Gallery Report: November 2011

A Johnny Swing nickel couch sold for $99,200 at a 20th/21st Century Design Sale held Oct. 1-2 by Rago Arts & Auction Center in Lambertville, N.J. Also, a Grueby complete eight-tile frieze titled The Pines brought $38,440; a George Nakashima conoid bench realized $34,720; a glass sculpture by Jon Kuhn titled Crimson Cluster topped out at $31,000; a Paul Evans directional deep relief cabinet climbed to $28,520; a Fred Robertson, Los Angeles, table lamp made $28,520; and a Karl Kipp table lamp hit $26,040. Prices include a 22 percent buyer’s premium.

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Federal mahogany acanthus carved game table with solid carving to the base top to bottom. Image courtesy of Stevens Auction Co.

Stevens to open Flomaton, Ala. branch with auction Nov. 12

Federal mahogany acanthus carved game table with solid carving to the base top to bottom. Image courtesy of Stevens Auction Co.

Federal mahogany acanthus carved game table with solid carving to the base top to bottom. Image courtesy of Stevens Auction Co.

FLOMATON, Ala. – Stevens Auction Co. – already an auction powerhouse in the Southeast – is about to expand its presence in the region, having recently acquired the building in Flomaton that previously housed Flomaton Antique Auction Inc. Stevens will conduct an inaugural sale at the facility on Saturday, Nov. 12, beginning at 10 a.m. Central.

Internet bidding will be facilitated by LiveAuctioneers.com.

Flomaton (which locals pronounce “Flowmington”) is located near the Gulf Coast in Alabama, just north of the Florida panhandle. It is 64 miles northeast of Mobile and 42 miles north of Pensacola, Fla. For more than four decades, Flomaton Antique Auction Inc., held regular auctions there, in a theater built in 1926. Before shutting down its operation last year, Flomaton Antique Auction Inc. was the area’s premier facility for upscale estate sales.

“When I heard the building was for sale, I had to buy it,” said Dwight Stevens, the owner of Stevens Auction Co., which has been based in Aberdeen, Miss., since its founding in 1984. He added, “I’ve always loved the Gulf Coast and I own a second home in Mobile. I’ll be pretty much shuttling back and forth between Mobile and Aberdeen from this point forward.”

Stevens said he feels fortunate that Flomaton Antique Auction Inc., earned a solid reputation as the area’s premier auction house. “We plan to pick up where they left off,” he said. “Their niche was upscale retirees and culturally refined residents of Mobile and the surrounding area. That will be our strategy as well. It’s a target audience that is right now underrepresented.”

The Flomaton auction house will go by the name Stevens at Flomaton. The Aberdeen business will continue to operate as Stevens Auction Co.

The Nov. 12 inaugural auction in Flomaton will be packed with hundreds of quality antiques and collectibles, consigned by several prominent estates in the Southeast.

Period American furniture will feature pieces by the finest names in furniture making. Examples include a rosewood rococo sofa by J.H. Belter in the Henry Clay pattern (circa 1850); a rosewood half tester plantation bed with custom mattress, signed C. Lee (circa 1860); and an R.J. Horner mahogany sofa with inlay across the back and arms and carved feet (circa 1895).

Also offered will be a stunning mahogany acanthus carved bedroom suite (circa 1880), consisting of a bed (88 inches tall), dressing table and chest of drawers; a rosewood Victorian secretary with pierced carved crown, 99 inches tall by 49 inches wide (circa 1850); and a rosewood Victorian breakfront with carved crown, 100 inches tall, 50 inches wide (circa 1860).

Empire pieces will feature a mahogany server with white marble top, rosewood banding, acanthus carved columns and feet, 60 inches tall (circa 1830); and a period mahogany vanity with three-drawer deck top and mirror and scroll feet, 76 inches tall (circa 1840). Also sold will be a lovely mahogany Victorian pedestal with marble top and carving on all sides (circa 1860).

The auction will include a mahogany Empire love seat with claw feet and dolphin heads carved on the arms, and striped upholstery; and a straight-back mahogany settee with dolphins carved on the arms, attributed to Karpen (circa 1880). Also sold will be a gold Victorian over-the-mantel mirror with great carvings, 99 inches tall (circa 1860).

Decorative accessories will feature two pairs of Old Paris vases, one pair 15 inches tall with flowers painted on the side and gold trim, the other pair 18 inches tall (both circa 1880); a nine-piece porcelain fish set with 24-inch-long tray, signed “T.&V. France Limoges”; a pair of extra large Sheridan-style knife boxes; and an antique astral lamp with double-step base with marble.

For more information about Stevens Auction Co. call the firm at 662-369-2200, log on to www.stevensauction.com or email them at stevensauction@bellsouth.net .

 

View the fully illustrated catalog and register to bid absentee or live via the Internet as the sale is taking place by logging on to www.LiveAuctioneers.com.


ADDITIONAL LOT OF NOTE


Federal mahogany acanthus carved game table with solid carving to the base top to bottom. Image courtesy of Stevens Auction Co.

Federal mahogany acanthus carved game table with solid carving to the base top to bottom. Image courtesy of Stevens Auction Co.

Halloween is more fun with displays like this Vegetable Man. Its age is unknown, but bidders at a Morphy auction in Denver, Pa., thought it was worth $19,550.

Kovels – Antiques & Collecting: Week of Oct. 30, 2011

Halloween is more fun with displays like this Vegetable Man. Its age is unknown, but bidders at a Morphy auction in Denver, Pa., thought it was worth $19,550.

Halloween is more fun with displays like this Vegetable Man. Its age is unknown, but bidders at a Morphy auction in Denver, Pa., thought it was worth $19,550.

Vintage Halloween decorations are best sellers today, and their values continue to rise. And sometimes a rare holiday piece will bring an exceptionally high price. Morphy Auctions of Denver, Pa., sold this Vegetable Halloween Man last year. The figure has radish arms, zucchini legs, walnut feet and a watermelon – not a pumpkin – for a head. He grins and his glass eyes move with the help of a clockwork mechanism. It may be a unique display piece for a store. The 17 1/2-inch figure had many bidders and sold for $19,550.

Q: I heard that glass caskets were once made in the United States. Is that true?

A: Yes. Pressed-glass caskets were made from about 1915 to 1924, but there are patents for glass caskets dating to the 1860s. Early records show that a company in Orville, Ohio, made glass caskets in 1877. It was a Midwestern industry. At least 12 Midwest companies made glass caskets, most using a 1915 patent registered by James DeCamp. Most were small children’s caskets because adult-size caskets were so difficult to make. That’s why large glass caskets were reserved for “holy” people and other important people. Some glass caskets can be seen in Catholic churches in the United States and abroad. Most caskets used today weigh 150 to 200 pounds. An adult glass casket weighed more than 300 pounds and if dropped or hit, it might break, an undesirable event at a funeral.

Q: I bought an antique solid-oak icebox about 35 years ago. There is a brass plate on the front that says “Challenge, Trademark, Iceberg, Challenge Corn Planter Co., Grand Haven, Mich.” The patent date of April 12, 1887, is stenciled on the back. Can you give me any history of the company and estimate the value?

A: Challenge Corn Planter Co. was in business in Grand Haven from 1883 to 1929. The company made iceboxes (now we use refrigerators) as well as corn planters. Iceboxes were first made in England during the 19th century. The wooden box was lined with tin or another metal and insulated with sawdust, straw or seaweed. Blocks of ice were delivered by the iceman. Other methods of refrigeration were developed in the late 1800s. Electric refrigerators were first sold commercially in 1913. Your icebox is worth $300 to $500.

Q: I have a pair of Rosenthal porcelain doves in mint condition. They were purchased in Europe before or during World War II. Each is marked “Rosenthal Germany Handgemacht” with the crown-over-X mark in the center. There’s also a name under the mark, but I can only make out the first initials, F and H. I would like to sell the figurines, but I have seen their price listed at $200 all the way up to $1,300. Please help.

A: The other mark on your doves is “F. Heidenreich” for Fritz Heidenreich (1895-1966), who worked for Rosenthal from 1919 until 1960. He headed Rosenthal’s art department in Selb, Germany, starting in 1946. Heidenreich designed the doves in the 1930s, but they were made for decades. That’s why the price can vary considerably. It depends on the age of the doves and their condition. And if what you saw online were asking prices, you may never know if they actually sold at those prices.

Q: I discovered that our family has five silver-plated spoons with figures of girls on them along with five different names: Annette, Cecile, Emilie, Marie and Yvonne. They are not particularly shiny. Can you tell me anything about them, their value and whether I can use any cleaning supplies to brighten the spoons without damaging them?

A: You have a set of Dionne Quintuplet spoons. The end of each handle has a figure of one of the girls. The identical quintuplets were born in Callander, Ontario, Canada, on May 28, 1934. They became wards of the state when they were only a few months old. They were put under the guardianship of Dr. Alon R. Dafoe, the doctor who delivered them, and lived in the Dafoe Hospital and Nursery across the road from the family farm. Their mother opened a souvenir shop on the farm and sold items picturing the girls and souvenirs like “fertility stones” from the farm. The publicity about their birth made the quintuplets famous throughout the world. Up to 6,000 visitors a day came to watch the girls play, and I was one of them. The area known as “Quintland” became the biggest tourist attraction in Ontario. The girls returned to live with their family in 1943. Thousands of special dolls and souvenirs were made picturing the quints at different ages. Emilie died in 1954, Marie in 1970 and Yvonne in 2001. Annette and Cecile still live in Canada. You can use any brand of silver polish to clean the spoons, but if the silver plate has worn off, no amount of cleaning will help. A set of spoons like yours is worth $60 to $75.

Q: I have collected Lipton teapots and tea tins for several years. My mother got a mustard-colored teapot, creamer and sugar as premiums in about 1934 and they’ve been in our family ever since. You stated that Lipton creamers and sugar bowls were not made at that time, but our mustard tea set has a creamer and sugar bowl. Am I incorrect?

A: Lipton teapots were made in five different colors. The maroon Lipton teapot was the only one that didn’t have a matching sugar and creamer.

Tip: Wash your hands before handling old paper collectibles. The oil from your hands will cause damage. Museum personnel wear white cotton gloves.

Terry Kovel answers as many questions as possible through the column. By sending a letter with a question, you give full permission for use in the column or any other Kovel forum. Names, addresses or email addresses will not be published. We cannot guarantee the return of any photograph, but if a stamped envelope is included, we will try. The volume of mail makes personal answers or appraisals impossible. Write to Kovels, Auction Central News, King Features Syndicate, 300 W. 57th St., New York, NY 10019.

Sign up for our weekly email, “Kovels Komments.” It includes the latest news, tips and questions and is free if you register on our website. Kovels.com has lists of publications, clubs, appraisers, auction houses, people who sell parts or repair antiques and more. Kovels.com adds to the information in this column and helps you find useful sources needed by collectors.

CURRENT PRICES

Current prices are recorded from antiques shows, flea markets, sales and auctions throughout the United States. Prices vary in different locations because of local economic conditions.

  • Halloween costume, Archie Andrews, jumpsuit style, shiny rayon, bright blue and yellow, red trim, Archie’s face on front, Archie Comic Pub., Inc., 1969, $45.
  • Milky Way Halloween candy box, jack-o’-lantern images, orange ground, held 24 candy bars, 1950s, 6 3/4 x 8 inches, $55.
  • Glass skull ornament, silver with black eyes and teeth, 1950s, 4 inches, $65.
  • Candy container, man wearing top hat, composition over cardboard, top of man on spring, sways, Germany, 1960s, 9 x 4 inches, $70.
  • Moulin Rouge movie program, stars Jose Ferrer and Zsa Zsa Gabor, cover is copy of a Toulouse-Lautrec painting, 1953, 14 pages, 12 x 9 1/2 inches, $115.
  • Slick Black hair-dye sign, cardboard, image of smiling woman with half gray and half black hair, dye tin in foreground, 1930s, 11 x 16 inches, $125.
  • Effanbee Mickey boy doll, brown eyes, mohair wig, swivel composition head, cloth body, circa 1944, 17 inches, $190.
  • Chitty Chitty Bang Bang flying car model, die-cast metal, original package, 1967, 4 inches, $195.
  • “Flaming Halloween Fortune Game,” fortune flames on top of candle base, pick one flame and read fortune, Beistle Co., 1930s, 6 1/2 x 7 inches, $455.
  • English armchair, mahogany and yew, shaped crest above wheat-shaft splat, shaped arms, wooden seat, square legs, circa 1800, 48 inches, $1,965.

Give yourself or a friend a gift. Kovels’ Advertising Collectibles Price List has more than 10,000 current prices of your favorite advertising collectibles, from boxes and bins to trays and tins. More than 400 categories are organized by brand name, company name, product or collectible. Plus 300 photographs, logos and trademarks. A 16-page color insert features important advertising collectibles. Clubs, publications, resources and a full index. Available at your bookstore; online at Kovels.com; by phone at 800-303-1996; or send $16.95 plus $4.95 postage to Kovels, Box 22900, Beachwood, OH 44122.

© 2011 by Cowles Syndicate Inc.

 

 

 

Jack Kevorkian's signature blue cardigan sweater. Image courtesy of Hutter Auction Galleries.

Bidders pass up Kevorkian paintings, suicide machine

Jack Kevorkian's signature blue cardigan sweater. Image courtesy of Hutter Auction Galleries.

Jack Kevorkian’s signature blue cardigan sweater. Image courtesy of Hutter Auction Galleries.

NEW YORK (AP) – A suicide machine belonging to Dr. Jack Kevorkian was withdrawn Friday from an auction of the assisted-suicide advocate’s possessions after failing to draw a high enough bid, while 17 of his paintings tied up in a legal dispute with a suburban Boston museum found no takers.

The paintings, including one Kevorkian did with a pint of his blood, and about 100 other personal items went on sale at the New York Institute of Technology. The estate had estimated the value of the 17 paintings at $2.5 million to $3.5 million.

Images of the paintings were displayed instead of the actual works because the Armenian Library and Museum of America has refused to surrender them.

Roger Neal, a spokesman for the Kevorkian estate, said he was not surprised that the paintings did not sell.

“I’m not sure how many people wanted to bid on artwork that was in litigation,” he said.

The suicide machine had been estimated to sell for $100,000 to $200,000, but the highest bid was $65,000, said Neal’s colleague, Lester Schecter.

“People just didn’t bid on the big stuff,” he said.

The assisted-suicide machine, known as a Thanatron, delivers intravenous drugs that put the person to sleep and then stops the heart. It was built out of household tools, toy parts, magnets and electrical switches.

Kevorkian sparked the national right-to-die debate with a homemade suicide machine that helped end the lives of about 130 ailing people. He was convicted of second-degree murder in 1999 for assisting in the 1998 death of a Michigan man with Lou Gehrig’s disease. He was released from prison in 2007.

He died in June in suburban Detroit at age 83, leaving his property to his niece and sole heir, Ava Janus of Troy, Mich.

Other auction highlights included a bulletproof vest and his sweaters. Kevorian’s last painting, made a year before his death, also was for sale and was not among the group of disputed works. Titled 9th Amendment, the pop art-style work depicts a U.S. treasury bill with an image of James Madison.

The proceeds will go to Janus and the charity Kicking Cancer for Kids.

Successful bidders of the disputed paintings would have had to make a 10 percent deposit that would have been held in escrow.

The Armenian Library and Museum of America, in Watertown, Mass., said the paintings were donated by Kevorkian, who was of Armenian descent.

Its attorney, Harold W. Potter Jr., has said the museum believes in good faith that it owns the paintings and they will stay put until the dispute is resolved.

Both sides have filed lawsuits.

Many of the paintings depict death or dying. One is titled Genocide and features a bloody head being dangled by the hair and held by the hands of two soldiers, one wearing a German military uniform from World War II and the other wearing a Turkish uniform from World War I. Kevorkian painted the head using his blood.

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Online: www.hutterauctions.com

Copyright 2011 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP-WF-10-29-11 0201GMT

 

 

 

Paul McCartney performing in Dublin in 2010. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license.

Paul McCartney to help restore Motown piano

Paul McCartney performing in Dublin in 2010.  This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license.

Paul McCartney performing in Dublin in 2010. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license.

DETROIT (AP) – During a summer visit to a Motown recording studio, former Beatle Paul McCartney wanted to run his fingers along an 1877 Steinway grand piano played by some Detroit music greats he considers idols.

“He was disappointed when we told him it didn’t play,” Motown Historical Museum chief executive Audley Smith Jr., told The Detroit News for a story Saturday.

Undaunted, the legendary rock star from Britain told museum officials following a July concert at Comerica Park that he wanted to help restore it.

On Monday, the piano will be picked up from the Detroit museum and shipped to Steinway & Sons in New York for restoration. The work is expected to take up to five months.

The piano company has to assess the piano’s condition before a cost can be determined.

“Steinway & Sons is honored to restore the historic Steinway piano that was used by such legends as Marvin Gaye, Smokey Robinson and Stevie Wonder – and to do so in the very same New York factory where it was originally built in 1877,” Steinway & Sons President of Americas Ron Losby told the newspaper in a statement.

“We’re especially proud, as an American company, to help the Motown Museum in preserving the legacy of the Motown Record Company, whose artists and albums played such a vital role in one of the great eras of American music.”

___

Information from: The Detroit News, http://detnews.com/

Copyright 2011 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP-WF-10-29-11 2332GMT

 

 

 

An important Surrealist-inspired painting by Ed Ruscha is among the highlights to be offered in Christie’s sales of Post War and Contemporary Art at Rockefeller Center on Nov. 8. 'Strange Catch for a Fresh Water Fish,' a 59-by-55-inch oil on canvas painted in 1965, is estimated to fetch $3 to $4 million. Image courtesy of Christie's.

Christie’s, Sotheby’s hoping to net blockbuster art sales

An important Surrealist-inspired painting by Ed Ruscha is among the highlights to be offered in Christie’s sales of Post War and Contemporary Art at Rockefeller Center on Nov. 8. 'Strange Catch for a Fresh Water Fish,' a 59-by-55-inch oil on canvas painted in 1965, is estimated to fetch $3 to $4 million. Image courtesy of Christie's.

An important Surrealist-inspired painting by Ed Ruscha is among the highlights to be offered in Christie’s sales of Post War and Contemporary Art at Rockefeller Center on Nov. 8. ‘Strange Catch for a Fresh Water Fish,’ a 59-by-55-inch oil on canvas painted in 1965, is estimated to fetch $3 to $4 million. Image courtesy of Christie’s.

NEW YORK (AFP) – Christie’s and Sotheby’s hold their big autumn art sales in New York starting next week, with both houses looking to Pablo Picasso to excite a robust market.

The prominence of important works by Picasso, Matisse and other modern masters in the impressionist and modern art sales at Christie’s on Tuesday and Sotheby’s on Wednesday reflects the healthy appetite this year for big-ticket works, auctioneers said.

A strong market is also expected the following week when the two houses hold their contemporary art auctions.

Simon Shaw, head of the modern and impressionist department at Sotheby’s, said the offerings are “slightly bigger in the number of lots, (which) reflects perhaps an increased confidence.”

A low estimate of $185 million is expected for the Wednesday sale, led by Picasso’s playful and erotic L’Aubade, estimated at $18-25 million, and Henri Matissse’s monumental bronze sculpture of a woman seen from the back, Nu de dos, estimated at $20-30 million.

Another keenly awaited lot is the mosaic-like pastoral scene Litzlberg on the Attersee by Gustav Klimt, estimated in excess of $25 million.

Christie’s, meanwhile, promised “a blockbuster” sale aiming for more than $215 million, with a centerpiece in Edgar Degas’s landmark sculpture Petite danseuse de quatorze ans, estimated at $25-35 million.

Other star lots include a pair of Picasso portraits from the 1930s, Femme endormie and Tete de femme au chapeau mauve. Both are estimated to sell at $12-18 million.

“Picasso remains the gold standard for collectors the world over, and Christies has sold four Picasso works for over the $15 million mark so far this year,” the auction house said.

Sotheby’s L’Aubade is a strong example of Picasso’s later work, executed in the 1960s when he was in his 80s and fearfully facing the end of his life.

“Picasso had this terrible fear of death, so for him, staying alive was painting or having sex,” said David Norman, worldwide chairman of the impressionist department at Sotheby’s.

The large work goes in both those directions, depicting a would-be younger Picasso waking his nude lover with a flute in what Norman called an “ecstatic, blissful, Arcadian state.”

The huge Matisse bas-relief bronze comes with its own tale. It is in fact one of a group of four, with the others named Dos II, Dos III, and Dos IV.

Consigned by the Burnett Foundation of Forth Worth, Texas, the group had been on offer for private sale. But although “there was tremendous interest,” the package was simply beyond what the market could offer, Norman said.

So each of the sculptures will be auctioned independently this year, starting with next week’s auction. In the current market, “$20-30 million is considered accessible,” Norman said.

For the contemporary sales, the rival auction houses are taking different tacks.

Sotheby’s “sale is not focused on pop art,” said Tobias Meyer, the worldwide head of the contemporary department.

Instead, the offerings are strong on painting and color, with Clyfford

Still, Gerhard Richter, Francis Bacon and Mark Rothko leading.

At Christie’s, though, pop art will star, with Roy Lichtenstein’s I Can See the Whole Room – and There’s Nobody in It! and Andy Warhol’s Silver Liz and Four Campbell’s Soup Cans.

 

 

NASA photograph of Edgar Mitchell, Apollo 14 lunar module pilot. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

U.S. prosecutors settle with ex-Apollo astronaut

NASA photograph of Edgar Mitchell, Apollo 14 lunar module pilot. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

NASA photograph of Edgar Mitchell, Apollo 14 lunar module pilot. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

MIAMI (AP) – Federal prosecutors and former astronaut Edgar Mitchell have reached an agreement over a camera Mitchell brought home from his 1971 Apollo 14 moon mission.

Mitchell said the camera was a gift from NASA, and earlier this year he tried to auction it through the British firm Bonhams.

NASA says the camera is U.S. government property and sued Mitchell to get it back after learning in March it was up for sale.

In papers filed Thursday, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Miami stated Mitchell will give up any claim to the 16 mm motion picture camera and agree to return it to NASA. NASA will in turn give it to the National Air and Space Museum in Washington for display within 60 days.

Both sides will pay their own legal expenses. A judge was expected to sign off on the settlement in the coming days.

Mitchell’s attorney Armen R. Vartian said his client decided the settlement was the best way to resolve a conflict with NASA.

“I think both sides saw the lawsuit as something that should not continue,” he added.

Mitchell is one of 12 humans to have walked on the moon. He later received the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

The camera was one of two that went to the moon’s surface on the Apollo 14 mission, which Mitchell piloted.

During the mission, Mitchell and Alan Shepard spent hours collecting nearly 100 pounds of lunar samples.

They also demonstrated that astronauts could walk long distances safely, covering about two miles on one expedition. Shepard’s attempt at swatting a golf ball on the moon can be viewed on the Internet.

Mitchell later said he attempted to communicate using telepathy with friends on Earth during the mission.

Since his retirement, Mitchell has devoted much of his life to exploring the mind, physics, the possibility of space aliens and ways of linking religion with scientific fact.

Copyright 2011 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP-WF-10-28-11 1526GMT

 

 

 

A pair of Hitchcock chairs with stenciled decoration. Image courtesy of LiveAuctioneers Archive and Estates Unlimited.

New ownership revives Hitchcock Chair Co. tradition

A pair of Hitchcock chairs with stenciled decoration. Image courtesy of LiveAuctioneers Archive and Estates Unlimited.

A pair of Hitchcock chairs with stenciled decoration. Image courtesy of LiveAuctioneers Archive and Estates Unlimited.

BARKHAMSTED, Conn. (AP) – Nearly two centuries after Lambert Hitchcock started producing furniture that became a household tradition, the lathes, joiners and sanders are busy again.

The Hitchcock Chair Co., founded in 1818 and based in Riverton, Conn., closed in 2006, and sold all its equipment, patterns and furniture parts at auction. One of the factory buildings was bulldozed.

Today, a reincarnation of the company that once gave the town its name, and once produced 15,000 chairs a year, is producing new furniture using the original patterns and designs.

“We believe this will be a niche business,” said Rick Swenson, who with partner Gary Hath is the new owner of the Hitchcock Chair Co. Ltd. “This is a high-end, high-quality, American-made product.”

Swenson, 53, had been an antiques restorer and furniture maker for years, and began doing Hitchcock restorations in 2005. After the company closed, officials kept referring customers seeking repairs to him and, in late 2006, Swenson opened Still River Antiques with his wife, Nancy, in the company’s old sample shop.

Repairs and restorations kept Swenson busy. He hired former Hitchcock employees to strip the old finishes, replace broken spindles and legs, and touch up the stenciling. Whenever he could, he bought old Hitchcock pieces and restored and sold them, but when customers wanted a specific piece of furniture – a chest or a table, Swenson was unable to satisfy them. “It was hurting business,” he said.

Three years ago, when Swenson learned that thousands of spare Hitchcock parts – legs legs, spindles and tabletops – were available, he bought all seven tractor-trailer loads.

In March 2010, he and Hath learned that they could buy the Hitchcock company archives, which amounted to 400 boxes of patterns, customer lists, blueprints, stencils and the right to use the Hitchcock name. They paid about $100,000 – a fraction of what the business was worth in its heyday.

Over the next 18 months, they developed a business plan to manufacture new Hitchcock furniture, and opened for business in September. In the showroom, new chests, tables and mirrors sit alongside a restored 1830s chair that is indistinguishable from a new one. A storeroom contains dozens of chairs awaiting restoration. In back are several workrooms where employees are fashioning new pieces.

The past few months have been busy. After doing several open houses and a round of autumn fairs in the area, “We are already starting to see growth potential,” Swenson said.

Hitchcock chairs, tables, desks and chests were made of clear maple or cherry, or painted black, white or green. Rush seats were handwoven with cattail leaves.

Many pieces were easily recognized by iconic stenciled pictures of fruit, or scenes of winter or Thanksgiving.

Historically, the furniture was moderately priced because the company’s founder introduced methods of mass production that he had learned from Bristol clock maker Eli Terry.

Instead of having one craftsman custom-build an entire chair or table, Hitchcock made each worker responsible for one task. Parts were interchangeable. Assemblers put the pieces together, and finishers applied paint. Instead of painting an image, they used stencils and applied metallic paint to the sticky varnish.

As a result, the furniture was affordable – and popular. Thousands of designs were created, and in later years, the company offered limited editions, including a series depicting tall ships, the Bicentennial and college insignia. New stencil designs were issued each holiday season.

Today, a classic Windsor chair costs $545, a side chair $379 and a hutch $3,600. “We are trying to keep prices in line with the 2005 price list,” Swenson said.

Swenson and his eight employees are producing furniture using the traditional Hitchcock designs. Six of them are former Hitchcock employees, including Lorraine Lacasse, 76, who began as a sander in 1960, switched to stenciling and worked until the factory closed. “When you were hired at Hitchcock, you stayed there,” she said. Today, she works two days a week, using as many as 18 stencils for a Christmas chair.

Swenson plans to open a 5,000-square-foot plant in Winsted within the next few weeks, and expects to add two more employees by the end of the year. “We are growing very slowly, very carefully,” he said. Some work, like spindle turning or steam bending, is done in Vermont.

The Hitchcock factory closed in 1866 because of problems caused by the high cost of transporting the finished pieces to stores. In 1946, Hartford businessman John Kenney, who was fishing nearby, saw the abandoned factory and revived the company. When it closed in April 2006, President Ronald Coleman attributed the loss of business to competition from low-wage countries like China.

Transportation is still a problem, but Swenson is hoping to establish a network of distributors throughout the country so that he can ship in bulk. He is also hoping that Riverton might once again become a destination for furniture lovers. “The company has always been here. The first question (customers ask) is, Where are you making it?” he said. “They want it to be made in the U.S. and made here.”

So far, Swenson’s operation hasn’t grown too big for the personal touch. He’s currently restoring an armchair that has a baseball motif and a Yankees stencil for the office of a Yankee fan who moved to Massachusetts. When done, the chair will sport a Red Sox logo.

Copyright 2011 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP-WF-10-29-11 0403GMT

 

 

 

The classic Mersman 'surfboard' table of the 1920s with a Federa- style lyre base. Swedberg photo.

Furniture Specific: Trite

The classic Mersman 'surfboard' table of the 1920s with a Federa- style lyre base. Swedberg photo.

The classic Mersman ‘surfboard’ table of the 1920s with a Federa- style lyre base. Swedberg photo.

Since we’re not in the 20th century anymore (hurray!) I can now safely discuss some of my least favorite furniture makers from the period. Don’t get me wrong. There was some great furniture made in the dark ages to go along with all the nondescript junk and scams of the period, and some of the brand names I plan to mention happen to be among the makers of some of the great stuff. It’s just that after almost a hundred years some of this furniture, if not the brand itself, seems, no other word for it, trite.

Trite is a pretty harsh word to use to describe some of the pioneers of the machine age of furniture manufacturing but after 30 million (30,000,000!) examples of the product what other word could you use to describe a Mersman table? Seen it.

J.B. Mersman was a 19th-century sawyer with mills in Angola and Kendallville in northeastern Indiana. He relocated his operations across the state line to Ottoville, Ohio, where he started making tables around 1876 under the name Mersman Tables when the lumber business turned soft. From his first table he went on to make beds and bed parts. So successful was he that the nearby city of Celina, Ohio, solicited him to build a factory there and provided $7,500 of seed money for the operation. That turned out to be a good investment by the city fathers. He was up and running in Celina by 1900 making beds, library tables and dining tables.

But J.B. longed for the sights and sounds and smells of the sawmill business and turned the company over to his sons Edward and Walter along with a local banker (maybe he had some stimulus money to spend). After several corporate variations in ownership and name the company emerged as Mersman Brothers Corp. in 1927, dedicated to making a wide assortment of residential furniture with a major in occasional tables. In the 1920s the company bragged that one out of ten tables in American homes was a Mersman. It may have been more. The company entry in “American Manufactured Furniture” by Don Fredgant, Schiffer Publishing, a compilation of manufacturer’s promotional material to retailers for the model year 1929, illustrates 19 tables in five pages. During World War II the company made mess tables and benches for the Navy and developed an even better feel for tables. After the war they concentrated on living room tables.

Perhaps one of the company’s main contributions to the industry during the Depression was its marketing program. It worked with retail merchants to develop a marketing and advertising plan for specific markets. It provided, free of charge, camera-ready art for newspaper advertisements. It also developed what it called “The Mersman Idea Book,” a loose-leaf compendium of marketing ideas and strategies as well as helpful hints on accounting practices and inventory control. The book was updated with regular additions and was free of charge to any retail furniture establishment who sold Mersman products. It included not only ideas from the company but also examples of what techniques had worked for other merchants in different areas of the country.

It was just that your family house and almost every other family house in the neighborhood had one of J.B.’s boys’ tables.

Another name that produced a prodigious quantity of product in a wide range of quality was the Maddox Table Co. William Maddox was also a great innovator. After founding the Maddox Table Co. in Jamestown, N.Y., in 1898 he invented a machine to polish table tops. He was also one of the first makers to trademark his products and he instituted and sustained a multi-national marketing effort before selling his company in 1919. The new company, known as Shearman-Maddox, operated under the Maddox trade name.

The company embarked on a remarkable journey of making Colonial Revival-style reproductions, including bedroom suites and breakfronts but quickly focusing on drop-front desks and bookcase/secretaries. Working under the trade name Maddox Colonial Reproductions, the company turned out an extraordinary number of secretaries in a variety of styles and sizes. The primary piece of work was the Chippendale cabinet with broken pediment and finial, claw feet and serpentine drawer fronts and occasionally a Chippendale model with a block front, usually in a combination of mahogany veneer and various solid woods. But the company also made Georgian bracket base models, Queen Anne versions including a stylish desk on frame, a nice Hepplewhite-style tambour desk and even some chinoiserie models for the Eastern taste.

Maddox was a truly egalitarian manufacturer making a product for all price brackets. Quality ranged from cabinets made entirely of a secondary wood, usually red gum, with flat drawer fronts and little decoration to models with gum cabinets and doors and mahogany veneer on the drop front and drawers to solid mahogany versions with all the bells and whistles of the genre including prospect door, document drawers and elaborate cubbyholes with fancy cut plywood muntins over the glass doors.

Although they never made the claim as Mersman did about how many desks they, made it is a pretty good bet that there are more Maddox bookcase secretaries and drop-front desks out there than any other single brand. You probably know someone who has one.

The final entry on the list is a little like treading on holy ground. It is the Stickley Brothers of Grand Rapids, Mich. You certainly can’t argue about the bloodlines involved in this endeavor, nothing but thoroughbreds in that barn. Two of the thoroughbreds, Albert and John George, known simply as J.G., opened Stickley Brothers in 1891. Albert had been involved in the original Stickley Brothers Furniture Co. in upstate New York and saw no reason not to use the name again in Grand Rapids.

The company’s initial products were occasional tables and chairs primarily in Colonial Revival styles. Around 1900 J.G. left Grand Rapids to open the L. & J.G. Stickley Furniture Co. in New York, leaving Albert as the sole brother in charge of Stickley Brothers. And things began to change.

Albert began to dabble in early Mission designs and by 1902 had the “Bewdley” line, designed by D. Robertson Smith, in the marketplace. The Bewdley line drew inspiration from English and Scottish Arts & Crafts designs and was more elaborate and decorative than the early American Mission style. Then came the breakthrough.

In 1903 Stickley Brothers introduced the “Quaint Mission” line of blocky, rectilinear oak furniture that melded nicely with the designs of older brother Gustav. “Quaint” was the term used by the English for the Arts & Crafts style. A “Quaint Mission” dining set won grand prize at the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair and in 1904 the “Quaint Mission” line morphed into the “Quaint Arts & Crafts” line, which was produced for another decade until just before World War I. Another offshoot of the “Quaint Mission” was the “Quaint Tudor” line that specialized in Italian, English and Early American revival styles.

By 1914 it was time for a change but the name “Quaint” had been very good to the company so there was no reason to get rid of it. Just tack it on something else. That something else was the “Quaint Manor” line featuring Austrian Modern design elements. By the early 1920s the next something else was – surprise – “Quaint American,” featuring natural finish and polychrome painted Windsor and ladder-back chairs and a variety of case goods that combined elements of American Colonial styles.

Stickley Brothers used the name “Quaint” in its trade names and labels for the first four decades of the 20 century. The labels had such variations as “Quaint Furniture,” “Quaint American Furniture” and “Quaint Furniture of Character,” while the trade names had even more combinations.

By the time the company went out of business in the 1950s, the name “Quaint” had become just “Trite.”

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Send your comments, questions and pictures to Fred Taylor at P.O. Box 215, Crystal River, FL 34423 or email them to him at info@furnituredetective.com.

Visit Fred’s website at www.furnituredetective.com. “His book How To Be a Furniture Detective” is available for $18.95 plus $3 shipping. Send check or money order for $21.95 to Fred Taylor, P.O. Box 215, Crystal River, FL 34423.

Fred and Gail Taylor’s DVD, “Identification of Older & Antique Furniture” ($17 + $3 S&H) is also available at the same address. For more information call 800-387-6377, fax 352-563-2916, or info@furnituredetective.com. All items are also available directly from his website.


ADDITIONAL IMAGES OF NOTE


This lamp table is a typical post-World War II Colonial Revival style table from Mersman. Fred Taylor photo.

This lamp table is a typical post-World War II Colonial Revival style table from Mersman. Fred Taylor photo.

This is a nice 'middle of the road' quality drop-front desk by Maddox with a mixture of ribbon striped mahogany veneer and secondary wood solids. Fred Taylor photo.

This is a nice ‘middle of the road’ quality drop-front desk by Maddox with a mixture of ribbon striped mahogany veneer and secondary wood solids. Fred Taylor photo.

The Maddox Colonial Reproduction metal label. Fred Taylor photo.

The Maddox Colonial Reproduction metal label. Fred Taylor photo.

A nice scale Queen Anne desk on frame decorated in chinoiserie style by Maddox. Fred Taylor photo.

A nice scale Queen Anne desk on frame decorated in chinoiserie style by Maddox. Fred Taylor photo.

This is the original Quaint label from 1902 that launched the Stickley Brothers 'Quaint' empire. Fred Taylor photo.

This is the original Quaint label from 1902 that launched the Stickley Brothers ‘Quaint’ empire. Fred Taylor photo.

A polychrome Stickley Brothers 'Quaint American' chair from the Depression era. Fred Taylor photo.

A polychrome Stickley Brothers ‘Quaint American’ chair from the Depression era. Fred Taylor photo.

Steiff ‘rod’ bear, circa 1904, 20 in., accompanied by X-ray confirming interior rod construction. Est. $25,000-$50,000. Morphy Auctions image.

Morphy’s Nov. 12 auction features superior antique dolls, teddies

Steiff ‘rod’ bear, circa 1904, 20 in., accompanied by X-ray confirming interior rod construction. Est. $25,000-$50,000. Morphy Auctions image.

Steiff ‘rod’ bear, circa 1904, 20 in., accompanied by X-ray confirming interior rod construction. Est. $25,000-$50,000. Morphy Auctions image.

DENVER, Pa. – Fine antique dolls and rare German teddy bears will take center stage in Morphy Auctions’ sleek new saleroom on Nov. 12 in a specialty auction numbering 569 lots. Internet live bidding will be provided by LiveAuctioneers.com.

Many of the dolls to be auctioned came from the collection of the late Lorraine Schoenthaler, a well-known collector from New Jersey.

“Mrs. Schoenthaler was known for her Schoenhut dolls. There are more than 50 of them in the sale,” said Morphy’s doll and teddy bear expert Jan Foulke. Within the grouping are molded-bonnet and carved-hair types; character dolls, dolly faces, babies and a mama doll, among others.

The Schoenthaler collection also includes German character dolls, babies and Polly Heckewelder dolls, which are rag dolls that were made by the Moravian Church Ladies Society in Bethlehem, Pa., as far back as 1872. Foulke said the desirable Pennsylvania folk dolls are still being made from old patterns and that the examples in the Schoenthalter collection range from early productions to later ones.

While the auction summary reveals a broad chronology of doll production, the main focus of the sale is antique dolls. Highlights among the French dolls include an all-original Steiner Gigoteur, an E.J., and a portrait Jumeau.

An outstanding array of character dolls has been cataloged. A very unusual 14-inch Simon & Halbig bisque doll depicts a man with long curly hair, a moustache and a large hat. Its owner added a tag that said it was “Rembrandt from Holland,” and that it was a gift. Foulke said the doll appears to be an unmarked Model No. 1308, which is “a very rare number from around 1910.”

Another Simon & Halbig highlight is a No. 153 bisque boy dressed in a pink suit, nicknamed “Little Duke.”

A K*R No. 114 boy doll is unusual in that it has flocked hair and glass eyes. Most dolls with that model number have wigs and painted eyes.

Other character dolls include Kley & Hahn pouties, a Simon & Halbig 1488, Kestner 212, A.M. with intaglio eyes, Just Me, SFBJ 226 and 247, and more.

Bisque babies include Tynie Babies, a Century Baby, Newborn Baby, Seigfried, Bye-los, a 2-faced Kley & Hahn doll, and many others.

Many artist dolls will be up for bid. Designers represented in this section of the sale include Martha Thompson, Martha Armstrong Hand and Dewees Cochran. Additionally, the auction inventory features a collection of Hitty dolls.

All-bisque dolls include mignonettes, a Simon & Halbig 886 with black stockings, large babies, and many small dolls. In addition to the aforementioned Polly Heckewelder dolls, the cloth doll offering includes multiple Kamkins and Chase designs.

For those who collect America’s favorite teen fashion doll, Barbie, there will be 25 lots of very nicely preserved examples. Highlights include a boxed No. 1 Barbie with blond ponytail, in very fine condition; a No. 4, a No. 5, and group lots.

The auction also features a private collection of irresistible antique and vintage teddy bears, including several rare, expensive productions from Steiff’s early days. In addition, approximately five Steiff dolls will cross the auction block at Morphy’s.

The most highly prized of all bears in the sale is a circa-1904 Steiff 20-inch rod bear. The bear is accompanied by an X-ray that visually confirms its interior rod construction, as well as a Teddy Bear and Friends magazine calendar illustrated with pictures of this particular bear. It is described in Morphy’s auction catalog as being one of the nicest, if not the nicest known example. Estimate $25,000-$50,000.

Other top bears include a circa-1912 Steiff 18-inch black “mourning” bear made to commemorate those who perished on the Titanic, estimate $12,000-$20,000; and a circa-1905 apricot center-seam Steiff bear, 28 inches and in “stunning original condition.” It is estimated at $15,000-$20,000.

Jan Foulke summarized the sale’s contents as being “nice, fresh dolls – most coming from a single consignment – together with rare teddies and an excellent variety of other dolls to please even the most particular collector.”

The auction will take place on Saturday, Nov. 12, commencing at 10 a.m. Eastern time. For additional information on any lot in the auction, call Morphy’s at 717-335-3435 or e-mail serena@morphyauctions.com.

View the fully illustrated catalog and sign up to bid absentee or live via the Internet at www.LiveAuctioneers.com.

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View the fully illustrated catalog and register to bid absentee or live via the Internet as the sale is taking place by logging on to www.LiveAuctioneers.com.


ADDITIONAL LOT OF NOTE


Steiff ‘rod’ bear, circa 1904, 20 in., accompanied by X-ray confirming interior rod construction. Est. $25,000-$50,000. Morphy Auctions image.

Steiff ‘rod’ bear, circa 1904, 20 in., accompanied by X-ray confirming interior rod construction. Est. $25,000-$50,000. Morphy Auctions image.