Ask Antique Trader: Popular presidential print worth $50

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Can you help me with this picture? It is Abraham Lincoln, James Garfield and William McKinley. It tells when they were born and the day they were assassinated plus their last works. I am getting old and need to downsize. People tell me this is an important picture. Can you help me? — E.D., Patrick Springs, Va.

Your antique is a real slice of American history which recalls three of our nation’s bleakest moments. Charles Gustrine and Company of Chicago published your lithograph, “Our Martyrs,” in 1901. At that time three American presidents had been assassinated starting with Abraham Lincoln in 1865, followed by James Garfield in 1881 and William McKinley in 1901. And even more tragically, those three victims would not be the last. Lithographs such as yours are always in demand with history aficionados.

What is especially appealing (and wonderfully upbeat for such sad circumstances) is that it lists the accomplishments of each gentleman plus the charming depiction of the Capital Building in Washington, D.C. In July 2009, Music City Auctions in Nashville, Tenn., sold “Our Martyrs” (with frame) for $45 and in March 2010, Du Mouchelle’s in Detroit auctioned the framed lithograph for $100. If you were to get from $75 to $100, I would be happy for you. Have you ever considered donating it to a local historical society? I bet its members would be thrilled.

Enclosed are photos of a chair. I would like to know more about it and if it has any value. — J.O., Louisville, Ky.

Your comely chair with its smallish seat delightfully recalls the late 1800s when comfort was not a priority but stylishness certainly was. Your example is pure 1880s or 1890s and was probably intended for a solarium with similar pieces or perhaps in a library when a poetry reading required extra seating. Can’t you just envision a beloved ancestor sipping tea or a mint julep while enthroned upon it? Your antique appears to be maple or oak and was factory made, possibly in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and could have been purchased in the 1890s at Stewart Dry Goods in downtown Louisville.

The ball and stick motif of the chairs crest recalls fret work of the Eastlake style used in doorways and porches of houses built in the late 1800s. The chair’s light colored wood and cane seat really make it appealing for modern homes and it serves exactly the same purpose as in the old days when extra seating is required. One of my Loomisms (my antique mantras) is that the best bargain in antiques are chairs and this generalization still rings true with your beauty. What a deal at $50 to $75 for antique over 100 years old.

Hope this letter finds you in the best of health. About four weeks ago I wrote you a letter about an oil painting. That was letter number two. I never got an answer. The painting was done by Alfred Sisley (1839-1899). The picture size is 27 1/2 inches by 19 1/2 inches. I would like to know if you think it has much value. Thanks to you in this manner. — M.B., Robersonville, N.C.

Thank you for your tenacity. Your picture really captures the magic of the French painter, Alfred Sisley. However, my appraiser eye tells me that your picture is a fine copy of the master’s work. I could be wrong but here are my reasons. The frame dating from the 1960s or 1970s is far too modern for the picture and through the years I have seen reproductions of works by stellar artists which are so beautiful that only experts could verify it was not the real McCoy. If your picture is a copy, it would fetch at auction around $75.

In fairness I have not seen your picture in person; so here is another suggestion. Since you live about two hours from Raleigh, visit the North Carolina Museum of Art there and ask a curator to look at your picture. The curator can not do evaluations but can certainly tell you if it is genuine. Wait until November so you can also see the exhibition of one of America’s greatest artists. “American Chronicles: The Art of Norman Rockwell,” which starts Nov. 11, 2010, and runs until Jan. 30, 2011, at the Art Museum in Raleigh ( If you find out that your picture is genuine, I shall be most happy. Write or email me right away and we shall discuss your next step.

Frank Farmer Loomis IV is an antiques and fine arts appraiser, lecturer, journalist and host of “Keep Antiquing!” a weekly radio show on WMKV radio in Cincinnati, Ohio, ( He is the author of Antiques 101 and Secrets to Affordable Antiques in addition to hosting “Antiques, History & Loomis” on Anderson Community Television, broadcast on Cincinnati Public Television.


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