Great finds in Ohio

It was hard to believe it was a winter day. No snow on the ground, temperature in the 50s, and the sun shining brightly in Lebanon, Ohio, the weekend of Jan. 21-22 for the Lebanon Antiques Show. The setting, at Bowman Primary School on State Route 123 and Hart Road, was ideal for a show of this size — 70 dealers.

Both dealers and buyers were happy with the location and layout of the show, and expressed appreciation that this long-running twice-a-year event has found a permanent home at the school. Since first- and second-graders have few afterschool and Friday night sports events, the primary school building should prove to be ideal for scheduling future antiques shows that require Friday night setup, such as this one.

While the beautiful weather may have brought out more shoppers, veterans who buy here believe it is the show’s reputation for quality — and finding “good stuff” yet in Ohio — that keeps them coming back.

The show is put on by the Warren County Historical Society and Museum, and managed by Joan Townsend, with help from her husband, Gene Jestice.

“This show is one of our main fund-raisers,” said Shirley Ray, director of the historical society and museum. “The January show is usually the largest success of the year for fund-raising. We had 2,000 visitors this year, and were able to offer 70 vendors, and reached our goal. I enjoyed it quite a bit. It was very tempting to spend my paycheck on antiques,” she said.

The society and museum have hosted the show since its inception. “The show is entirely our event,” said Ray. “We host the show, volunteers take care of admission, and the show manager schedules the antiques dealers. It’s a natural fit for us, to preserve artifacts, to make contacts in the public ground, and it’s good for research. (The show is) one of the best-kept secrets. We had no idea it was such a wonderful resource.”

Townsend was equally satisfied with the weekend’s events. “The Historical Society was really, really pleased,” she said. “I think the dealers seemed pleased and upbeat, and it was a good start to the year. It was a nice gate, I was happy. It was even busy on Sunday.”

The Historical Society has a broad agenda of positive changes on tap, some of which will take place yet this year and are mentioned in a separate article on this page. Those changes, and the arrival of Ray as director, whom Townsend describes as “forward thinking,” should prove to keep this event a viable outlet for quality antiques for years to come.

“In today’s world,” Townsend said, “for the antiques business, the effort of the society in this show is to maintain the old clientele of people who come to the show, and try to find new faces to take an interest in antiques.”

And Ray agrees, noting the expansion of the show, the addition of more areas of collecting, the expansion of the Russel Wright connection, and the need to bring in younger collectors are all part of their efforts moving forward. “It’s important to get (young collectors) connected to the mainstay of the field.”

The show itself was inviting and attractive as antiques shows go. With room-setting displays set up in the cafetorium and gymnasium areas, and booths down two hallways, there was plenty of room to shop. With two separate entrances to the show, a coat check, excellent food, a large parking area, and a bright and cheerful facility, this was a fun show to work. The school appeared to have been recently built, and left me envious of the first- and second-graders lucky enough to spend their days here.

The dealers on the floor brought a good variety — from The Ragman’s display, which leaves you wondering how he gets so much merchandise into a booth, to Don and Marta Orwig’s display of folk art, to the aesthetic beauty of John T. Roth’s American antiques, and the educational textile displays of Lynda Tomlinson.

Greg and Peggy Beckett of Cannonball Express Antiques, Cincinnati, Ohio, set up at this their first show since Greg’s folks, Cecil and Betty, retired at year end. “The crowd was exceptional,” Greg said in a post show interview. “We had a good show, and it seemed like all the other dealers I talked to had a good show.” The cherry apothecary, circa 1880, with original pulls was one of the many pieces of cherry furniture on display, several of which already had sold signs.

Robert Davis Antiques of West Virginia reported early sales on Saturday of a papier mache Easter card, “the best one I’ve had,” he said.

Gene Chute of Lebanon set up with a wonderful display of paintings, many of which had stand-out frames as well. One painting of particular note was an oil on canvas, Portrait of a Soldier, dated after 1885, with an indecipherable signature, for $1,200. After a brief discussion, Chute and I discovered we were both born in the same town, Dubuque, Iowa — it’s a small world.

Roland Dallaire of Brockway, Pa., had sales on Saturday of a Pembroke table and decoys. The Winchester Repeating Arms Co. double-sided advertising store display in fiberboard, which was sitting atop a Mahoning Valley Dutch cupboard, garnered lots of attention.

A great piece of American folk art was found in the display by John T. Roth American Antiques of Milan, Ohio — a hanging cupboard said to be from John Bell’s Shop in Waynesboro, Pa., circa 1830s. Bell was one of the most well-known Redware potters of his time. His family — father, brothers and sons — all carried on the family trade throughout the Shenandoah Valley area. The piece was dovetailed top and bottom, completely original including paint, iron latch and knob. There were drippings of magnesium and cobalt inside the cupboard. Upon closer inspection, the door revealed the figure of a face that resembled a face found on many pottery pieces of the era.

Shopping at the show with friends was antiques dealer Datha Doolin of Kentucky. “I missed the last two Lebanon shows, and while it wasn’t fantastic, it was better than I expected,” she said. “This show has always drawn a good crowd because Ohio is an older state and early, early stuff can still be found there — and there are some wonderful dealers there. I was pleased. I found some last-minute buys before going to Nashville.” (Doolin sets up at the Tailgate Antique Show in Nashville in February.) She also stressed the importance of the Lebanon show finding a permanent home at the primary school. “Consistency in the antiques business is a necessity — same time, same place,” she said.

The next Lebanon Antiques Show will be Oct. 7-8. For information, contact The Warren County Historical Society at (513) 932-1817, or visit