Quarter-plate daguerreotype of the historic Jenks Tavern in Spencer, Massachusetts, $7150.
A half-plate ambrotype of the same Jenks Tavern in a period gutta-percha frame, $6875.
Competition was stiff for Maine eider decoys. Above, the eider decoy in the original well-worn paint sold for $3850. Below, one with some small damage to the beak brought $1870.
A room-size (10'2" x 13'2") Turkish Ousak carpet in vivid reds, blues, and golds, brought $3740.
Bruce Gamage, Rockland, Maine
Giving full credibility to the shopworn adage “George Washington slept here,” Bruce Gamage brought historical fact to the much-used expression at his January 13 auction in Rockland, Maine.
The keystones of the sale were two photographic images, one, a quarter-plate daguerreotype, the other, a half-plate ambrotype, of the old Jenks Tavern in Spencer, Massachusetts. During the months of October and November of 1789, about six months after his inauguration as president, George Washington was on an extended tour of New England. His diary entry of October 22 read in part, “At Brookland [Brookfield] we fed the Horses and dispatched an Express which was sent to me by Govr. Hancock…Continued on to Spencer 10 Miles further through pretty good roads, and lodged at the House of one Jenks who keeps a pretty good Tavern.”
A local story has it that Washington first planned to spend the night at the Brookfield Inn, but the innkeeper, a Mrs. Bannister, declined to accept the party, complaining of a migraine. The Washington entourage moved on to the Jenks Tavern for the night. Later, Mrs. Bannister was mortified upon learning of her colossal goof.
In later years, the Jenks Tavern passed through several owners, eventually to a William Cutler Watson (1823-1908). Watson was the owner of the tavern when it burned in 1868 (or 1870 according to some sources), and it was his great-granddaughters who consigned the photographs to the auction. Each image showed a front view of the rambling tavern with an attached barn, a long veranda, and a tall elm tree. In a spirited bidding contest, they sold over the phone for $7150 (includes buyer’s premium) for the daguerreotype and $6875 for the ambrotype. According to Gamage, the ambrotype had been published in 1902 in a publication by the Historical Society of Spencer. And just to add a little spice to the mix, according to the official town Web site of Spencer, Washington’s chief artillery officer and first Secretary of War Henry Knox also slept at the tavern at least once.
William Thon (1906-2000) was one of coastal Maine’s best-known artists. His works frequently featured landscapes painted in semi-abstract style, often with the composition creating the illusion of artificial vertical line divisions. The two major Thon oils on canvas offered here reflected more of a realistic style, and both had been unsuccessfully presented at Thomaston Place Auction Galleries in 2011 with high reserves. This time around, they came without reserve. His painting titled Reverie, about 22" x 32", showed a pensive woman seated on an iron bed with greenish moonlight beaming through an open window and sold for $2090. A slightly larger work titled The Painter, Port Clyde, about 25" x 46", with a man, possibly representing the artist himself, seated on a snowy hillside and gazing at a distant white column, brought $1870. “As far as we know,” Gamage explained, “it’s the only painting that William Thon has done with himself in it.”
There was an interesting story behind a pair of oval framed portraits of a Confederate soldier identified as Thomas Harrison Tutwiler of Virginia and his wife. He was described as a Confederate colonel, but the only such officer by that name was born in 1818 and died in 1880. The young soldier in the photograph doesn’t synch with those dates. It seems more likely that the man in the photo is actually his son Edward Magruder Tutwiler (1846-1925). He participated in the Battle of New Market on May 15, 1864, probably as a first-year cadet from the Virginia Military Institute. The cadets were intended to be used only as reserves, but when they were needed to fill a gap in the center of his advancing line, General John Breckinridge is said to have commanded, “Put the boys in, and may God forgive me for the order.” Tutwiler survived the battle and later married twice. He went on to found the Tutwiler Coal, Coke & Iron Company of Alabama, a business still in operation today. The woman in the photograph is likely either Mary Jeffrey Tutwiler or Margaret Chewning Tutwiler. The pair of portraits sold for $275.
For more information, visit Gamage’s Web site (www.gamageantiques.com) or call (207) 594-4963.
|Two large oils on canvas by William Thon, each done in a more realistic style than his typical work: left, The Painter Port Clyde, possibly with an image of Thon himself, sold for $1870, and, below, Reverie, $2090.|
English brass works tall clock with an unsigned face, oak case, and full-column bonnet with a broken-arch pediment and central ball finial, $1320.
Originally published in the May 2013 issue of Maine Antique Digest. © 2013 Maine Antique Digest