Pook & Pook, Inc., Downingtown, Pennsylvania
Photos courtesy Pook & Pook
Dennis Moyer began spending his weekly allowance at farm sales when he was eight years old. Once a rite of passage in the Pennsylvania Dutch country, farm sales are now rare occurrences. Fifty years ago when Dennis Moyer and his wife, Linda, bought a Moyer family farmhouse house and barn on five acres nestled in rolling hills and scenic valleys of southern Lehigh County, they furnished it with Dennis’s purchases at country sales, most of them within a 25-mile radius of Zionsville, Pennsylvania.
Dennis Moyer lived his whole life in the Perkiomen Valley and knew its history. After graduating from Upper Perkiomen High School, he served in the Army in Germany, and after 15 years of working for the Pillsbury Company in nearby Greenville, he became a board member and then director of the Schwenkfelder Library & Heritage Center, a thriving local historical society and museum. He is best known for his book Fraktur Writings and Folk Art Drawings of the Schwenkfelder Library Collection (1998), a selection from more than 1000 fraktur in the library’s collection. He served at a time when it was not considered a conflict of interest for curators or directors to collect in the field of their expertise as long as they kept the interest of the institution first, which Moyer did.
Dennis Moyer’s commitment to preserving the rich cultural heritage of the Pennsylvania Germans led to his support of the Goschenhoppen Historians in nearby East Greenville. The Moyers participated in the Goschenhoppen Folk Festivals that showcase the daily life of the Pennsylvania Germans. (Because of the COVID-19 pandemic the 54th Goschenhoppen Folk Festival, scheduled for August 7 and 8 this year, was postponed until 2021.)
A decade ago Dennis Moyer, along with dealers Gene Bertolet and David Tuttle, ran the popular Antiques at Henry’s Field, an outdoor show adjacent to the Antes House, a mid-18th-century Moravian settlement house in Upper Frederick Township, Montgomery County, the property of the Goschenhoppen Historians. That popular outdoor show was discontinued after Dennis Moyer died of cancer in 2014 at 69.
In 1997 Linda Moyer retired after teaching history and Spanish at Upper Perkiomen High School for 32 years. Before she died after a five-year battle with cancer in January 2020, she had arranged for Ronald Pook to sell their collection. The Moyers’ daughter, Kathryn Moyer Kilmer, wrote in the introduction to the Pook & Pook sale catalog that it gave her parents “immense pleasure being able to link a beautiful object with its past as well as noting its relevance in modern time.” Color photographs of the stunning interiors of the Moyer farmhouse appeared throughout the catalog, and descriptions of each lot included the names of makers and previous owners. Condition reports were posted online.
Before the sale began on Friday, July 10, at 6 p.m., Ron Pook spoke about his friendship with the Moyers and noted that “the Moyer sale is one of the last gathered over a lifetime from the sales of Pennsylvania German families held on farms and in firehouses.”
That is why so many collectors and dealers looked forward to the sale, which was postponed in May and finally held at Pook & Pook in Downingtown on July 10 and 11 in a salesroom arranged for social distancing. Couples could sit together, others sat 6' apart, and all 35 in the salesroom wore masks. There were six phone lines and two online bidding platforms—Bidsquare and Invaluable— that stayed busy on Friday from 6 to 9:40 p.m. and on Saturday from 9 a.m. to 3:33 p.m. All 689 lots sold for a total of $1,383,478 (including buyers’ premiums), nearly double the highest expectations (presale estimates were $447,500/789,900, figured without buyers’ premiums). The 916 bidders on Bidsquare bought 34% of the sale; the 755 signed up to bid on Invaluable got 5% of the sale; and 104 phone bidders and 132 live and absentee bidders bought the rest, according to Deirdre Pook Magarelli, who keeps these records.
John Drissel of Bucks County, Pennsylvania (1762-1846), painted pine slide-lid box, inscribed on lid “Zum gruck / Anne von Red / John Drissel his hand 1796,” retaining its original decorated surface with flowers and ivory wavy bands on a vibrant salmon ground, 2¾" x 43/8" x 75/8", sold to a Pennsylvania collector on the phone for $134,200 (est. $20,000/30,000), underbid in the salesroom by Philip Bradley. Anna Von Red (Anna Roth) was born on November 17, 1793, as listed in the “New Goschenhoppen Register,” page 343. The box was part of a Winterthur study in 2008 and is the most elaborately decorated of Drissel boxes. The price is a record for a slide-lid box decorated by Drissel. In April 2004 Quarryville, Pennsylvania, dealer Ruth Bryson bought a Drissel box at Conestoga Auction in Manheim, Pennsylvania, for $82,500. In April 2018 Bryson’s box sold at Pook & Pook for $18,300. There was some paint restoration to one side. Another box sold for $49,140 in the sale of the collection of the Machmers at Pook & Pook in January 2008. At the sale of the collection of Ralph Esmerian at Sotheby’s in January 2014, a pine hanging cupboard attributed to John Drissel sold for $209,000 to a collector in the salesroom.
The first lot, a bird tree with eight birds carved in Berks County by Schtockschnitzler Simmons (active 1885-1910), sold in the salesroom to a Berks County collector for a record $103,700 (est. $20,000/40,000), setting the tone for the sale. When a Drissel box sold to a Pennsylvania collector on the phone for $134,200 (est. $20,000/30,000), the sale picked up momentum. The red-painted slide-lid box, only 2¾" x 43/8" x 75/8", inscribed on the lid “Zum gruck / Anne von Red / John Drissel his hand 1796” above a big red lily, all within a colorful geometric border, is in the best condition of any of the boxes decorated by the Mennonite John Drissel that have sold in the last several decades. According to the catalog, Moyer purchased it at an auction in Lower Milford Township, Lehigh County, the neighborhood where he lived, although John Drissel (1762-1846) lived in Milford Township, Bucks County.
Colorful quilts and blue, brown, and multicolored homespun, fraktur and folk carvings, canes and butter prints, redware and Anglo-American china, spatterware, transferware, mocha, and Gaudy Dutch, and all manner of household gear used in the country in the 18th and 19th centuries was offered at this sale. There were smoke-decorated tin bins, painted baskets, small wallpaper boxes, bag stamps, books, many from the Christopher Sauer press in Germantown, game boards, tramp art, cookie cutters, and Stiegel-type enameled glass.
Two online bidders competed for these ten fabric birds, some probably made by Amish, with expected wear and a few small losses/frays. They finally sold to a phone bidder for $21,960 (est. $300/400).
Twelve Pennsylvania dyed and pin-carved chicken eggs, 19th century, many dated and initialed, with bird and floral decorations, sold for $17,080 (est. $1000/2000) to a woman seated on the first row. The “CKJ / 1887” egg was made for Christianna Krauss Jacob, and the “HKJ / 1877” egg was made for Hannah Krauss Jacob. They were purchased in 1998 at an on-site auction for Schwenkfelder family Paul and Arlene Bieler. Three eggs have repaired breaks.
Shown are three wrought-iron buttonhole cutters, one dated 1818, that sold for $1708 (est. $400/800) to an online bidder who also paid $1098 for a lot of three wrought-iron buttonhole cutters and hammers (est. $400/500).
Some small collections brought big prices. Eight fabric birds, probably Amish, sold on the phone for $21,960 (est. $300/400). Twelve Pennsylvania dyed and pin-carved chicken eggs, many dated and initialed, sold for $17,080 to a woman on the first row. “Eggs are not cheaper by the dozen,” quipped auctioneer Jamie Shearer. Eight 19th-century carved bone pie crimpers, some with heart cutouts, sold for $1708 (est. $800/1000). Three wrought-iron buttonhole cutters brought $1708 (est. $400/800), and the same online bidder paid $1098 (est. $400/800) for three wrought-iron buttonhole cutters and hammers. Six are a collection! Ten sewing balls in a red-painted bowl sold for $1342 (est. $600/900). The Schwenkfelder Library & Heritage Center paid $5856 (est. $500/1000) for another lot of more than a dozen pincushions and sewing balls that sold together with a silver chatelaine belonging to Lydia Yeakle. “We own two samplers by Lydia Yeakle,” said Heritage Center curator Candace Perry. “Lydia Yeakle lived in Chestnut Hill. She was a city Schwenkfelder, more sophisticated than a country Schwenkfelder.”
This Berks County, Pennsylvania, painted poplar dower chest, dated 1835, inscribed “CHRISTIa SCHULTz,” 31¼" x 46¾", is pictured on the cover of The Colors of Goschenhoppen. It descended in the family and sold privately to Dennis Moyer. A genealogy record written by Linda Moyer accompanied the chest. Lacking one knob and with a chip to the apron, it sold for $10,980 (est. $3000/4000) to Candace Perry, curator of the Schwenkfelder Library & Heritage Center, who stated, “We really wanted this chest. We have Christina’s mother’s chest and sampler. Our collection is all about family relationships and traditions passed down through generations.”
The Schwenkfelder Library & Heritage Center also bought a Berks County chest inscribed “CHRISTIa SCHULTz / 18—35”for $10,980 (est. $3000/4000). “We really wanted this chest. We have Christina’s mother’s chest and sampler,” said Candace Perry. “Our collection is all about family relationships and traditions passed down through generations. We have all styles of chests but this one, and now we can show them all when we open our expanded museum in the fall.”
The Schwenkfelder Library & Heritage Center paid the same price, $10,980, for a clock with the name “Samuel Krauss, Montgomery County”on its dial that sold together with a tuning fork from the mechanical Krauss family of clock makers, organ builders, and musical instrument makers in Upper Hanover Township. “The clock was at the top of my list,” said curator Perry.
Schwenkfelder friendship quilt, signed “Rebecca Reitenauer 1859,” 80" x 92", pictured in Nancy and Donald Roan’s Lest I Shall Be Forgotten, pages 20 and 94, and exhibited in Tokyo, Japan, in 1994. Purchased at auction in Hereford, Berks County, in the late 1960s, it is in good condition with no apparent damage or repairs, and it sold for $10,980 (est. $1000/2000). Not shown, a similar quilt dated 1854, probably made for Abigail Heimbach, whose name is in the central square, inscribed by the scrivener James Maek with names on each square in calligraphy, sold for $2684 (est. $1500/2500).
She did not bid on the Schwenkfelder friendship quilt signed “Rebecca Reitenauer 1859” that had been purchased by Moyer at an auction in Hereford, Berks County, in the late 1960s and exhibited in Tokyo in 1994. It also sold for $10,980 (est. $1000/2000). She could not explain why a similar Flying Crow pieced friendship quilt, each square with names in calligraphy by scrivener James Maek, probably made for Abigail Heimbach, sold earlier in the sale for only $2684 (est. $1500/2500).
Large Pennsylvania blue and white pieced quilt, 19th century, with a star and diamond center panel and five borders, stamped “Susannah D. Shafer” on the back, 92" x 92", some small scattered stains, sold for $7320 (est. $800/1200) to an online bidder who bought a number of quilts.
Quilts brought strong prices. A graphically complicated blue and white quilt with a star and diamond center and five borders, stamped “Susannah D. Shafer”on the back, sold for $7320 (est. $800/1200). A chintz Nine Patch with a blue background with red roses and 36 geometric patches in dark blue with red calico centers sold for only $4148 (est. $800/1000) to the same online bidder. A Star of Bethlehem quilt, with an old label inscribed “Bessie Bixler,”sold for $3172 (est. $1000/1500).
Brown and white homespun brought more than blue and white but less than homespun sold for a decade ago.
One sampler wrought by Anna Marie Kurtz, born 1790, likely stitched under the instruction of Leah Maguire, sold on the phone for $13,420 (est. $1500/2500).
Folk-art carved and painted double-sided cat with a mouse in its mouth, circa 1900, 11½" high, sold on the phone for $26,840 (est. $1000/1500), underbid online. The buyer was Olde Hope for a client. It is illustrated in the Machmers’ Just for Nice, figure 174, and was exhibited at the Historical Society of Berks County in 1991. Purchased in 1968 from David and Barbara Mest, it has an old repaired break to an ear, and one side is missing the mouse.
The trade was active buying for clients and for stock. Ed Hild of Old Hope paid $26,840 (est. $1000/1500) for a folk-art carved and painted double-sided cat with a mouse in its mouth. Kelly Kinzle bought an 18th-century three-legged hard pine tavern table with a layered paint history for $21,960 (est. $800/1200). Philip Bradley paid $6100 (est. $300/500) for a Pennsylvania painted Moravian Brettstuhl with a pierced back and old ocher paint over old dark green. He also bought a painted pine bench with a scalloped apron and an old black surface, 84" wide, for $2440 (est. $500/1000). Both are pictured in The Colors of Goschenhoppen: The Decorative Arts and Furnishings of a Pennsylvania German Community, a catalog by Dennis Moyer for an exhibition at the Schwenkfelder Library & Heritage Center in 1996. The Brettstuhl and the bench came from the attic of the United Church of Christ in Zionsville and were used in the first log church built before 1760 by the German Reformed Church of Old Zionsville.
Bradley, bidding for a client, paid $18,300 (est. $5000/10,000) for a “Man in the Moon” fraktur, the birth certificate for Elizabeth Leibenguth, born in 1810 in Northampton County, bought by Moyer in the 1960s and pictured in Pastor Frederick Weiser’s book Fraktur: Pennsylvania German Folk Art (1973).
Two small Schwenkfelder fraktur brought big prices. One with a crested bird and a cluster of colorful buildings at the bottom of a hill, attributed to the Exotic Scenery Artist, 8¼" x 6½", probably Montgomery County, 1817-30, purchased by Moyer at a Quakertown, Pennsylvania, house sale in the 1970s, sold for $14,640 (est. $3000/4000) . A Schwenkfelder reward of merit, 4¼" x 2¾", went for $13,420 (est. $1000/2000). It was made by David Kriebel for Christina Schultz in 1802. Lisa Minardi, who cataloged the fraktur, said Dennis Moyer gave his research library to the Dewees Tavern Museum at Historic Trappe. Minardi, who is the director of Historic Trappe, said she wonders who bought David Ellinger’s sketchbook containing small watercolor drawings and theorem patterns for $2928 (est. $1000/1500). She is working on an Ellinger show for Historic Trappe in 2021 and would like to borrow the sketchbook.
Some common forms brought expected prices, but rarities soared. For example, a Gaudy Dutch War Bonnet cup plate sold for $458 (est. $400/600), but a rare Gaudy Dutch Zinnia toddy plate sold for $1220 (est. $400/600) in a depressed Gaudy Dutch market. Two historical blue America and Independence plates sold online for $610 (est. $200/400), but three historical blue transfer plates, the largest with a view of Mt. Pleasant Classical Institute, Amherst, Massachusetts, sold for $18,300 (est. $300/500). Pook & Pook sold a Mt. Pleasant Classical Institute plate in 2013 for $21,300. The blue view of a boys boarding school founded by Amherst College alumni in 1827 is a transferware rarity.
The rarity in the lot of five butter prints that sold for $4636 (est. $600/900) is an oval one with a heart. It is pictured in the Machmers’ book Just for Nice (1991). A single large carved tulip butter paddle sold for $2196 (est. $500/1000), and a lot of three butter prints, including a double-sided one carved with tulips, one carved on one side with a tulip, and another with a pinwheel motif, sold for $3904 (est. $800/1200). A massive Pennsylvania pine and walnut slaw board, 47" long, with a heart cutout sold for $1952 (est. $400/800). A Pennsylvania walnut dough board sold for $3416 (est. $300/500), and a yellow-painted tray with a scalloped rim brought $2318 (est. $200/400).
Canes, cookie cutters, coverlets, bag stamps, game boards, redware, iron utensils, show towels, and pillowcases generally sold within estimates, but there were exceptions. A red and blue jacquard coverlet, circa 1845, with the initials “JR” sold for $1342 (est. $200/300). A redware charger from the Diehl pottery with yellow and green slip, 11½" diameter, went for $3660 (est. $800/1200). Collectors needing cheer spent with abandon to add color and warmth to their houses where they are now spending a lot of time.
The Moyer sale is one that will be remembered. And there was more Moyer to come. On August 1 in Zionsville, Pennsylvania, Somers Auctioneering Company held an on-site barn sale (and it wasn’t the first one; they held others there earlier this year). It was a big auction; two auctioneers dispersed what remained after Pook & Pook sold 689 lots from the catalog and had included many lots in two online-only sales in April and May. “It was just astounding how much stuff came out of that house and barn,” said Pook & Pook auctioneer Jamie Shearer.
The pictures and captions give more details. A catalog can be found online (www.pookandpook.com).
Pennsylvania oval wallpaper dresser box, 19th century, 3½" x 8¼", purchased from the family of H. Neumeyer of Macungie, Pennsylvania, sold for $1586 (est. $300/500). Not shown, a 19th-century small round blue and orange wallpaper box, 2½" x 3", from the Christman family, with minor wear, sold for the same price, $1586 (est. $400/600).
Schtockschnitzler Simmons (active 1885-1910), Berks County, Pennsylvania, carved and painted bird tree, with eight fanciful painted birds, 20½" high, sold on the phone for $103,700 (est. $20,000/40,000) to a Berks County collector, underbid by another Pennsylvania collector on the phone. The price is a record for a bird tree sold at auction. This is one of the four bird trees illustrated on the frontispiece in Richard and Rosemarie Machmer’s book on folk carvers, Just for Nice (1991). It had descended in the family of Amos Kline and sold privately to Dennis Moyer in the 1960s. One low branch is broken. The previous record for a bird tree was $84,100 (est. $40,000/80,000) paid by dealer David Wheatcroft at Christie’s on September 29, 2010, at the sale of property from the estate of Alastair Bradley Martin, which topped $77,000 paid at Conestoga Auction in Manheim, Pennsylvania, in May 2005 for a bird from the collection of Richard and Rosemarie Machmer.
The Pennsylvania watercolor fraktur reward of merit, early 19th century, probably Bucks County, 5" x 2½", sold for $4636 (est. $1000/1500) in the salesroom. Another similar fraktur sold online for $7320 (est. $1200/1800). From southeastern Pennsylvania, Bucks County, the ink and watercolor fraktur reward of merit, dated 1835, 4¾" x 2¾", is in good condition and in a period frame.
Three 19th-century carved butter prints, including a double-sided example with tulips and two others with tulip and fylfot designs, the largest 4½" diameter, sold for $3904 (est. $800/1200).
David Kriebel (active 1787-1848), southeastern Pennsylvania, Schwenkfelder ink and watercolor fraktur reward of merit, with a tulip tree and two birds, for Christina Schultz, dated 1802, 4¼" x 2¾". For reference see Dennis K. Moyer, Fraktur Writings and Folk Art Drawings, page 118, for an example made for the same person. Purchased privately in the 1980s from Lucy Berkey, it sold for $13,420 (est. $1000/2000).
Pennsylvania painted walnut watch hutch, 19th century, 12" x 6¾", with floral decoration on a yellow ground, together with an early key-wind pocket watch. Purchased at a Limeport, Pennsylvania, auction in the 1970s, it sold for $11,590 (est. $4000/6000).
Decorated picture frame, 19th century, with stenciled tulips and blocked corners, containing a Star quilt square, 18" x 16", sold online for $4392 (est. $1500/2500).
Southeastern Pennsylvania watercolor and cutwork fraktur scherenschnitte, early/mid-19th century, 10" x 8", purchased in the 1970s at a Schwenkfelder farm auction for Wilbur and Carrie Schultz, sold for $6710 (est. $1500/2500) online.
Northampton County ink and watercolor “Man in the Moon” fraktur birth certificate for Elizabeth Leibenguth, born in 1810, 15¾" x 13", sold for $18,300 (est. $5000/10,000). The Moyers bought it at Slatedale Antiques in the 1960s, and it is pictured in Frederick S. Weiser’s Fraktur: Pennsylvania German Folk Art (1973). It sold to Philip Bradley for a client.
Berks County, Pennsylvania, painted cherry and walnut folk-art dresser, late 19th century, with a mirrored back decorated with heart and pinwheel motifs, 75" x 41". This was the first piece of furniture bought by Dennis Moyer for his collection. Purchased at a Huffs Church, Pennsylvania, auction in the late 1950s, it is listed in The Colors of Goschenhoppen, page 11. It sold on the phone for $7320 (est. $2000/3000).
This Pennsylvania painted poplar apothecary cupboard, 1790-1830, with three upper shelves above 16 drawers with paper labels, resting on straight bracket feet, retaining a period green-painted surface, 82½" x 57¾", is pictured on the cover of The Colors of Goschenhoppen by Dennis Moyer and listed in the catalog. It was from the Forgedale Store, Washington Township, Berks County, and it sold for $11,590 (est. $5000/8000) online. Moyer wrote in the small catalog that the apothecary had been last used for storing bulk nails.
Schwenkfelder ink and watercolor fraktur, attributed to the Exotic Scenery Artist, probably Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, active 1817-30, with the name “Ephram Bollinger” written in the back, in a period painted walnut frame, 8¼" x 6½", sold for $14,640 (est. $3000/4000). For a similar example, see Lisa Minardi’s Drawn with Spirit (2015) and Mary Jane Lederach Hershey’s This Teaching I Present (2003). The fraktur was purchased in the 1970s at a Quakertown, Pennsylvania, house sale.
Three historical blue Staffordshire plates: right, Winter View of Pittsfield, Massachusetts; center, Peace and Plenty; and left, Mt. Pleasant Classical Institute, which is the largest at 10½" diameter. The institute was a school for boys opened in Amherst, Massachusetts, in 1827 by members of the Amherst College class of 1826. It sold for $18,300 (est. $300/500). David Kurau said he was the underbidder for a client. Another rare Classical Institute plate sold at Pook & Pook in 2013 for $21,300 (est. $4000/6000).
Originally published in the October 2020 issue of Maine Antique Digest. © 2020 Maine Antique Digest