There were no huge surprises during the 59th annual Thanksgiving Americana sale held by Garth’s Auctions in Columbus, Ohio, on November 29, 2019. That likely reflected the stability of the market as well as the selection of antiques offered.
“It was as expected,” said Jeff Jeffers, Garth’s chief executive officer and principal auctioneer. “It was a good healthy mix. I think there were, in all categories, objects people want in today’s marketplace: brown furniture with surface and form, folk art, rarities, painted objects. It went as expected.”
The top lot of the sale was a paint-decorated lidded sugar box in pine, a square form having canted sides decorated with incised and painted designs dominated by pairs of lovebirds. The 5½" high x 4½" square tabletop sugar box had some wear and edge loss, but the decoration was strong. The piece sold for $27,600 (including buyer’s premium) against a conservative estimate of $1000/2000.
Accompanying the piece was a note detailing that it was the “first sugar bowl” of an identified family member born in 1799 and married in 1815. Jeffers said the decorated box likely originated in Somerset County, Pennsylvania. “The price is indicative of a couple of things,” he added. “One, the rarity of the box. Two, the rarity of the form; it’s a sugar box. I think the price is also indicative of condition.”
A Pennsylvania Chippendale spice chest brought the second-highest price of the day, selling for $8700 (est. $1500/2500). In walnut and dating to the third quarter of the 18th century, the 20" high x 16" wide chest featured a paneled door concealing an interior with two over three drawers and was on ogee bracket feet. The form remains a mainstay with collectors. “In many ways, it’s utilitarian even by today’s standards and uses,” said Jeffers. “Like the sugar box, I think there’s a little bit of romanticism of the original use, and the form is pleasing.”
Among the best of the folk art was a folding stool made by Hosea Hayden (1820-1897) of Liberty, Indiana, that sold for $5400 (est. $1500/3000). Hayden spent his entire life in Union County in east-central Indiana, and making portable seating became a hobby in his later years, with known examples dated from 1883 to 1896. Carved folky illustrations and text are hallmarks of his work, with topics ranging from Biblical events to social issues, including women’s rights, of which Hayden was a proponent.
The chair offered by Garth’s was signed and dated January 31, 1891. The top of the seat was scratch carved with three smaller animals, possibly dogs, nipping at a donkey with its front legs on the chest of a man prone on the ground and its rear legs in the air. Also shown was a scene of a man chasing a woman. Lettering above and below the images read, “Beast without burden / Naturalized Citizens of U.S.A.” The underside of the seat pictured a woman, child, and mustached man. The legs featured images of birds and a cat in a tree, and the text “Orthodox wavering, on the wane / Females liberty, on the gane [sic].” The handle was carved in the form of an animal head and had traces of original red paint. The piece is 31" high when folded.
Although Garth’s has sold a handful of Hayden’s stools over the years, Jeffers noted the scarcity of the works. “I’m not sure Hayden was the most prolific guy to begin with, and they usually are held for a long, long time,” he said.
Other folk art included an Ohio farm drawing by E.L. Ott from the early 20th century. Selling for $4320 (est. $1500/2500), the work in ink wash on heavy stock showed a farm, orchards, animals, horse-drawn wagons, and an automobile. Measuring 24" x 32", it was signed “E.L. Ott. Akron. O.”
“One of the variables I’m not sure we talk enough about with these large-scale works is condition. This was in great condition, and people pay up for it. It was very clean,” Jeffers said. The crisp nature of the artwork also came into play with what Jeffers called the “precision” of the artist, having “just the right union of folksy and academic.”
Also drawing considerable interest among the art was a painting of the steamer Mary McDonald by Matthew Hastings (1834-1919), oil on canvas, signed, 20" x 30", that sold for $6240 (est. $1000/2000). With an American flag flying from the stern, the sidewheeler, which primarily plied the Missouri River, is shown prominently, with a keelboat and a steamer at opposite sides in the background.
Other items of note included an American coin silver ladle marked for Bancroft Woodcock (1732-1817) of Wilmington, Delaware. Dating to the second half of the 18th century, the ladle sold for $5000 (est. $200/400). The maker and age both came into play with the bidding. “Colonial silver with that kind of pedigree is fairly scarce,” Jeffers said.
Regional material included a long rifle by John Vincent of Washington County, Ohio, that sold for $4320 (est. $900/1200). The 55" long gun had a tiger maple full stock with a .40-caliber octagonal barrel. There were engravings to the patchbox, toeplate, and sideplate, and a silver-inlaid cheekplate was engraved with an eight-pointed star. The percussion lock was marked for Truett Bros. & Co. (Philadelphia, 1847-61), and the barrel was stamped “J. Vincent.”
“It was of nice overall proportion and balance,” said Jeffers. “This is clearly a category where regional interest or regionalism drives collecting, likely beyond any other factor.”
The best of the furniture was a grain-painted Pennsylvania two-piece stepback cupboard in pine with a molded cornice, the glazed upper doors flanking a stationary three-pane panel, mid-19th century, 86" high x 63½" wide x 21" deep, that sold for $4320 (est. $2000/4000).
Brown furniture included a Chippendale tall chest in tiger maple, second half of the 18th century, having six drawers and a fan carving, 57" high x 39" wide, that brought $3960 (est. $1500/2500).
For more information, phone Garth’s at (740) 362-4771 or visit (www.garths.com).
Originally published in the March 2020 issue of Maine Antique Digest. © 2020 Maine Antique Digest