Gary Sullivan's Antique Clocks and Furniture Blog


Antique Clocks and Furniture

The joy of discovery
The joy of discovery

Discovering and exploring the virtues of a newly acquired antique is the great joy of this industry. Examining the aesthetics of a piece and comparing it against the ideal of the form is an important and subjective aspect of an evaluation. In contrast, investigating the history of a piece to establish a firm provenance contributes in a more concrete manner and lends a more tangible value. Unraveling this history defines a piece beyond its dimensional form, but as a specific portion of history. This is always a gratifying effort, yet once in a great while a discovery is made that elevates a piece to historical significance.

I had the great pleasure of linking a tall clock to its original owner who was a major figure in the early anti-slavery movement. The clock was made by the well-known Quaker clockmaker John Bailey Jr. who had gained notoriety in New Bedford for his strong anti-slavery views. Bailey produced the clock for a fellow abolitionist John Anderson Collins of New Bedford. The clock is a monumental example in a rich Classical style and the oversized dial is marked “Warranted for John Collins”.

During the second quarter of the 19th Century, Collins was a primary and radical member of the anti-slavery movement who figures prominently into the inception of the cause. As the general agent of the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society, he worked with the likes of William Lloyd Garrison, organizing lectures, editing the monthly periodical and gathering support. He and Garrison attended a convention in Nantucket, at which the recently free Frederick Douglas lectured for the first time about his life as a slave. Impressed by his skill and convictions, Collins urged Douglas to become a full-time lecturer for the organization. Douglass accepted and soon became on of the most prominent orators and leaders of the Abolitionist Movement. This alone can be considered the most meaningful contribution Collins provided to this momentous cause.

A true radical, Collins shifted his focus from abolition to more sweeping reforms. He viewed slavery as a symptom of the larger malady of a Capitalist society. He followed these convictions and in 1843 established the Society for Universal Inquiry and Reform for which he purchased a large farm in Skaneateles, New York. This upstate location became the site of his utopian social experiment. The society was founded on an egalitarian communist principle. Although it was an economically viable community, the experiment would eventually succumb to internal struggles. Collins is undoubtedly one of the amazing characters that have contributed to the greatness of our Nation.

What a story. The history of these pieces can be so captivating. Remember this is a blog about discovering provenance. It leaves me breathless to be in the presence of such significance. My advice is to carefully document any histories that are tied to your possessions. Also bring them to the attention of your heirs. With a provenance an antique has more than just three dimensions.

The challenges of selling antiques online
The challenges of selling antiques online

Doing business on the web brings a whole new set of issues that we would prefer not to have to deal with in the antiques and fine art business.   We had a problem a few years ago when a predatory internet company created a mirror of our web site and was making money by redirecting our visitors to other sites where they could buy $12.00 clocks and junk furniture. It took an attorney to fix that problem.

We have at various times, discovered images of our merchandise in use on other sites, without our permission. I certainly don’t mind our images being used for scholarly purposes, as long as we are credited. It is well known that images are frequently stolen off of Ebay and used by scammers pretending to be offering those items for sale.

Now another group has hijacked several images from our inventory and as of today, are “offering” those items for sale on 3 different bogus websites. I will include the web addresses of the offending sites here in the hopes that anyone considering making a purchase from one of them will search the internet for background information and discover the scam. is one site. is another and the third is Beware of these web sites!

We have prided ourselves in offering the best possible, professional images on our web site. Unfortunately, we will be looking at water marking all of the images, which is not only a distraction, but a it creates more work. We are all constantly annoyed by email spam and occasionally you hear of a friend having their account hacked. This behavior is too easily perpetrated and it flies under the radar of our law enforcement. I think the world needs some internet police.

New Hampshire Antiques week well attended
New Hampshire Antiques week well attended

I just spent two days attending the Antiques Week festivities in New Hampshire. I’m happy to report that I bought well at the three shows that I attended. The New Hampshire Antique Dealer’s Show is always a worthwhile venue. I thought I was arriving plenty early when I got in line at 8:50 yesterday morning for a 10:00 opening. I was wrong! There were already 214 people in line ahead of me. I prepaid my entrance fee and was given sticker number 215. I chatted across the tape with Derin Bray who was rewarded with number 64 for arriving at 7:30 AM. I have to imagine that the very first people in line arrived in the middle of the night! I like antiques, but I like my sleep better. By 10:00, the lobby was full and the line went out the door and up the block (see photo of the crowd in the lobby).

Peter Sawyer had advertised that he was bringing a terrific Boston block front chest, so I went directly to his booth. I was the first to see it and after a few minutes of examination, I made the purchase. I haven’t seen such a clean Boston block front in a long time. The brass is original and it has a great old surface. Peter sold it over 20 years ago and just reacquired it in time for the show. I’ll probably put it away and bring it to New York in January. By mentioning it here, I don’t think I’m giving away any trade secrets to the 3 or 4 people who read my antiques blog.

The other two shows were good as well. Frank Gaglio’s Mid Week Antiques Show has always been a dependable source for me and this year was no different. I was very impressed with Karen Disaia’s new show, “Antiques in Manchester: The Collector’s Fair”. It was was a terrific show, with an impressive roster of dealers. I bought objects from three of them, including an unsigned lyre clock and a nice Queen Anne Boston wing chair.

Bonnie & Clyde pocket watch offered at auction
Bonnie & Clyde pocket watch offered at auction

On a quiet May morning in 1934, the most wanted bank-robbing gangster Clyde Barrow and his equally notorious accomplice Bonnie Parker fatally drove their car into an FBI ambush. The posse of lawmen fired over 130 bullets at the cornered couple, and when the smoke cleared, Bonnie and Clyde were dead.

Barrow was carrying his Elgin pocket watch when he met his violent end. That watch along with several other effects from the couple is being auctioned September 30 in New Hampshire and may bring between $50,000 and $100,000. The watch is an Elgin 17-jewel, ¾-plate, 16-size, open-face, 10K, gold-filled pocket watch, in its original Wadsworth screw-back and bezel case. It has stem winding and setting, with a railroad-style double-sunk dial, bold Arabic numerals, and bold blued-steel hands.

In the 1930s the criminal deeds of Bonnie and Clyde were celebrated in word and song. Their crime spree between 1931 and 1934 resulted in the robbery of over a dozen banks and numerous rural stores and gas stations in several states in the Midwest and the South. Thirteen killings have been blamed on the gang.

Watch Description: Elgin National Watch Company, 17 jewel ¾ plate, 16 size open-face 10K gold-filled pocket watch, in original Wadsworth screwed-back and bezel case, movement serial #28683536, case serial #6476773, stem winding and setting, with railroad style impressed double-sunk dial, bold Arabic numerals and bold blued-steel hands. The watch is accompanied by an affidavit from Clyde Barrow’s sister attesting to the watch having been worn by her brother at the time of his death, and returned to her father with Barrow’s personal effects. The watch was carried by the father in his son’s honor until the time of the father’s death, when it became property of the sister. The watch was produced by Elgin circa 1925.

Condition Report: In good running order, the movement condition fine overall, the dial with various hairline fractures that have darkened with age. Such fractures can be the result of natural stresses in the porcelain that finally resolve themselves into cracks, from impact or compression stress on the dial during its lifetime, or a combination of both factors. The watch currently has no crystal, but some watchmakers will have available stocks of old beveled glass crystals with mild curvature that the watch would have had originally. The hands are in fine blue with some light oxide and rubbing. The case has a few light soft dents to the case-back in particular, not an uncommon feature to watches that have been used over the years, but suggesting occasional rough handling or environment. The inside case-back has a few tiny scratched numerals or codes that are watchmakers’ repair marks for servicing, any of which could have been undertaken before or after Barrow’s death. The crown, bow and pendant are rather worn from winding and setting, but the case body is still quite fresh and without brassing, indicating some care in handling. Gold filled cases, unlike plated cases, are constructed from gold sheet fused to brass sheet and then extruded, resulting in usually one tenth of the weight of the case being solid 10 karat gold. Detail pictures were shot outside in natural daylight, and show some tree and sky reflection. The coloring of all plates, components and case are normal.  This story is courtesy of the NAWCC