Purchase Story

Americana

Skinner, Boston, Massachusetts

Arriving at Skinner in Boston for the March 3 Americana sale, one couldn’t help noticing three men in Colonial dress among the crowd waiting to be admitted upstairs to the auction gallery. Had we stepped into the past? One thought was “How nice. Skinner is presenting men in period costume.”

Not so.

The three, part of a larger group that arrived at Skinner later, were in town to participate in the 248th observance of the Boston Massacre. Not simply guys who like to dress up, these men are historians with precise knowledge of their subject, the War of Independence. Meticulous attention to detail and historic accuracy are requisites of the annual juried commemoration and reenactment, which is organized by the Bostonian Society.

In addition to the historians, dealers were present and accounted for—many buying freely. Collectors represented a healthy segment of buyers as well. A sign of things to come or was it attributable to the good folk art for sale? Who knows?

This 66" tall carousel figure of a giraffe in original paint is attributed to Daniel C. Muller (1872-1951), master carver at the G.A. Dentzel Company in Philadelphia. From a Massachusetts collection, the giraffe sold for $61,500 (est. $50,000/75,000).

This 1892 pottery portrait face jug of L.W. Berry by William Decker, known as Uncle Billy, at the Decker family’s Keystone Pottery in Nolichucky Valley, Tennessee, brought $59,040 (est. $40,000/60,000). The jug is incised clearly “Made by Wm. Decker/ July 9th 1892” and “L.W. Berry.” Decker, same as his father and siblings, was a talented potter and a horticulturalist, cobbler, and businessman, and on occasion he practiced medicine, both human and veterinary. The jug was sold into a Massachusetts collection by Boston dealer Stephen Score, who was present at the sale in pursuit of other good folk art.

A Massachusetts collection was the source of a copper Statue of Liberty on an arrow weathervane, circa 1886, attributed to the J.L. Mott Iron Works of New York City. The 42" x 44½" figure was modeled after Bartholdi’s Statue of Liberty, and it sold for $43,050 (est. $15,000/25,000). The vane was purchased from New York City maker J.L. Mott between 1886 and 1888 and was sold to the Massachusetts collection by Jeffrey Tillou Antiques. It had suffered zealous cleaning at one point but had been restored.

This large molded copper merino ram weathervane with a textured surface and applied embossed sheet copper horns in later silver paint sold for $14,760 (est. $12,000/15,000). The vane was removed from a mill just before the establishment of Massachusetts’s Quabbin Reservoir between 1930 and 1939, during which four towns were lost to the water.

This lively World War I doughboy whirligig, estimated at $10,000/15,000, sold for $7380. It sold to a Massachusetts collection at Skinner’s February 2005 Americana auction.

A Massachusetts folk art collection, replete with textiles, game boards, weathervanes, ceramics, and marine paintings among other treasures, brought out dealers who hadn’t been seen at auction lately. Provenance of much of the collection indicated that some of these same dealers had sold the objects to the collectors, as had Skinner and Northeast Auctions. Speaking several days after the sale, Stephen Fletcher, director of Skinner’s Americana department, executive vice president, and chairman of the board, described the unidentified collector as having a “wonderful eye,” high praise indeed.

A 3" x 5¼" oil on paper view of Philip Grinnell’s house at the entrance to Westport harbor, Massachusetts, by Charles DeWolf Brownell (1822-1909) was estimated at $800/1200 and sold on the phone for $6765 (with buyer’s premium). The picture was signed “C. D.W. B. / 65.”

This Hadley chest, circa 1718, that belonged to Elizabeth White (1695-1753) of Hadley, Massachusetts, is decorated with incised and flat carving and beaded detail and retains evidence of a dark red wash and black pigment. It also retains the monogram “EW” and descended in White’s family to the consignor. Estimated at $40,000/60,000, it sold on the phone for $49,200.The chest is discussed in The Hadley Chest by Clair Franklin Luther and was exhibited from 1939 to 1962 at the Concord (Massachusetts) Antiquarian Society in the Seventeenth-Century Room.

This early 20th-century Connecticut pieced and appliquéd quilt with 55 blocks was estimated to have been made between 1925 and 1930 by Mrs. Cecil White of Hartford. Each block depicts a particular pursuit, and the quilt is bordered with trains at the top and bottom and cars and trucks along the side. It came most recently from a Massachusetts folk art collection, having passed through America Hurrah, the Mendelsohn collection, Fred Giampietro, and Ricco/Maresca Gallery. It sold for $55,350 (est. $40,000/60,000) to a phone bidder.

The 19th-century turned burl bowl, banded at the rim and 21" in diameter, is compelling and brought $5228 (est. $600/800).

This Massachusetts mahogany serpentine chest of drawers made between 1760 and 1780, likely on the North Shore, with an overhanging top, a cockbeaded case of drawers, and a shell drop pendant, sold to the phone for $7380 (est. $3000/5000).

A red, white, and blue Hawaiian flag quilt, known as Ku’u Hae Aloha (My Beloved Flag), from the early 20th century, was pieced with Hawaiian flags centering the Hawaiian coat of arms and with stripes representing the eight main islands of what was then the Hawaiian Kingdom. It was estimated at $6000/8000, and some thought it a very good buy when it sold for $7380.

 

This Shaker maple and butternut sewing desk offered late in the sale proved to be the highlight of the day. The circa 1850 desk in old red paint was likely made at the Alfred, Maine, community. Estimated at $6000/8000, it sold for $67,650 to a dealer buying for a client with a focus on the Alfred community. A similar example is pictured in Timothy Rieman and Jean Burks’s The Complete Book of Shaker Furniture (1993).

Massachusetts furniture interested buyers. This mid-18th-century diminutive carved tiger maple high chest of drawers with shell carving and a pierced pendant sold online for $12,685 (est. $8000/12,000). The chest was cataloged as Newburyport, but it was the subject of much discussion as to its origin, which was narrowed down to Massachusetts or New Hampshire. It sold for $31,050 at Skinner in October 2000 at the sale of the estate of Malcolm S. Burroughs.

 

This Union Mowing Machine Company brass, steel, and rosewood model mower made around 1866 by Thomas H. Dodge, owner of the Worcester, Massachusetts, company, brought $11,070 (est. $3000/5000). The model, which is fully functional, was awarded a prize at the New Hampshire State Agricultural Society 12th annual fair at Nashua in 1866. It was accompanied by its mahogany case. Skinner photo.

Several bidders liked a mid-19th-century copper weathervane in the form of a cannon on a field carriage with a stack of cannon balls, and they pushed it to $1476 (est. $400/600).

A carved and incised wood panel from upstate New York, made between 1900 and 1910, depicted a dog in pursuit of a fox with a running rabbit and other woodland creatures. Estimated at $800/1200, the panel brought $2335. It was consigned after another more elaborate example with extensive polychrome decoration made by the same unidentified artist sold for $18,450 at Skinner’s November 2017 Americana sale.

The highlight of a Rhode Island collection of Nantucket baskets was a set of seven lightship baskets made between 1870 and 1880 by Rowland Folger (1803-1883), all with bentwood handles, and with six bearing Folger’s stencil. Estimated at $8000/12,000, the lot brought $12,300.

For more information, check the website (www.skinnerinc.com) or call (617) 350-5400.

A group of game boards from a Massachusetts collection spiked interest, and several brought rewarding prices. A late 19th-century Parcheesi board painted in six colors, with a star at each corner and the home square, brought $17,220 (est. $4000/6000). A late 19th-century folding Parcheesi board (not shown), also in six colors, with incised carving and an applied tin boss at each corner and a central compass star sold on the phone for $11,685 (est. $6000/8000). Skinner photo.

The 18⅞" tall five-gallon stoneware churn, circa 1860, with cobalt decoration of a basket of flowers was made by Thompson Harrington of Lyons, New York, and sold on the phone for $11,070 (est. $1000/2000).

This 22" x 36" oil on canvas ship’s portrait by William Pierce Stubbs (1842-1909) of the Sarah Pauline with Minot’s Ledge Light off Scituate and Cohasset, Massachusetts, in the background was the highlight of the marine paintings sold. From a Massachusetts collection, it sold for $8610 (est. $3000/5000).


Originally published in the May 2018 issue of Maine Antique Digest. © 2018 Maine Antique Digest

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