Gary Sullivan's Antique Clocks and Furniture Blog


Antique Clocks and Furniture

The new website, one month since launch.
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Well, it has been just a little over a month since we launched our “new” website. I have been hard at work updating and creating new content and that all seems to be paying off. The site now has much richer and more interactive, searchable descriptions for our merchandise with far more images available. Among the improvements to this aspect, my favorite is the Related Items feature. This allows Gary and I to directly communicate which other items on the site pertain to one another. We can include items that are from the same region, similar in form or any criteria we choose. Most importantly, it offers visitors a quick means to learn about related items and compare the various forms.

This level of information is what the current Web requires and we are glad to be able to meet this demand. The site has a number of other great features, which provide useful and interesting content. The News & Media section and Gary's antique furniture blog gives us an opportunity to convey the interesting things that go on here on a daily basis. The world of the antique dealer continues to be exciting in many ways and these stories are now being related.

Our Research feature provides the same great free information but with a more slick and functional interface. Be sure to check out the interactive map in the Clockmakers section.

And last and certainly not least, is Service. Within this feature we have begun to create some “how-to” videos. Gary has been giving lectures and lessons on clocks, including care and maintenance, for some time. Just recently I have begun capturing some of them on video. Our maiden video discusses how to properly dismantle a tall case clock. This was no small feat. This procedure is something we each perform a dozen times a week without a second thought, but breaking that down into a clear and easily understood video took some preparation. We are steering the website toward a more video rich format. We plan to create a number of videos on various topics, even including descriptions of new merchandise. Please let us know of any ideas or requests that you have for videos, and we will try to incorporate them.

So all-in-all, the upgrade has been worth the work. Our site is now more relevant and content rich with plenty of room for expansion as the demands of the Web grow and change. Gary and I can better convey who we are, what we are doing and what we have to sell. And the ultimate answer, yes, site traffic is up quite a bit, thank you.

Marking the passing of Albert Sack
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As I sit here thumbing through Fine Points of Furniture by Albert Sack, researching a games table, it occurs to me just how often I turn to the many reference books created by Albert Sack. His recent death at 96 marks the end of the Sack Era of Americana, a century long period when the Sacks were king. From Israel Sack’s early days in Boston, to the dominance of the sack firm in New York during the second half of the century, the breadth of Early American material culture that passed through the Family is staggering. Any piece of furniture with a Sack provenance is just a little more saleable and in many cases a bit more valuable than those without. At least one antiques dealer even goes so far as to advertise that he is looking to buy objects that have previously been sold by the Sack firm. The contributions that Albert made to the scholarship of these objects that we so highly prize can not be measured. He was unquestionably the most prominent American antiques dealer in history. I for one, am most appreciative of his willingness to share his great knowledge with the rest of us.

Returning from Eugene Oregon Antiques Roadshow
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Waiting in Eugene, OR. for a delayed flight to San Francisco after doing the Roadshow on Saturday. Looks like I'll miss the flight back to Boston once again. If anyone is aware of a dependable airline, I would love to know about it.

I'm Happy to report that I had good success in Eugene. I appraised a superb tiger maple Chippendale Chest-on-chest, made in Massachusetts or RI, circa 1795-1800. It was in great condition, with a terrific old surface and nice Chippendale brasses. It's amazing how many important new England antiques have migrated to distant corners of the States. Look for it on PBS next year.

Eugene was the first city where I appraised furniture for the show and I really enjoyed it. Twelve hours of standing, examining one piece of furniture after another is tougher than I thought, but being part of the Roadshow is well worth it.

The American Antiques Show (TAAS) cancelled
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The American Antiques Show, held in New York during antiques week will no longer be the place to find us in January. In the midst of financial difficulties, The Folk Art Museum has chosen not to continue with the show that has come to be known as TAAS. The museum has turned the show over to The Art Fair Company, an organization that runs high end art shows. Under the new management, it apparently will be quite a different show. Karen DiSaia has done a great job of managing the show for the museum, but based on what I know about The Art Fair Company, I'm sure the new show will be terrific. Even though the name and ownership of the show will change, the Folk Art Museum will still benefit from the gala preview party. I'm looking forward to learning more about the show and the possibly of being an exhibitor.

I need help locating northern clocks sold in the south 200 years ago
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I am currently researching the adventures of Hanover, Massachusetts clockmaker John Bailey Jr. In the 1815 to 1825 period, he was making regular trips to the south (Murfreesborough and Edenton, NC.), where he would temporarily set up shop to sell and repair clocks. He actually advertised his services in the Edenton Gazette. To date, I have located 5 clocks that he sold in NC. They each bear the name of their original owner on the dial. I know that there are more out there, so all of you collectors and dealers in the south, please keep an eye out for clocks signed, John Bailey Jr. / Hanover.

This is pretty interesting new research and I know there is more to the story. So far, I know that Bailey was bartering his clocks for commodities such as corn, cotton and feathers. He placed clocks on consignment with agents in North Carolina and possibly Virginia. When they sold, he preferred to receive payment in the form of bartered merchandise, so he could make an additional profit on the trade. On one of his visits to NC, he decided at the last minute to make the return trip overland, but sent his tools ahead by boat. That vessel never made it to Boston and his clock making tools were lost at sea along with most of the worldly belongings of his young apprentice from Murfreesborough.

Appraiser’s Seminar hosted by Brunk Auctions.
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I just spent two days in Ashville, NC for a Appraiser's Seminar hosted by Brunk Auctions. What a terrific idea, for Brunk to host an event where appraisers earn continuing education credits from The International Society of Appraisers while attending lectures by experts in various specialties. I was there to speak on methods of evaluating and appraising antique clocks. I didn't prepare very much, had about 15 slides in a Power Point presentation, and was a little nervous that I wouldn't have enough material to consume the hour and 15 minute slot. My fears were all for not, as I ended up rushing to include critical information after speaking for an hour and a half. Brunk had several clocks that are slated to be sold in future auctions, so I had plenty of material to refer to. I brought some examples of reverse painted glass panels from banjo clocks and a few clock dials (faces) to illustrate original verses restored paint.

The questions from this group of experienced appraisers were excellent. They kept me on my toes. The turnout was quite good, I think there were over 100 attendees. Hopefully some of them will contact me if they run across an important clock that needs appraising.

A busy day spent at the Brimfield, Mass flea market today
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Spent the day at the Brimfield, MA flea market today. Crowds were pretty heavy despite the cloudy/drizzly day. Didn't make any great discoveries this time, although I have done very well at various times in the past. For anyone who has not had the cultural experience of visiting Brimfield during one of their events, it is a must see. Held three separate weeks per year, the entire town is taken over by thousands of antique and junk dealers, collectors and enthusiasts. The people watching is terrific and you might even find a hidden treasure.

Ultra rare John Goddard games table acquired.
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We bought a superb Newport demi-lune games table at CRN Auctions last weekend. It was made in Newport, RI., and has a wonderful cabriole front leg with carved ball & claw foot and carving on the knee. The table dates to the 1760s and has the classic Newport style undercut carved talons on the Chippendale front foot and Queen Anne style feet in the rear. The semi-circular top flips open to reveal a storage well for the card-playing supplies of the day. The table came from a Newport family in the 1970s and was handled by noteworthy antiques dealer John Walton. It has been in a private collection ever since. A friend who happens to be a scholar on Goddard-Townsend Newport furniture remembers the house it came from and will be sharing the family history with me.

A nice bonus was the discovery that the table is illustrated in Master Craftsmen of Newport by Michael Moses. He associates the table with the workshop of John Goddard. Who am I to argue?

Winterthur Museum Furniture Forum, 2011.
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I'm heading home from this year's furniture forum, which was terrific. The subject of the conference was the furniture of southeastern Pennsylvania. It was accompanied by a new book entitled Paint, Pattern & People: Furniture of Southeastern Pennsylvania, 1725-1850. The book and exhibit represent several years of research and hard work by Winterthur Senior Curator of Furniture, Wendy Cooper and her assistant, Lisa Minardi. For the exhibit, they assembled an amazing collection of 18th and early 19th century furnishings. The exhibit includes some super Pennsylvania German pieces with excellent original painted decoration. I was thrilled to see that the exhibit also included quite a few tall case clocks.

With the maker's name and location often inscribed on the clock dials (faces), they are excellent documents in determining local cabinet making styles. When researching regional furniture, we don't have the luxury of reading the place of origin right on the face, as we can with clocks.

Gary has received recognition for 30 years with the NAWCC
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I just received a gift in the mail from the National Association of Watch and Clock Collectors (N.A.W.C.C.). They sent a cute tie tac in the form of a bracket clock, for 30 years of membership. Where did 30 years go? Yikes! Those were the days. Excellent clocks used to turn up at the regional meetings and great things could be found at the National Convention each year. If only I had the knowledge and capitol to take advantage of those opportunities. “I could have been a contender!. I used to look up to the clock experts, the ones who had the knowledge to buy a great clock. It didn’t take anywhere near as much money as it does now to buy something great.