Gary Sullivan's Antique Clocks and Furniture Blog


Antique Clocks and Furniture

2014 recap blog
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I looked at our last blog over the weekend and I was embarrassed to see that it was posted over a year ago. Well that is certainly not due to lack of effort. 2014 was the busiest year I can remember. Now we are headed into 2015, which will be my 40th year in the antiques business. It seems fitting that I start by recapping 2014 and highlighting some of those things which have kept Matt and I too busy to blog. Then I promise to keep up with events and maybe sprinkle in some “best of” stories from the past 40 years.

The last blog was prior to the opening of an exhibit of Early American Musical clock that I curated at the Willard House and Clock Museum. The exhibit was a massive success. The clocks all played their music beautifully and it was impressive to see all these masterpieces together in one space. Thank you to all who participated. The catalogs are still available at the Willard House.

You can take a video tour of the exhibit here. The exhibit placed a spotlight on the project and on Musical Clocks in general, prompting the discovery of some missing and unknown examples. I have made great progress on the related book and have completed the manuscript. Matt and I have visited almost all of the clocks that will appear in the book, which promises to have nearly 400 illustrations. We are very excited to go to print and hope to be published by mid 2015.

I just recently had the privilege of visiting the extraordinary collections at The White House and the U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C. I was there to examine and photograph two clocks that will be in the book. An amazing Effingham Embree from New York is in the White House collection and a rare Thomas Harland from Norwich, Connecticut is at the Diplomatic Reception Rooms of the State Department. What a privilege to be up close to these important examples and to have the opportunity to view such significant collections of early American material culture.

I can’t believe I am doing this, but I have already begun my next research project. A year ago, I was asked by Patricia Kane, the Curator of American Decorative Arts at the Yale University Art Gallery to write a section on clocks for her forthcoming project. Pat has been compiling information for the Rhode Island Furniture Archive, which is a comprehensive catalog of all known examples of Rhode Island furniture. The culmination of this massive, multi-year project will be an exhibit and related catalogue. I am delighted to have the chance to work with such a talented and dedicated scholar and as Matt put it, “When Yale comes knocking, you let them in”. So currently, Pat and I have been making selections of noteworthy Rhode Island clocks to include in the catalogue and then I’m off to catalog them (in my spare time). Thankfully, Pat has already done much of the legwork. I am very excited, particularly since Rhode Island furniture is near and dear to me.

Last January was the first time in many years that I did not do a show in New York City during Americana Week. My focus on the Musical exhibit did not permit it. This was fortuitous because on January 1st, my 2-year-old golden retriever ran into me at full speed, breaking my leg just below the knee. I spent antiques week in a wheel chair. With Matt’s help, we managed to view each auction and attend the opening of the East Side show. Some of you may remember the major snowstorm that fell mid-week last year, which added to the drama. All and all it was great though, I got to slow down, look at everything and connect with many people.

A highlight of 2014 was examining a tall case clock for Historic Deerfield, with Deerfield President, Philip Zea. This important clock, which was being offered at Sotheby’s Auction in New York was made by Boston clockmaker, Aaron Willard and Dorchester, Massachusetts cabinetmaker, Stephen Badlam for Asa Stebbins, one of Deerfield’s wealthiest and most respected citizens. Stebbins purchased the clock around 1799, when he built a remarkable home, which is now part of Historic Deerfield and is open to the public. Phil was hoping to return the clock to its original home. I’ll save the details of that story for another blog. Hint, it has a happy ending.

After an invitation from Winterthur, Matt and I took a booth at the Delaware antique show for the first time. For years I had been encouraged by various colleagues to try the show. It was a complete success. The clientele who visit this show are enthusiastic and highly knowledgeable. The vast majority of the people visiting my booth knew exactly what they were looking at, so the conversations began at a much higher level. We sold great things and had our best show ever. We will absolutely be returning next year. Maine Antique Digest did a nice write-up of the show. Follow this link to view the article.

Well that’s a good start, not all that went on but I will fill in the details over the coming months. I promise.