A Jonas Weber, Lancaster County, painted box with a tin hasp, painted with Weber’s name, 1845, and a house and trees on the front on a dark blue ground, 5¾" high x 10" wide x 5¾" deep, sold for $159,975 (est. $20,000/25,000), a record for a Weber box, to Downingtown dealer Philip Bradley bidding for a client. It is the only known box signed by Jonas Weber and is pictured in Wendy Cooper and Lisa Minardi’s Paint, Pattern & People. The same buyer paid $23,700 for another Jonas Weber box, 2¼" x 3¾" x 2¼", with an orange ground with a landscape with two green trees flanking a flowering bush, and $45,030 for another Jonas Weber box painted yellow with a house and trees on the front and a tulip on the top, 4" high x 6¼" wide x 3½" deep. A similar one sold for $76,059 at the Shelley sale at Pook & Pook in April 2007.
This mid-19th-century Pennsylvania pine apothecary cabinet, painted yellow and ivory with a raised panel door and 36 drawers with labels, 33¾" high x 97½" wide, came from a veterinarian in Revere, Bucks County, Pennsylvania. Estimated at $12,000/18,000, it sold on the phone to Westborough, Massachusetts, dealer David Wheatcroft for $26,070, underbid in the salesroom by Bailey Island, Maine, dealer Jim Glazer. Paul Flack said it came from a sale at Mike Goepfert’s Richland Auction Hall.
Durs Rudy Sr. (1766-1843), Lehigh County, Pennsylvania, watercolor and ink fraktur drawing, circa 1830, inscribed “Grenadiers von der Schweitz,” depicting Swiss grenadiers wearing black coats trimmed in red over pale blue vests, with many carrying rifles, one a flag, and one a sword; one plays a drum and another a fife. It has minor repairs and is in a period frame. Several similar frakturs have been published. Estimated at $20,000/30,000, it sold for $16,590 to a New York folk art collector who came to the sale to buy it. Paul Flack bought it at the John Gordon sale at Christie’s in January 1999 for $29,900 (est. $4000/6000).
Pennsylvania redware tart plate with yellow, green, and manganese slip clover decoration, signed “Andrew Hedman 1852,” 3¾" diameter, sold together with the account book of Andrew’s son Michael Headman, who was also a potter, $18,960 (est. $4000/8000).
A phone bidder paid $20,145, well over the $10,000/15,000 estimate, for a redware plate, 7 7/8" diameter, decorated with fronds applied with yellow, green, and brown slip and attributed to the Diehl Pottery.
A 19th-century Pennsylvania redware pie plate with vibrant green and yellow combed slip decoration, 6½" diameter, sold on the phone for $21,330 (est. $8000/12,000).
Pook & Pook Inc., Downingtown, Pennsylvania
by Lita Solis-Cohen
Photos courtesy Pook & Pook
It is truly amazing that one man can put together five collections, sell them, and go right on creating a sixth. In the last 60 years, collector and antiquarian Paul Flack has done just that.
Flack, who was an actuary by trade, sold his first collection in 1976 at Pennypacker’s Auction Centre in Reading, Pennsylvania, for a total of $170,300. With the proceeds, he bought a Bucks County farm with a picture-perfect stone farmhouse and a big barn.
Flack sold selections from his second collection in 1985 at Pennypacker’s, and with the proceeds, a bit more than $353,000, he bought a farm stand called Bountiful Acres on the Old York Road in Holicong, Bucks County, Pennsylvania, for his son, David, who has turned it into a successful garden center and nursery.
Flack, with the encouragement of his wife, Rita, went right on collecting, and in 1997, when he turned 70, they decided the farm was too much work and moved to smaller quarters and made time for golf in Florida in the winter. Christie’s held an on-site sale on September 6, 1997. That sale (see M.A.D., November 1997, p. 1-C) was held on the day of Princess Diana’s funeral. It was not well attended, but the right people came, and it was the beginning of phone bidding. The 1997 sale grossed $1,368,220 for 376 lots.
Fraktur was the strong suit, and the cover lot, a Rudolph Landes, Buck County, Pennsylvania, drawing of back-to-back preening parrots, sold for $99,300; a watercolor drawing of an owl sold for $46,000; and $34,500 was paid for a fraktur drawing of a man and two oversized tulips. Redware and stoneware, especially banks, sold well; quilts were soft.
Just three years later, Flack was ready for another sale. Without farm work to take up his time, he had amassed an impressive collection, which was sold by Pook & Pook at the Ludwigs Corner firehouse on October 28, 2000. Flack said then that he was selling partly for estate planning and partly because he likes the hunt. Once he has owned something for a while he is ready to part with it and find something else. At this fourth sale, 306 lots brought $1,259,500.
After each sale Flack said that he made a profit on some things, and for others he got less than he paid. Fraktur, needlework, and redware were hot in 2000. In 2012 fraktur was soft, and there wasn’t much needlework.
In 2000, the cover lot, a fraktur of a paunchy General Ross holding a banner with his name on it, sold for $82,500. A Durs Rudy fraktur landscape that Flack had paid $19,200 for at a country sale in 1997 sold to dealer David Wheatcroft for $56,100.
On Saturday, October 27, 2012, at Pook & Pook, Flack’s Durs Rudy fraktur drawing of marching Swiss grenadiers sold for $16,590 to a New York folk art collector. Flack had bought it for $29,900 at the John Gordon sale at Christie’s in January 1999. A Carl Munch presentation drawing for Elisabeta Huston of Schaefferstown, Pennsylvania, sold for $22,515 (est. $25,000/35,000), even though it had been in the Paint, Pattern & People exhibition at Winterthur. It was from the Earnest collection, and Flack had paid $22,000 for it at Pook & Pook in June 1998.
Although fraktur was weak, a record $159,975 was paid for a Jonas Weber box with his name on it and dated 1845. That price topped the $140,400 paid for a green Weber box with the name Maria Weber and the date 1850 at Pook & Pook’s Shelley sale in April 2007.
A bird on a pedestal carved by the Virginville Carver sold for a record $35,550. Flack had paid a record $28,080 for it at the Machmer sale at Pook & Pook in October 2008.
Stoneware and redware sold well. A stoneware gemel jug, a presentation piece made either in New York or Connecticut and decorated with incised cobalt birds on branches, sold for $42,660. Made of twin jugs, the gemel was accompanied by a daguerreotype of the middle-aged twins for whom it was made as a presentation piece. A 7 7/8" diameter slip-decorated redware pie plate made $20,145, and a 6½" diameter redware pie plate fetched $21,330. A 4½" redware tart plate with a wavy line grid pattern in yellow and green and manganese dots sold for $18,960.
Quilt prices were strong. A broderie perse quilt with a large central bird tree surrounded by birds and flowers and with double crosshatch quilting, 96" x 86", sold for $16,590. A Bull’s Eye quilt with a Chips and Whetstones pattern, 84" x 84", sold for $15,405.
There were some bargains. Furniture was soft. A Berks County black chest, dated 1789, the paint decoration by John Beiber, sold for $28,440 (est. $25,000/35,000). Flack had bought it for $16,380 at Pook & Pook in January 2010 and had it restored. It is hard to explain why a Pennsylvania paint-grained blanket chest, vibrant and clean, with an abstract swirl decoration, plus storage, sold for only $1185 (est. $4000/8000), and the next lot, a two-gallon stoneware jug painted with a cobalt blue man in the moon by Cowden & Wilcox of Harrisburg, sold for $4503.
Nevertheless, the sale of 413 lots brought a total of $1,254,739 in a depressed market and just before the election when financial markets were jittery.
Flack left the sale with about a million dollars in his pocket to go on collecting. “I kept the best seventy-five frakturs, some furniture, and some favorite pieces,” said Flack. “And I am working on some lectures for local historical societies.”
The items offered tell much about an antiquarian who seeks objects with documented histories, objects that tell the story of 19th-century rural Pennsylvania in Bucks County and the surrounding counties. Flack’s keen eye and good taste finds art in Pennsylvania folk life. Periodically he gives his fellow collectors a chance to own what he has bought at farm sales, local shows, major and minor auctions, and from a network of pickers who know he will pay a fair price.
“I got some nifty things last week,” he said. “A guy was auctioning two hundred fifty doors and barn siding, and I bought a painted door with big ram’s horn iron hinges and two sheet iron weathervanes, a kneeling Indian and a big rooster, and I know what barns they came from.”
Flack is happiest when he is on the hunt; best of all, Rita cheers him on and loves what he bags.
For more information, contact Pook & Pook at (610) 269-4040; Web site (www.pookandpook.com).
Attributed to John Beiber, Berks County, Pennsylvania, this dower chest dated 1789 sold for $28,440. “At the back of the bottom of the till in script is the name Jacob Kreichner or Reichner and the date 1789, then something illegible, and the word Oley,” said Flack at the sale. “This is the piece that nails down John Beiber as working in Oley.”
Flack said the Beiber family had sawmills in Oley and lived 20 miles away in Salisbury Township, Lehigh County, for a time. Beiber is the same John Beiber who painted the Oley Valley, Berks County, schrank that sold at the Smith sale at Pook & Pook in October 2010 for $818,500; the painted dower chest dated 1785 that sold at the Machmer sale at Pook & Pook in October 2008 for $140,400; and a chest at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Flack said he also was the painter of the paneling now in the Fraktur Room at Winterthur.
Flack bought this chest with the name Catharina Reichner (or possibly Kreichner) at a Pook & Pook sale in January 2010 for $16,380. It was covered with darkened varnish and had the wrong feet. Flack said he had New Jersey conservator Richard Brunkus take off the varnish and make feet like the feet on the Machmer chest. According to Pook & Pook’s condition report, the right breadboard molding is replaced, and the base molding is replaced. “It really cleaned well—you can even see the paint drips,” said Flack. He thought it should have brought more but was glad that his good friend, well-known book illustrator and collector Charles Santore, was the buyer.
|Appliquéd broderie perse quilt, early 19th century, possibly New Jersey, with a large central chintz bird tree surrounded by a floral and bird vignette border and with double crosshatch quilting, 96" x 86", $16,590 (est. $4000/6000). It has an early tag attributing the quilt to Frances Outerbridge and dated 1812.|
New York or Connecticut stoneware gemel jug, 5¼" high, circa 1800, with incised cobalt lovebirds, $42,660 (est. $15,000/25,000). It was sold with a daguerreotype of the twins who owned it, which identifies them, providing a history. Paul Flack said he bought it from a picker from Philadelphia who often brings him good things. He believes it was a presentation piece and probably never used for oil and vinegar. A related example sold at Crocker Farm on October 31, 2009, for $24,725.
Pennsylvania redware tart plate with yellow and green wavy slip lines in a grid pattern with manganese dots, 4½" diameter, $18,960 (est. $4000/5000).
By the Virginville Carver, this carved and painted bird on a perch, 9¼" high, sold on the phone for $35,550 (est. $10,000/15,000). At the Richard and Rosemarie Machmer sale in 2008, it sold for $28,080.
Originally published in the January 2013 issue of Maine Antique Digest. © 2013 Maine Antique Digest