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Purchase Story

Maine Antiques Festival Trimmed Down to Two Days? Don't Bet on It!

Mark Sisco | August 6th, 2017

Maine Antiques Festival, Union, Maine

The sprawling Maine Antiques Festival sprang up for the 36th year at the Union, Maine, fairgrounds for a three-day run August 4-6. Show master Paul Davis reorganized the 162 exhibitors into a more compact setting by pulling in some of the outliers onto the central field. It made for a much more manageable presentation and gave those who were previously on the outskirts some better traffic exposure.

Davis was considering a major change for next year’s show by cutting down the number of days from three to two. But that idea may be withering on the vine. He conducted an informal poll of exhibitors and found strong sentiment for retaining the three-day format. Much of the support for the two-day show seemed to be coming from potential recruits who pledged to come if the show was shorter. But as Davis suggested, “Talk is cheap,” and he had to give more weight to the opinions of those who were already participating. He analyzed simply, “The show has survived the way it is for a reason, and the reason is that the dealers that are doing it do well. And if it takes three days for them to be doing well, I guess that’s what the show should be. And you have to consider the people who are making the show a success now.”


Rufus Bliss founded the R. Bliss Manufacturing Company in 1832, based on his invention for an improved screw-cutting method. Bliss soon branched out into piano- and cabinet-making clamps, tennis racquets, and more. But it wasn’t until 1871 that the first record appears of an R. Bliss lithographed dollhouse like this one. Colorful and gaily decorated in the Victorian fashion, it is only about 13" tall, probably made around 1901, and it was $475 from Laura McCarthy of Bayberry Antiques, Rockland, Massachusetts.


Barny, Rigoni & Langle operated its Limoges, France, firm for about eight years, beginning in 1894. The marks on this set appear to be from its later years, after the founder, J. Rigoni, had left the company. The marks further indicate that the set was imported for sale by the William Barr Dry Goods Company of St. Louis. Kathy Tarr of The Victorian Rose, Wenham, Massachusetts, offered the nine-piece hand-painted game bird set, signed by the artist “Levy,” for $1800.


Left to right, the four water pitchers are a Northwood “Spanish lace” pattern cranberry opalescent pitcher, circa 1890, for $500; a second Northwood “Spanish lace” pitcher in white and clear glass for $350; a cranberry “External swirl” opalescent pitcher by Hobbs, Brockunier & Co. for $450; and a blue and white opalescent “External swirl” pitcher, also by Hobbs, Brockunier & Co., for $385. All were from Scott Roland of GlimmerGlass Antiques, Schenevus, New York. None are signed, but 30 years of experience enabled Roland to identify them by style and composition. But the glass business isn’t what it’s cracked up to be anymore. “All these things are at least a third less than what they used to be,” Roland noted. “Possibly even fifty percent of what they were eight years ago.”

Over the years the scope of the show has widened even though the number of dealers is down from the peak of decades ago. The dominant theme used to be country antiques, but now you’ll find everything from country to formal to modern (see below for more on that trend). This time around, even the weather cooperated nicely. Saturday’s predicted thunderstorms held off until late in the evening when most dealers were nestled all snug in their beds or campers.

Now, about that modern thing. According to U.S. customs law, an antique is something that was produced at least 100 years ago. But a car can be an antique at a mere 25 years. In popular usage, an antique can be just about anything that is not modern, and there is no red-line cutoff date for what is modern and what isn’t. So it’s really no great wonder that the supply of antiques continues to grow. Each year as the calendar flips to January, another huge batch of commodities clicks over from 99 to 100 years old. Another huge fleet of cars turns 25. And everything in between becomes another year older as well. My favorite example of the formerly strictly utilitarian class now turned quasi-antique was from Dave Clark of Clearwater Lake, Maine. He brought a Kenmore Visi-Matic wringer washing machine from way back in 1956. That may have been a first for the show, but it almost certainly won’t be the last. Lots of former adolescents have mourned wistfully because their parents threw away their comic book collection, depriving them of a potential windfall. But how many have grieved because Mom threw away the washing machine?

For more information, visit (www.maineantiquesfestival.com) or call (207) 221-3108.


David Clark of Clearwater Lake, Maine, may be the only dealer who has been with the show since its inception. He brought what might be the latest modern washday miracle to make the leap into the loosely defined antiques category, a rotund Kenmore Visi-Matic wringer washing machine from 1956. The light salmon-pink exterior is certainly in line with the desirable folk art and furniture pigmentation. He didn’t need to take anybody to the cleaners for it. It was only $325.


Mid- to late 20th-century furniture represents a new direction for the 36-year-old show, and Peter Vogelaar, a.k.a. South Avenue Treasures, Rochester, New York, was leading the way with a spacious display surrounding an Adrian Pearsall sofa with a built-in cabinet and a detached end table for $4500. With a background in architectural engineering, Pearsall founded Craft Associates in Pennsylvania to produce his own furniture designs.


I guessed a Canadian origin for this dramatically decorated mid-19th-century stepback cupboard with mirrored tombstone doors, half-column corners, and a blaze of brown and yellow diagonal paint stripes. The cupboard was offered for $975. David Woody, who partners with David Ramsay of Kennebunkport, Maine, tenuously agreed. “It’s been in our house for the last twenty years,” Woody explained.


James LeFurgy of Wiscasset, Maine, brought a $2200 Grenfell rug with a name and a story. “It’s called a nursery sampler,” LeFurgy explained. “To me, it’s the best of all the Grenfell designs. The Inuits used it to teach their children about Inuit life.” The pictorial lessons in muted shades of browns and ochers included images of clothing, sleds, dogs, a fishing shack, and half a dozen more hooked pictographs.


Maine dealer Thomas Moser Antiques offered three manganese-decorated redware jugs. The upper left jug is from Massachusetts and was priced at $4500. The larger one in front was listed as New England, priced at $295, and the last is from Maine and was priced at $950. Moser wasn’t around when I visited the booth, and I couldn’t find him to ask what accounted for the difference in value.


Mary and Gordon Nicoll of Newcastle, Maine, have been in business together for about 45 years, but they were first-timers to the Maine Antiques Festival. They started off in a big way, putting up one of the largest and most impressive displays in the show. This large, sunlit rocky coastal scene by Alexander Bower (1875-1952), dated 1941, was priced at $9800. Bower was prominent among coastal Maine artists, often painting in the Casco Bay area.


Inexpensive, functional, and apparently quite desirable, this set of six drinking glasses was only $25 from Earl and Donna Martin of Chesterville Antiques, Chesterville, Maine. “My sailboat glasses have done really well,” Donna said. “I’ve sold a bunch of them. In fact, I’ve got to find more. They’ve done awesome! ...They’re about 1960s vintage, and everybody loves them.”


Here’s a pair of similarly carved Scandinavian mangle boards from Neal Blodgett of Higganum House Antiques, Higganum (Haddam), Connecticut. They were used in conjunction with a smooth roller over which the household linen would be rolled and ironed. The horse handle was a favored motif in Norway and Sweden, and each handle shows considerable hand wear. The mangle on the left, dated 1843, with carved hearts and geometrics was $950. The one on the right, dated 1863, retains much of its original blue paint decoration with flower and foliage decorations and was priced at $695.


Linda and Howard Roberts of White Orchid Antiques, Media, Pennsylvania, brought a tramp art box made from packing crate wood, thoroughly decorated with raised hearts, diamonds, and the initials “AM.” It retains nearly all of its original red paint and was priced at $295.


Foot-weary strollers could take a load off and sway to the rhythms of the local Damariscotta, Maine, band the Oystermen. Carter Newell (left) and Smoky McKeen played Irish folk tunes, Cape Breton fiddle riffs, and sea shanties.


Originally published in the October 2017 issue of Maine Antique Digest. © 2017 Maine Antique Digest

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