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Two-Day Sale Brings in $781,776

Clayton Pennington | October 26th, 2013

A phone bidder picked up this Connecticut cherry oxbow chest of drawers with blocked ends, attributed to the Chapin school of cabinetmakers in Hartford County, for $27,600. It has a rectangular top with molded edge, a blocked oxbow front, four long graduated drawers, and ogee blocked feet. The brasses were original, and so were the feet. It measured 37½" wide and was estimated at $18,000/26,000. Bourgeault said he had three bidders on it. “It’s rare to find one like this. It brought what it should have in today’s market,” he said. “It was in wonderful condition.” 

An Atlanta collector made a special trip to the sale, flying up to purchase this table. The collector was successful. He acquired the Boston mahogany and flame birch veneer card table for $13,200. He was sure the table was from Boston, even though some thought the origin was Portsmouth. The underside was marked “Danl…Boston 1810.” It measures 29" high, 36½" wide, and 17¾" deep and was refinished, probably between 1920 and 1940.

This Massachusetts Queen Anne walnut veneered lowboy, with some veneer repaired and the brasses replaced, sold for $16,200 to a phone bidder on the line with Northeast’s Frank Coolidge. It has a two-over-three drawer arrangement, a shaped apron, cabriole legs, and pad feet. The lowboy, with a desirable case width of only 29¾", was estimated at $8000/12,000.

Ex-Malcolm Franklin Antiques, a Chicago-based specialist dealer in English antiques and decorations, this English Chippendale carved giltwood rococo mirror sold for $8400 (est. $1200/1800). The crest featured three phoenixes and an elaborate scrollwork frame, 56" x 33".

This 20th-century pig-form trade sign with “Home of Fat Freds Butcher-Shop, Chicago Style” in red letters was from the collection of Robert “Mac” Doty. The 62" long pig sold for $1800 (est. $500/800).

Northeast Auctions, Portsmouth, New Hampshire

Photos courtesy Northeast Auctions

The two-day sale held by Northeast Auctions on October 26 and 27, 2013, wasn’t one of the famed blowouts that the company is known for. Instead, it was smallish affair, featuring just fewer than 800 lots that brought in a total of $781,776.

It was held in Northeast’s headquarters, the historic Treadwell Mansion on Pleasant Street in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, and the tone of the sale was set early when auctioneer Ronald Bourgeault, testing the microphone before commencing, acknowledged it was too loud. “I’ll keep it down,” he said. After that, he called the sale in a low-key, almost conversational manner, eschewing the rapid sing-song auctioneer’s chant. It worked.

The consignor names in the catalog were impressive—author Martha Gandy Fales, needlework specialist Glee Krueger, former director of the Currier Gallery of Art in Manchester Robert “Mac” Doty, the Art Institute of Chicago, Colonial Williamsburg, and descendants of the Condé Nast family—but there were no six-figure lots. The highest price came for a Tiffany & Company silver service with a custom-made chest that sold for $51,000 (includes buyer’s premium). The service for 24 in the English King pattern had a strong connection to Portsmouth; it was two sets of 12 that once belonged to sisters Helen Elwyn Kremer and Elizabeth Elwyn Langdon, descendents of Governor John Langdon of Portsmouth, who lived in the Langdon House—literally next door to Northeast Auctions—until the 1950’s.

“I was very pleased with sale,” Bourgeault told us after the sale. “It was not one of our biggest sales—about 800 items compared to 1200—but I was happy with how many different bidders there were. It was a lot of single retail buyers, which I can attribute to the catalogs we send out.” Northeast Auctions still does not charge for its catalogs, providing them free of charge for potential customers.

One retail buyer, a longtime Northeast Auctions customer, bought The Big Duck, a 35" high bronze figure for a garden fountain by Edith Barretto Stevens Parsons (1878-1956), for $7200, well under the estimate of $9000/15,000. “Retail buyers are getting good deals these days,” said Bourgeault.

Another retail buyer was a collector from Atlanta who flew up to bid on a single lot—a Boston Sheraton mahogany games table. He was successful and paid a mid-estimate $13,200. “Of Sheraton tables, this is the most attractive I’ve ever seen,” he said. He had done his homework and quickly rattled off design characteristics of the table that proved, conclusively he thought, the table was from Boston and not Portsmouth. He didn’t rely solely on the signature, “Danl…/Boston,” on the underside, and he cited the curly maple inlay, a flame birch panel, complete turrets at the corners, and the number of reeds on the legs, 12, as opposed to the more common nine on Portsmouth tables.

Retail buyers weren’t the only ones in attendance. Several savvy dealers including Michael Whittemore, Carl Stinson, Rex Stark, Henry Callan, and Chris Considine were also there, picking off lots when they could.

Twenty-two lots were from the needlework collection of Glee Krueger, a needlework scholar and the author of New England Samplers to 1840, published by Old Sturbridge Village, and A Gallery of American Samplers: The Theodore H. Kapnek Collection. Those lots were well received, bringing in a total of $34,980. The highest price, $6240, was paid for an 11¾" x 10¼" Connecticut sampler by nine-year-old Rebecca Marietta Butler, “done in the 23rd year of the Independence/ of the United States of America, AD 1798.” The winning bidder on the phone was Philadelphia dealer Amy Finkel of M. Finkel & Daughter, bidding for the Connecticut Historical Society (CHS) in Hartford.

“We have a similar one in the collection,” said Richard Malley, head of research and collections at CHS. He was referring to a 1798 example by Catherine Wadsworth that may be seen in Susan P.  Schoelwer’s Connecticut Needlework: Women, Art, and Family, 1740-1840, the catalog for a 2010 exhibition at CHS (pp. 108-9, #36.). Butler and Wadsworth both used a striking pink background and had trouble fitting the word “independence” on the sampler. Schoelwer points out that the final “e” is omitted and the “c” runs into the border. The similarity between the two suggests that the two girls were schoolmates, possibly at Lydia Bull Royse’s school in Hartford, Schoelwer posits.

“We believe Rebecca went on to become a needlework instructor in Hartford. We have another sampler, done by a young man named Frederick Tuttle, and we think he studied under Rebecca. His sampler dates to the 1820’s.” Malley also pointed out that at the end of her life, Butler and her sister donated some objects to the CHS.

In an e-mail to M.A.D., Krueger stated: “Overall, I was very pleased with the results of the auction. The selection represented an appealing variety as witnessed by the dealers, collectors, and historical society that purchased the needlework. There were many phone bids, especially for the 1798 Connecticut sampler of Rebecca Butler. Of the 22 samplers in the auction, all were stitched between 1790 and 1844, every one included the young lady’s name (there was one boy’s sampler!), and three-quarters indicated the town and/or state in which they resided.”

For more information, contact Northeast Auctions at (603) 433-8400 or via the Web site (

Connecticut needlework sampler, 11¾" x 10¼", by nine-year-old Rebecca Marietta Butler, “done in the 23rd year of the Independence/ of the United States of America, AD 1798,” sold for $6240 to Philadelphia dealer Amy Finkel of M. Finkel & Daughter, bidding for the Connecticut Historical Society in Hartford.

This 10 1/8" diameter Staffordshire dark blue transfer-printed soup plate, maker unknown, 1815-25, cataloged as “Fulton Steamboat,” jumped to over ten times its $200 low estimate and sold for $2520 to a phone bidder. That’s a remarkably high price. Only 17 days earlier, Pook & Pook in Downingtown, Pennsylvania, sold another example for $30, well under estimate. (Pook’s condition report revealed a 5" hairline and rim flakes.) In September of 2010, Garth’s Auctions in Delaware, Ohio, sold one for $206. Sotheby’s sold two plates and one soup plate for $1800 on May 22, 2003.

Even though this scene is known as “Fulton’s Steamboat,” dealer William Kurau, a specialist in historical Staffordshire, doesn’t think it is. “It’s not Fulton’s steamboat,” he said. “They’ve never found one marked. It’s an English scene, but it’s a pretty plate.” The 1951 book Anglo American China Part II by Sam Laidacker calls it “The Diorama Series.” “[Diorama Series] is used because on those articles that are marked, ‘Diorama’ appears at the top of the title,” Laidacker wrote, noting that uncertainty of the title does not diminish the popularity of the “rich dark blue wares.” Laidacker says they are very scarce, and many that were found came from the Midwest. “Might it be the work of one of those Staffordshire potters who migrated to the area during the 1820’s when this set was produced?” he wrote on page 110.

This 27½" x 22½" unframed oil on panel portrait of a young woman in a bonnet by Milton W. Hopkins (1789-1844) of Connecticut turned up on an Antiques Roadshow stop. An absentee bidder paid $10,200 for her, within the $8000/12,000 estimate. It’s a strong price for a Hopkins portrait of lady in a white lace bonnet. A Hopkins portrait of a young woman named Virginia Ada Wright in a red dress, holding flowers and with a dog, brought $232,000 at Sotheby’s on January 16, 2004, at the sale of the Raymond and Susan Egan collection.

“It’s a grouse,” said Ron Bourgeault as he started selling this Staffordshire porcelain pie dish and cover that was cataloged as a “Hen and Chicks.” The species of bird matters. The mid-19th-century dish measuring 11" in diameter brought $1920 from an Internet bidder, well above the $250/350 estimate.

Originally published in the January 2014 issue of Maine Antique Digest. © 2013 Maine Antique Digest

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