth auction was a great success! A huge thank you to everyone who helped to share the news about the auction, those who sent their regards, those who attended, and those who bid and followed online. Thank you to the auctioneers and their team, and a special thank you to Amelia Jeffers for taking on this daunting project and putting her heart and soul into it. You folks are amazing!”

For more information, go to (www.ameliajeffers.com). 


Originally published in the January 2019 issue of Maine Antique Digest. © 2019 Maine Antique Digest

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