DELAWARE, Ohio – The combination of “antiques, camaraderie, tradition, and plain, old fun” was touted as the focus of Garth’s Auctions’ Annual Labor Day Americana sale held Sept. 4-5, 2009, in Delaware, Ohio. Once the bidders gathered and viewed the array of material featuring paintings of American Indians, a few cowboys, and a collection of historic firearms, the two-day event was propelled from “plain, old fun” to a virtual showdown among savvy buyers. The fire powered bidding was underscored by strong sale attendance, a large quantity of absentee bids, the “live” online bidding, as well as packed phone lines all leading to a gross sale total of nearly $800,000 including buyer’s premium.
Illustrated on the front cover of the color catalog, an oil painting by California artist, Frank Tenney Johnson (1874-1939) attracted the most phone bid requests of the weekend with 14 lines reserved for the lot that led off the Saturday morning session. Johnson has long been recognized for his dynamic depictions of the West and his works are in high demand.
As such, the excitement on the faces of the braves in the painting were reflected in the mood of bidders competing for this painting both in the room and by phone as it opened on the floor before selling to a phone bidder speaking with Vice-President and Auctioneer Amelia Jeffers. The hammer price was an outstanding $196,250 and Jeffers commented that while research is still in progress, “that price likely makes it among the top 30 paintings sold at auction by the artist.”
Titled Navajo Horse Race on the stretcher, the 26 1/2-inch by 32 1/2-inch oil on canvas was signed and dated 1927 in the lower left. The painting was consigned by a longtime collector from Detroit who inherited it from his grandfather. The outstanding provenance also indicated that the grandfather had purchased the painting directly from the artist.
Generally, portraits comprised the group of other hotly contested paintings with the most desired depicting naval officer Oliver Hazard Perry. Shown seated before a red drape and a ship flying the American flag in the background, the bidding sailed to a halt at $7,931 – more than triple the high estimate. Other paintings of interest included a portrait by William Aiken Walker. The 18 1/2-inch by 12 1/2-inch oil on board showed an older male slave balancing a basket of cotton on his head and standing in the field of cotton and it hammered down at $8,519.
A colorful 1898 portrait of an Ohio farm by Ohio artist Rudolf Tschudi, which retained a bird’s eye maple frame, depicted a prosperous farm with orchards and white picket fence and made double the high estimate achieving $3,290. An unsigned family portrait of three children with their cat fell within estimate at $3,055.
Guns were also a huge part of the auction gross. With the initial portion of a Southern collection of firearms and edged weapons carrying a pre-auction estimate of approximately $50,000-$70,000, the start of this section of the sale was greatly anticipated. A wheelock blunderbuss started things off with a bang selling for $5,405. A flintlock fowler stamped “J. Tarrett Warranted” at $2,938 and a rare breech loading pistol stamped “C. Sharps & Co’s Rifle Works, Phila., PA” at $3,290 soon followed.
Two lots, each of four European swords dating to the 19th century or earlier, made $3,525 and $3,055. The three top guns lots in the end were a Smith & Wesson Schofield’s patent revolver, S/N 9066, for $16,450, a Colt single action .38 caliber revolver, S/N 165122, for $32,900, and the top lot at $34,075 for a Smith & Wesson model 3 Russian second model .44 caliber revolver, S/N 42974.
Grossing approximately $170,000 and building on the response to part one of this firearms collection from the South, Garth’s will be offering more pieces from the same fine collection in a specialty sale Oct. 31.
Another indication of growing optimism in the market were the stronger results on some of the average furniture. A reverse-serpentine Chippendale chest of drawers attributed to Massachusetts made of cherry and pine reached $5,288. Two early 18th century New England William and Mary chests on frame drew heavy bidding before settling at sale prices of $3,408 and $4,818.
A one-piece, 4-door corner cupboard with red wash sold for $2,350. A pair of simple, unadorned mahogany veneered knife boxes still retained their interior inserts selling for $1,763. A Pennsylvania Hepplewhite tall case clock with inlaid tympanum and French feet had imperfections and an estimate of $2,000-$4,000, but it sold for $4,935.
A more spectacular Pennsylvania pillar and scroll clock with a broken-arch pediment, unusual Black Forest movement, and original polychrome dial, painted tin tablet and grungy surface more than doubled its estimate selling for $8,519.
Small tends to be better in the furniture market at present, so combine that thought with nice curly maple and there is no second guessing why a miniature Empire chest with fan inlaid drawers and stencil decorated pilasters cruised past its high estimate stopping at $8,519.
An ornately carved Italian carved rocking armchair was made for the Columbian Exposition of 1892 with lion arm supports and both mythological and American Indian female figures which pushed the hammer price to $7,344.
A collection of over 40 samplers captivated a number of bidders throughout the day. Illustrated on the back cover of the catalog, a colorful 1836 New York sampler adorned with an impressive blue and white basket overflowing with grapes and roses beneath a verse sold for $4,230.
Another New York sampler from Albany County with a 1830 house on a fenced, green lawn with tress made $3,643. An important New Hampshire sampler dated 1796 achieved $4,818.
With 32 pieces selling for three figures and 12 reaching four figures, the highlight was an American sampler attributed to Maine reaching $9,400. With sets of alphabets over a large basket of flowers flanked by large birds perched on trees resting on a green lawn, the research indicated the maker, Evelina S. Gilman, hailed from Waldo County, Maine.
Among the miscellaneous decorative accessories sold a few standouts should be noted. A Santa form papier mache mold carved out of hardwood may have had a few chips and cracks, but the rarity cast a spell evoking a final bid of $3,055 against an estimate of $300-$400.
A 19th century one-piece, blue painted stepback cupboard from the Jerico Tavern of Bainbridge, N.Y., may have had a scrubbed surface, but the unusual form with ten small drawers flanking four shelves over a 2-door base inspired bids up to a sale price of $5,640.
Similarly selling at $3,055 was a painted American double-sided game board with checkerboard on one side and five playing cards flanked by green and yellow decoration on the other.
A set of four McKinney & Hall prints of American Indians confounded some audience members when they sold for $4,700. An 18-inch wide cast-iron, double-sided trade sign in the form of a pair of eyeglasses with the eyes gazing out from the frames was sold with a tambourine painted with a lighthouse, but the bidders were likely just ogling the trade sign when the lot sold for $4,994.