Purchase Story

Big Cupboard and Door Latch Combine for Over Twenty Grand

Hap Moore, York, Maine

At Hap Moore’s March 30 auction in York, Maine, a large red cupboard was expected to do very well, and it didn’t disappoint. But it was a 16" iron door latch that rose from obscurity to finish near the top.

The star of the show was a New Hampshire cupboard in dry red paint, with three drawers over two flat-panel wooden doors, all with wooden knobs. The open top and bottom sections were framed by cutout side brackets, all in the original untouched surface. It led the sale at $13,225 (including buyer’s premium).

This two-door red-painted New Hampshire cupboard with three drawers led all lots at $13,225.

Wrought-iron door latch, probably made by the blacksmith who inscribed it with his own name, Abram Foster, and dated it 1791, sold for an impressive $8280.

This European carved mirror is topped by a deeply carved crest with two winged angels holding a shield between them bearing the initials “SP” and a date of 1627. The rough-hewn back appeared to be original, but the glass and the securing cove molding didn’t. Nevertheless, the price of $517.50 looked like a can’t-miss deal.

Four baseballs from the estate of Barbara “Big Swede” Rotvig, a pitcher for the Kenosha Comets of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League, left the park for $1150. Hap Moore photo.

Here’s the ball that kept President Herbert Hoover in such good shape. Hoover’s own personal ball for Hoover-ball sold for $345. Hap Moore photo.

Hoover-ball was a sport that just never caught on with the public. It was a real exercise game, invented by Admiral Joel T. Boone, a Medal of Honor winner and White House physician for President Herbert Hoover. The game was scored like tennis, with two to four players on a side, except with an 8' high net and a six-pound medicine ball instead of a little tennis ball, and no rackets. The general idea was to catch the boulder-like missile and heave it back over the net in such a manner that your opponents couldn’t do the same. The first game actually started just four days after the Hoover inauguration, as players experimented with various ball sizes and net heights before finalizing the rules. Each morning, cabinet members and other VIPs would show up for a round of Hoover-ball before proceeding to the day’s business. They later became known as the “Medicine Ball Cabinet.” Reportedly, the president himself missed a game only once during his tenure. The game is still played at the annual Hoover-Ball National Championships in Iowa. But it’s not a game for those of weak heart or back. Tossing or catching a six-pound medicine ball thrown with force can be a daunting task. Moore offered President Hoover’s personal medicine ball, autographed by Hoover and several cabinet members, along with a photograph and a 1930s Hoover family Christmas card. It all brought $345.

Even if you’re a big baseball fan, chances are you have never heard of Barbara “Big Swede” Rotvig (1928-1963). She was a pitcher for the Kenosha Comets of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League, and she played from 1948 to 1951 (not 1950). She never posted a winning season, mostly due to poor run support from her teammates, but nevertheless she had a lifetime ERA of 2.58, and she threw one no-hitter. Sadly, she died of cancer at the age of 35. A lot with four baseballs came from her estate, and they hit a grand slam at $1150.

I thought the inscribed wrought-iron door latch mentioned previously might be good for $500. Hap Moore thought it could bring more, but we both missed by a mile. The key to its success was the engraved inscription, reading “ABRAM / FOSTER / NOVEMBER 1:10 / Y 1791,” with cross-hatched decoration. The auction listing noted that Foster lived in Ashburnham, Massachusetts. Expanding the name to Abraham Foster yielded a possible result from an online 1887 history of Ashburnham, stating that there was a person by that name who married a Sarah Willard in 1792, and noting significantly that he was a blacksmith. He married again in 1837 but died in the same year. Somebody finally locked up the latch for $8280. Moore wrote me later that his consignor “about fell over when she heard what it brought. I contacted the Ashburnham Historical Society when the latch was consigned, and they affirmed that the Abram Foster house was indeed an historic house and apparently still stands. And THIS is one of the reasons we stay in the antiques business!”

For more information, visit the website (www.hapmoore.com) or call (207) 363-6373.

This small but panoramic 4" x 12½" oil on board by Neapolitan artist Vittorio Capessiero (1836-1891) brought in a respectable $805. Capessiero was known for painting fishing scenes on the shore of the Bay of Naples, often with a view of Mt. Vesuvius in the background.

A marine navigational instrument known as a nocturnal, marked “ROTH / BEARS,” sold in the company of a one-draw telescope (not shown) for $4485. Moore remarked, “Next time you see one of those at a yard sale, pick it up!” Hap Moore photo.

This 30" x 35" oil on canvas fantasy scene was signed by Edgar F. Wittmack (1894-1956), and it shows nude sea nymphs cavorting with a variety of ocean fauna. Wittmack was a cover artist for numerous magazines of the 1920s and 1930s. I could find nothing in his oeuvre of illustrations and figural portraits that resembles this one. Nevertheless, it sold for $2760, well into the upper range of his auction prices.

Hishikawa Moronobu (c. 1618-1694) is regarded as the founder of the Japanese ukiyo-e (“images of the floating world”) style of printmaking, a genre centering on the entertainment districts and other aspects of urban life, featuring such subjects as kabuki actors, sumo wrestlers, and scenes from folk tales. This ink drawing is listed as from the Laurent estate, and it shows extensive characters in old-style Japanese script. I took a chance on it for $235.75.

Massachusetts and New Jersey artist Wayne Morrell (1923-2013) began his career as an industrial and commercial designer before turning full time to fine art in 1961. At some point he moved to Rockport, Massachusetts, and joined the Rockport Art Association, among other artists’ groups. His 22" x 28" oil on canvas of a forested pond behind deeply shadowed trees brought in a well-deserved but low $373.75.

Bracket-base birch chest with four graduated dovetailed drawers, apparently with original hardware including the lock plates, $258.75.

George Hathaway (1852-1903) painted dozens of views of Maine’s Portland Head Light, including this 13" x 20" view from the southeast, one of his favorite vantage points. Crisp and bright, it finished at $1150, in keeping with what others have sold for.

Will Moses (b. 1956) is a living relative of Anna Mary Robertson “Grandma” Moses. His folky style is reminiscent of that of his legendary artist relative but considerably more nuanced, capturing details in sharp focus while maintaining a lighthearted, fanciful aspect. This 25½" x 29" oil on panel of a snowy country village scene captured $1178.75.

Old blue can warm up a cool market. The original coat of dark robin’s-egg blue on this lift-top blanket chest with an arched bracket base brought the price up to $1150.

This signed 10½" x 14" pastoral landscape of cattle in a heavily forested pasture by John Joseph Enneking (1841-1916), showing all the style of his rural Tonalist scenes, sold for $1380. Hap Moore photo.

Ordinary period furniture still brings ordinary prices. So it was with this maple Queen Anne lowboy with a molded overhung top and little to recommend it beyond 250 years of age. It sold for $172.50.

Size definitely mattered when it came to this massive walnut dining table that is 79" x 51" with the leaves extended. Thick block-and-turn legs with similarly turned but slender gate legs supporting the wings helped bring the price up to $2875.

Moore might have been better off selling this one by the pound. The massive 19th-century walnut court cupboard, probably Italian, standing on four short feet is graced by massive carved columns, full-relief faces, and a heavily overhung top. Fortunately for the hired help, it comes apart in three manageable sections, and it was carried out for $230.


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

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