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Bittersweet red Shaker Sister's pine cupboard rises to $177K

Willis Henry's 32nd annual Shaker auction saw two pieces top the $175K mark, along with more than 500 lots changing hands during the sale.

PITTSFIELD, Ma. -- “It felt just like the old days,” and “Wow, Shaker’s Back”, were some of the comments heard after the Willis Henry Auction of Shaker antiques held at


Pine, ochre stain, poplar drawer bottoms, hardwood pulls, pencil signed on underside of bottom drawer “Made by James V. Calver, April 1862” (born 1839; joined New Lebanon Shakers 1850 – left 1871), New Lebanon, NY, 40 1/4” h, 27 5/8” w, 18 1/2” d. (Photo courtesy Willis Henry)

Hancock Shaker Village on Saturday, September 6. The auction was held under a large tent with the famous Shaker Round Barn in the background, and the Hancock herd of cows just over the fence. This year marked the 32nd year of Willis Henry Auction's Shaker auction.

Many of the top Shaker collectors were in attendance as were about 250-300 other folks, and prices climbed higher and higher. The top prize of the day, the cover lot (lot 50 in the finely illustrated catalog) went to a determined couple from Pennsylvania, bidding through their friend and Shaker specialist John Keith Russell. They were able to take home the iconic Shaker three-drawer washstand in original ochre stained finish. With direct family provenance from the Celeste Koster collection, and exhibited in the “gold standard” Whitney Museum Shaker Exhibit of 1986, it also had the distinction of being signed and dated, along with a written biblical inscription. The high price of the day was achieved at $206,500 (including the premium).

Another top price was achieved in a Sister’s pine cupboard over drawers (lot 80), in bittersweet red painted finish, with a peg rail inside for bonnets and matching pegs on the upper sides. What made this piece so unique was a hidden door key fitted under the baseboard of the chest. A determined bidder on the phone paid $177,000 (with the buyer’s premium).

A rare Enfield, NH bench (lot 85) in the original dark stained finish with 24 finely tapered spindles was another top seller. It was featured in the Shaker exhibit at the 1991 Philadelphia Antiques Show. Originally in the Hazel and Robert Belfit collection, and then in the Ed Clerk collection, it brought $118,000 (with BP).

Many small things brought big prices as well. A garden spade (lot 42) once in the collection of James Bissland, who purchased it in the 1940’s from the North Family New Lebanon Shakers, and then purchased by Flo and Howard Fertig in the 1982 Willis Henry Auction held in Pittsfield, brought $10,030 (with BP). It was signed “F.W. Evans” on the handle. He was the most famous Shaker Elder at New Lebanon in the late 19th and early 20th century. A small ash turned and carved water dipper (lot 131) in original

wood dipper

Ash, original cherry red painted finish, very thinly turned bowl with extended handle with crook for hanging (all one piece), worn patina on handle and on right upper edge where a right-handed Shaker would sip, exceptional condition and rare color, 2 1/2″ h, 6″ l, 3 3/8″ dia bowl.

red stain from the Hancock Shaker community ended up going to a premier Pennsylvania collection for $17,700 (with BP); and a tiger maple, dovetailed sewing box with an interior dovetailed tray fitted with 15 original red spools (lot 73) brought $17,700 (with BP). Also bringing $17,700 was a super blue milk pail that was owned by the late Ed Clerk. It had been made at Canterbury, NH in the mid-19th century and was originally in the landmark Jordan Shaker Auction of 1968 as Lot 56, where it brought $37.50.

A dark green lift lid storage chest (lot 106) from Alfred or Sabbathday Lake had two small drawers on the side and brought a strong $23,600 (with BP). A rocking chair in original red (lot 125) from the Harvard, MA Shaker community with the original seat, (not in A-1 condition but still intact) was the earliest chair in the auction. The seat still had traces of the original yellow paint and was sought after by some of the top Shaker dealers and collectors – it ended up at $16,520 (with BP).

For more information about Willis Henry Auctions and upcoming auctions visit or call 781-834-7774.

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