Pennsylvania Chest Tops Garth's Sale
Top lots from different sessions had an interesting connection during the sale held by Garth’s in Delaware, Ohio, on May 12 and 13. The link—longtime collections. While high-quality items remained in demand, the event underscored the added appeal of desirable antiques that have been in private hands for decades.
The auction featured three distinct groupings: the 70-year collection of Schrade and Genevieve Radtke of New Canaan, Connecticut; fine and vintage jewelry and timepieces; and Americana, featuring the 11th annual Ohio Valley session.
The item bringing the highest price was a chest of drawers from Chester County, Pennsylvania, in walnut with inlaid tulips, vines, and berries. Having two over three drawers and on bracket feet, it likely originated as a highboy top. From the Radtke collection, it sold with buyer’s premium for $26,400 (est. $400/800).
“The Chester County chest of drawers was a nice surprise,” said Jeff Jeffers, CEO and principal auctioneer of Garth’s. “The inlay was absolutely magnificent.”
Interest in brown furniture sold by Garth’s has risen recently as factors other than paint have had an impact. “You can pick out opportunities in the buying market,” said Jeffers. “For the better forms, people are starting to say, ‘Wait a minute. This is still a good thing,’ and look again at the proportion. I think people are starting to think about form again and rarity a little bit, and that’s affecting an uptick in price.
”As a whole, the Radtke collection was an intriguing mix of 324 lots, with some items having been off the market for nearly three-quarters of a century. A fair bit of the collection was not American, but it didn’t seem to matter, even though Garth’s May auction is traditionally known for Americana. Among the items that sold well were textiles, which included more than 100 samplers and other needlework. Buyers weren’t looking at simply where an item originated. Design and skill were also considered, even when the needlework was British.
The best of the samplers was signed “Mary Lewis Aged 16 Years 1843 / S Westbrook’s School.” Cataloged as American or English, it featured a religious verse about the need to “Believe in Jesus” combined with illustrations of two stories from the Old Testament: 1 Kings, in which the prophet Elijah is fed by ravens and a widow, and 1 Samuel, where Abigail bows before David in an effort to save her family from annihilation. In the latter image, a hot air balloon soars overhead. The work sold for $13,200.
It wasn’t all needlework and furniture. The Radtke mix included a scrimshaw whale tooth depicting a whale hunt and signed “W.L. Roderick” by William Lewis Roderick, who served aboard the English bark Adventure in 1852. Measuring 7¾" long and from the mid-19th century, it had damage on one end and sold for $12,000, a good bit below its estimate of $15,000/25,000.
Two 20th-century English lantern clocks in brass, each with a top-mounted bell and a single weight, sold for $7200 (est. $100/300). The lot consisted of a 9" tall clock marked “John Wise, Londoni Fecit,” and a 17" tall clock marked “John Aylward in Bramford.” Bidding was also strong for four miniature wooden globes covered with terrestrial maps that sold together for $9300 (est. $400/800). The lot consisted of an 8½" high globe on a turned stand by J.L. & Cie, Paris; a 5" high Wilson’s globe on a turned stand; a hinged 3" diameter globe by Holbrook Mfg.; and a hinged 3" diameter Dr. Halley & C. globe. All had notable wear.
The Radtkes began collecting in New England in the 1950s. Nautical themes and material culture of the region’s coast were evident in many pieces. The samplers, which were once housed along a staircase, showed the progression of the collection, with the quality improving over the years, according to Jeffers. One other thing impressed him. “She remembered everything—every place she bought, every item. It was unbelievable.”
In addition to the Radtke material, one prime lot in the auction also had been off the market for decades, and potential buyers were eager for the chance to own it. From the Ohio Valley session came a distinctively midwestern 16-tin pie safe with a punched design lettered “Lincoln” over stars and crossed American flags. It sold for $22,800 (est. $6000/9000). Dating to the late 19th century, the tall pie safe (68" high) had a lower drawer and square legs. The pine case was in original red paint, while the tins were blue. The piece had been in the collection of Jack and Susan Batdorff since the 1970s when it was purchased at the Crutcher Antiques Show in Indianapolis.
Distinctive and desirable, the pie safe had its admirers long before it returned to the market. “A couple of pie safe collectors knew and waited patiently,” said Jeffers. “That’s what we sometimes don’t know about these prices—how long somebody has waited for something out of a collection, how long somebody has known of an example.”
Furniture among the Americana grouping included a Hepplewhite slant-front desk of Pennsylvania origin, early 19th century, in cherry with curly maple trim. The lid had the initials “MOH” in string inlay, while “1810” appeared on the scalloped apron. The desk came from the Overholt family, which began producing Old Overholt whiskey in 1810. The brand is believed to be the oldest continually produced whiskey in the United States. The desk, which was accompanied by framed family notes, ledger pages, and assorted documents, sold within estimate for $9600.
Also drawing competitive bidding was an oil on canvas riverscape, View of Head of Buffington Island Ohio River, which sold for $9720, well above its $2500/3500 estimate. Having a largely illegible signature, the painting dated to the mid-19th century and pictured a view looking from Ohio toward bluffs in West Virginia.
While such scenes aren’t common, Garth’s has regularly handled them. “We get them as much as anybody, if not more. We get a fabulous iconic one once a year, once every two years,” said Jeffers. “It’s marvelous when someone has an eye, identifies something, and can put it in the right venue.”
The rest of the Ohio Valley and Americana session was typical Garth’s fare, from a sewer tile bust of a Native American, attributed to National Sewer Pipe Company, Barberton, Ohio, early 20th century, 10" high, at $2280, to an Ohio paint-decorated document box, possibly from Holmes County, maple and pine, with its original vinegar grain painting in faux bird’s-eye maple and lettered “AEH 1850,” that sold for $4680.
The Ohio Valley sale remains well received by the public. “They continue to ask about what will be in the auction. They continue to be interested at all points of the year. They consign specifically for it,” Jeffers said.
More than just enthusiasm comes through. “I think that we learn something about the region every year,” he added. “I think we have a responsibility to do it for the collecting market, for history in general, and who we’ve been [as an auction house] for sixty-four years. So we remain committed to it.”
For more information, contact Garth’s at (740) 362-4771 or visit the website (www.garths.com).
Originally published in the September 2017 issue of Maine Antique Digest. © 2017 Maine Antique Digest - See more at: https://www.maineantiquedigest.com/stories/pennsylvania-chest-tops-garths-sale/6476