God Speed the Plough

“Let the wealthy and great, roll in splendor and state
I envy them not, I declare it.
I eat my own lamb
chickens and ham,
I shear my own fleece
And I wear it.
I Have lawns, I have bowers,
I have fruits, I have flowers,
The lark is my morning alarmer.
So jolly boys now,
Here’s God Speed the Plough,
Long life and success to the farmer”

Today I am sharing one of my favorite items from our Pipe Creek Farm collection. We furnish the farm with utilitarian (yet artsy) items that have a function rooted in the history and purpose of the surrounding land. And yes we have the occasional Pumpkin- as many people refer to the historic house as Pumpkin Patch Farm. Most items are from the Baltimore-York corridor and the harvesting of hay, corn and cattle are the main staples for revenue here- so when we found this pattern of china, Farmers Arms, by Burgess & Leigh, we got very excited.

The 19th C china was actually made in England with its original saying coming from “God speed the plough, ‘a wish for success or prosperity,’ was originally a phrase in a 15th-century song sung by ploughmen on Plough Monday, the first Monday after Twelfth Day, which is the end of the Christmas holidays, when farm laborers returned to the plough. On this day ploughmen customarily went from door to door dressed in white and drawing a plough, soliciting ‘plough money’ to spend in celebration.

Chaucer’s Monks Tale penned in the 16th C. “God spede þe plouȝ: & sende us kǫꝛne Inolk” turned it into a short, satirical complaint, listing the various indolent members of the clergy who will demand a share of the ploughman’s harvest, rendering his work futile. But the

But today, the charming bright colors and the simple hard working life depicted are reminders of an era when families worked together, planted and harvested together- and we yearn for that.

We were lucky in that our large charger (13.5″) and several accompanying plates were sold during the William K. du Pont Collection sale this year from his home Rocky Hill. Because the plates were in varying stages of distress and because the buyers gathered for these auctions were looking for Americana, we were able to purchase these plates. And it is important to note that the plates in order to be collectable must still be readable and that is an issue with pottery this old. I would not recommend using them but they do make a fabulous Place Plate, or cabinet plate.

We offer a set of 8 on Chairish and on our website, which are the best of the lot and we are happy to retain the more worn ones and the Charger here at the farm.


At the Auction: Alert- May 26

Lighting, Lamps, Decorative Items & Curious Objects

“Live” Online Auction – Thursday, May 26, 2022 – 5PM

There is going to be a great opportunity to buy unique objects from a single collector. A ten year collection by Fred Parks, picker to and for some of the best antique dealers and decorators in the US. This is a once in a lifetime sale. The auction will occur at Richard Opfer Auctioneering in Baltimore- Live Online. Unlike most auctions however, Mr Parks is making himself available to discuss items in the sale and to allow you to view them both in person and on line. Facetime previews will be available – text 443-928-9910

We took a tour of the auction as it is being set up for a Preview and saw some great pieces including several sets of antique iron outdoor dining chairs and a fabulous American cast iron bench. The bench is so good….I’m not showing it to you…you wanna bid against me…you look it up!

Mr Parks is famous for his Lighting collection but there is so much more!

We have bought several items from Mr Parks that always turned out to be great finds for us. And I am a particular fan of his eye for Mid Century Modern pottery.

Online bidding takes place via LIVEAUCTIONEERS and  bid.opferauction.com on May 26 at 5 pm sharp.

But there will be a PREVIEW at 10921 York Road, Cockeysville, Maryland  21030 on the 25th all day and it will be a great time to really see the size and patina of all the pieces and to ask Mr Parks and Mr Opfer any questions. Come in the late afternoon or early evening and join fellow antique lovers for a libation.

For home owners, restauranteurs, architects and dealers- I highly recommend checking out this unique one of a kind sale. so we’ll see you….at the auction.

Classic Blue Willow China 

Learn more about the classic design found in kitchens, diners and castles around the world

One of my first introductions into the the antique world was a fascination with my Aunt Jill’s blue willow. She told me the story of the star crossed lovers and told me that most blue willow had three men on a bridge but if you find a piece with only two men, it was very valuable. NOPE!

But the more you know, the more you appreciate. So here is the really interesting and true story of Blue Willow. It begins in the late 13th Century during the reign of Kubla Khan known as the Yuan Dynasty. A trader from Persia, now Iran brings pottery with deep cobalt blue into China and it is admired but they are unable to copy it because they do not possess the cobalt ore necessary. And so one of the first global chain import routes is formed. China will go on to import Cobalt from other regions as well because in the mountains near Jingdezhen and the unique clay found there coupled with the dragon kilns that snake up the mountain, the Chinese have learned to fire white almost iridescent pottery. The blue-and-white porcelains of the Yuan, Ming, and Qing dynasties, made in Jingdezhen, China, represent the highest level of the ancient porcelain making handicraft in terms of both quality and volume and represent one of the most influential aspects of human cultural heritage known. 

In Europe, people are eating off of pewter or wood plates. If they have crockery at all it is made with a lead glaze which gives it a dark grey brown finish. Small windows let in little light and dining experience even in daylight was a dark. This changed in 1602 when the Dutch East India Company, the world’s first formally listed public company was formed to bring spices to market from the East. When the traders saw this light yet sturdy pottery they took a chance on making their fortunes in the auction houses of Amsterdam, where goods from the unloading ships would be put up for sale immediately upon their arrival. From 1602 to 1682, at least 16 million pieces of Chinese export porcelain were transported around the world by Dutch merchant ships. Eventually word of the mad crushes at the auction houses made it to England and traders were dispatched to Amsterdam to see what it was all about. Meanwhile the ceramicists of Holland were busy trying to copy the imported goods. They at first copied the Chinese designs and then created their own. This pottery is known as Delft- but this is a story for a different day..

The English tried and failed to produce the white china but succeeded in the 18th C. By then the British fever for white china and moreover blue and white was at a fever pitch. People waited a year for an imported punch bowl or tureen. Prices were through the roof and families actually bankrupted themselves buying the latest status symbol. The English potteries were losing out to importers. And so in 1780 Thomas Turner designed what he imagined a Chinese scene to look like complete with fret work fences, pagodas, boats, bridges, pavilions, willow trees and swallows. It would be engraved onto a copper plate and finally not produced in his factory but at the factory of Josiah Spode. Even Thomas Minton got in on the fever first managing Spode then striking out on his own.

The Blue Willow design by Thomas Turner was eventually produced in over 800 factories throughout England. The process is not a simple one. First the white pottery must be almost flawless. Then the design is engraved onto a copper plate which is heated and the ink applied and scraped off repeatedly while hot to fill the fine lines of the this complicated design. Then paper was applied to create the “transfer”. It was cooled and put through a press and delicately removed and cut until the design could be fitted on anything from a plate to a cup. The transfer is then placed on the pottery- with precision and lined up then hand ground with soft soap and pestle to create the design. This required thousands of artisans across England and it was the care and precision that created the differences in price and quantity even in this subset. Fine intricate patterns were desired by some while other makers preferred the flow blue look- using more cobalt which tended to spread during firing because to them it was more reminiscent of the original Chinese examples.

At some point, in order to stand out in “catalogues” and department stores which were now where you went to buy your wares- the story of Chang, the humble accountant and Koong-se the daughter of the wealthy merchant who plans to marry her off to a wealthy colleague comes to play. The story is apocryphal, it does not exist in any Chinese literature and was purely Victorian hype. It has stayed the test of time as you can still find you-tube videos of antique collectors eagerly telling the tale of the pottery.

The pottery also was changed by human events. Potteries shut down during war as men were needed to fight and some skilled workers did not return. Cobalt was restricted as it was needed for the war effort. Manufacturing became expensive and was eventually exported to Japan where the designs were changed whether there was permission to do so or not. The Americans made it as well. In fact my personal favorite besides the Ridgway version, is that of Buffalo Pottery who made it as a give away to accompany their soap products.

So in our search for the origins of Blue Willow we have seen the first global import market between Persia and China, the development of the largest public company in the world in the Dutch East India Company, and the creation of the knock-off and its changes over time. It tells the story of the times, the dark living in Europe- transformed by light and delicacy. The mad crush of trade and importation on Europe. I think seeing the Blue Willow collections in this light makes them even more attractive and I personally love the differences when collecting. You can see the imperfections from the transfer process, even some funky design decisions made with left over transfer paper. You can tell the pieces that were meant to make large complicated collections and those that were given away with soap. And you can see the cultural differences between those who relished their ability to produce a clean design and those who preferred the blurry line in a tribute to its origins.

Today, the Blue Willow is iconic in both England and the US. Aunt Bee used Blue Willow on The Andy Griffith Show. Even the Munsters sat down to dinner on Blue Willow. William Randolph Hearst had a special version made for his castle in San Simeon, CA with a gold rim. In the 1930’s, a grill plate or divided plate was made with three sections. It was sold to diners and restaurants and was the inspiration known as the Blue Plate Special, a well balanced yet affordable meal.

So to some the value is in the history. To some it is in the wide array of sizes, hues and objects that can be collected. For many, it is the chinoiserie design. There are even those of us that are comforted by its familiarity. Nothing is better in my house than a Blue Willow platter heaped high with fried chicken.

There is a lot of Blue Willow changing hands. It is very easy to compile a set of any size if you can mix and match. But if you are looking to match and not mix- the value goes up. 12 Ridgway plates or Allerton all made the same year and same size might be had for 300-350.00. Coffee pots, creamers, sugars, platters and covered dishes are harder to find and therefor more valuable and can go for over 600.00. Some collectors buy hundreds of pieces at 5.00 each and hope to make a score. Some people buy what they need to make up what they don’t have in another transfer pattern because one of the great benefits to Blue Willow is that is blends with other blue and white but is also a great stand alone. Price guides are available but I like to check out either Ruby Lane or the even better, Chairish where today there were 366 Blue Willow items including a meat strainer and a pate bowl. Covet!

this description is slightly off but since its not true….do we need to correct it? good enough!

At the Auction: An Old Friend Comes Home

At another time in my life, I had the opportunity to see in person the opening of Thomas Pheasant’s very first showing for Baker Furniture in High Point. I did not have anything else to do and the hustle and bustle of High Point was over whelming for a small decor store owner. So as I took a walk through the town away from selling and ordering: I passed a small store front and in the window were two small slipper chairs I had sol to the decorator Charlotte Moss from my Georgetown store. The little storefront was for an upholsterer and furniture maker outside of town and this was his idea of an advertisement.

I got the address and off I went until I found a factory- no AC and no heat and all the employees were busy stuffing, sewing, tacking – all with cigarettes hanging from their lips. I found the owner and that day I started my own line of furniture. Man, I am naïve!

I did not do a lot but I had about a dozen pieces and some weren’t terrible. My favorite was the Gore Dean sofa and chairs. I loved the sleek style of the back and somehow I got lucky and the pitch of the chair made it easy to raise yourself without pushing out of the chair even with a down wrapped cushion. I sold a good number and kept one set from which I could take orders.

One day, designers Glenn Pushelberg and George Yabu happened into our Georgetown store and ordered enough to finish the room below for the St Regis in Mexico City. Our Delano chairs in the forefront and our coordinating sofas done in celery green velvet for the area right before the bar.

We had some orders and the lounge chair was particularly popular in a nubby white thick, loose weave bright white fabric that you can see in our Baltimore store below. Eventually I was going to take my samples home…and I would have that chapter of my life forever. That was until the flood came in 2008 during a hurricane.

My store was carted off by FEMA to the trash pile, Bernie Madoff hit and designers stopped ordering and High Point factories closed including mine- along with my patterns…I thought I may never see my chairs again…..

But you know what happened !!! Yes, last week at the all too wonderful and always terrific weekly sale at Weschler’s in Rockville, Md….I saw what had to be my chair.. Albeit, in a different pattern- maybe a bit overstuffed now- but one look at the feet below the now skirted bottom and I knew. Baby had come home!

leave it? or rebuild to the original? A softer cushion, straighter back and skirtless….

Which is why I always look through every auction…just look sometimes…because you will never know what memories you might unlock or what you’ll find…….at the auction.

Collecting Copper Pots and Pans

When decor, collecting and use mix happily…

There are many options for cookware. Personally, I could not make it without my cast iron but there are so many options all with their plusses – enameled, cast iron, stainless steel, carbon steel, aluminum, nonstick, and copper – and they all have vastly different uses and price points.

The cost of copper cookware can be intimidating but lets face it – its fabulous on display. And when you consider the decor value plus its use value- its the hands down winner. Here are some things you need to know and consider. I sell several Brands of copper that are contemporary. But we also have a good sized collection of antique and vintage copper.

Because its easy to control its temperature, copper pots are perfect for melting chocolate and candy makingBecause its easy to control its temperature, copper pots are perfect for melting chocolate — Photo courtesy of Getty Images

Because of its heat conducting properties, copper heats up quickly and evenly. So you don’t have to worry about hot spots. Copper cookware is great for when you need to control and maintain consistent temperatures. This means you don’t have to use as much heat to get it cooking. If a recipe calls for medium-high heat with your regular cookware, use medium-low for your copper.

Copper is not great for high heat. It is best for delicate proteins such as fish and sauces which is why it has traditionally been preferred by professional chefs.

Julia Child infamously stocked her kitchens in Cambridge and Provence with the wares of Dehillerin in Paris.

Copper is a reactive metal. In most cases, that means it will have a chemical reaction to what you’re cooking so most copper pots and pans are lined with a non-reactive metal like tin or stainless steel.

Buying new ? You will be getting the heavy duty stainless steel which can stand up to a lot of abuse from utensils. If you’re purchasing older, used copper pieces, you will almost certainly be dealing with tin. Tin gives your copper a great, non-stick surface to work with, but the melting point is around 450 °F’ so cook low.

Tin is also easily scratched and chipped with metal utensils and harsh scrub brushes. It’s best to use wooden spoons and softer utensils when working with tin-lined copper cookware. On the other hand, older pieces have a fabulous luster so finding a great item that needs to be re-tinned is just fine. You can go to https://eastcoasttinning.com/ and calculate the cost of re-tinning and polishing a pot. As long as it doesn’t have any holes in it, it’s relatively easy to return your copper cookware to its former glory- if it is tin lined. Stainless Steel that is damaged must sadly remain a No Buy. When antiquing remember tin will discolor unevenly sort of in patches and be discolored. Stainless will have concentric marks where applied. Some people eye the rim, if you see silver on the rim, it can be assumed to be tin or nickel.

So where someone else may pass up a pot in need of tinning- you can find a treasure that will last you a lifetime.

Martha Stewart’s Collection- mixing antique, vintage and new

Keep that Shine…

A bit of lemon juice or vinegar can revive your copper’s shine or some salt and half a lemon (but do not scour! gently polish and let the acidity do the work) or some Bar Keepers Friend and a soft cloth. I am a salt and lemon girl but Spider (the chief polisher) swears by Wright’s Copper Paste. But before you polish, you must clean. So soap and water, a good soak sometimes makes the work easier.

Antique Mauviel on display and you can visit the factory outlet on your way to Mont St Michel

If you want an eco friendly version you can try

DIY Copper and Brass Cleaner

  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 3 tablespoons salt
  • Enough white vinegar to form a loose paste

If you suspect that the piece is lacquered, test a part of the bottom with a bit of nail polish remover to see if there is a thin layer on there. It needs to be removed before you cook in it. It was common in the 1960’s to lacquer the items for display use so that polishing was unnecessary.

and lastly, you may wish to forgo polishing all together. “In the case of copper, a patinated surface is becoming harder and more thermally efficient,” says Mac Kohler of Brooklyn Copper Cookware. “Professional chefs cultivate a good, dark patina as one does bloom on wine grapes; it improves what the thing is supposed to do.”

See our copper collection on Chairish

New Copper can be found on DGD Home Catalog

New from Mainly Baskets: the Vineyard Collection

“Let us offer you the quality and design of all that is natural from Mainly Baskets

to bring warmth and texture into your world that will last for decades to come.”

Shop Mainly Baskets

Cleaning, restoring and preserving iron garden ornaments

There are many methods…this is how we do it at Parterre Garden Shop

Whether you like your garden ornaments, hitching posts or urns to be Rusty Crusty or Pristine, there are still some valuable hints to be them around and in service longer.

The first step is to identify the age, purpose and value of the items you want to restore. A new but rusty urn can take a good deal more abuse from cleaners and abrasives than you would subject a 17th C Italian urn to. 10,000 dollar garden sculptures should probably not be blasted. You get where I am going…

Brand new iron garden ornaments have an overly rusted appearance which can be fixed with a good clean and museum wax

Because in the end it all comes down to abrasives and chemicals when you want to clean. It also is important to know the function of the item. Urns that are on your porch, should not be allowed to rust through sending scarring stains down brick and cement that you cannot get out. Do you empty your urns each year or use urn caps ? If not you will want to clean, and treat those urns every two years so they can withstand the wet soil that will eventually erode them. A statue should be cleaned once a year and professionally restored. etc. My rule of thumb is easy- if its good- treat it well. If its temporary, do your best.

The faded paint on these urns should be preserved and protected. It makes them entirely unique

At Parterre Gardens Shop, we use any common detergent. If we are outside in the garden or driveway, we use Dawn as it is environmentally neutral. (You can also use vinegar and water). We scrub a new urn or hitching post with a rag and water with a good amount of detergent. We then rinse it and towel dry sitting it in the sun to dry completely. If the urn is made of parts-then we dry each separately to ensure we have no standing water in any crevices.

Note: This also applies to painted iron- urns, jockeys, even fences and trellises. You have to wash them because what is in the air and earth can be very chemically active.

Once you have removed pollutants, you can scrub with a wire brush for furniture and more meaty iron and a nylon brush for painted pieces, ornate urns and statuary. There should be no flaking paint or powdery rust when you finish. For furniture that is being repainted, you should now sand it down.

Repairs are now made at this point, handles soldered back on, chips repaired, holes puttied up etc.

Once you are clean, dry and non rusty–you can proceed to the Rust Inhibitor. There are many on the market. For furniture- you must prime coat with a rust inhibitor like Rustoleum. For intricate expensive ornamental items, we use a museum wax or Briwax (our choice).

Now dont think for a minute that I dont like that rusty look of old iron. I just dont want active deterioration. So cutting off oxygen to the item is essential. That means air and water. So at Parterre, we are a huge fan of Krylon matte finish- every two years on everything from garden gates to flower urns to soap dishes. Painted surfaces especially will last with the Krylon matte which you apply as soon as you are happy with your restoration.

Note: If you are looking to add that turquoise blue to a pair of urns or want to give a red hue to your hitching post, Briwax can be mixed with everyday paints (water based!). This will create a thin coat of color. The more you apply the heavier the color and it can be rubbed down for a subtle look and removed altogether with more clear Briwax.

Eat Your History: George Washington

The man, the history and the Hoecakes…

Get me those hoecakes!

Lets test our knowledge…

(1.) Where was George Washington born?

(2.) In what armies did he serve?

(3.) Name two myths about George…..

An extraordinary figure in American history and unusually tall at 6′ 3, Washington was also an ordinary man. He loved cricket and fox-hunting, moved gracefully around a ballroom, was a Freemason and possibly a Deist. His favorite foods were pineapples, Brazil nuts (hence the missing teeth from cracking the shells) and Saturday dinners of salt cod. He possessed a wry sense of humor and, like his wife Martha, tried to resist the vanities of public life. Washington could also explode into a rage when vexed in war or political battles. Loyal almost to a fault, he could also be unforgiving and cold when crossed. When Republican Thomas Jefferson admitted to slandering the president in an anonymous newspaper article for his support of Federalist Alexander Hamilton’s policies, Washington cut Jefferson out of his life. On at least one occasion, Washington’s stubbornness inspired John Adams to refer to him as Old Muttonhead.

(1.) On February 22, 1732, George Washington is born in Westmoreland County, Virginia , the first of six children of Augustine and Mary Ball Washington. Washington rose to eminence on his own merit. His first job at age 17 was as a surveyor in the Shenandoah Valley. (2.) In 1752, he joined the British army and served as a lieutenant in the French and Indian War. When the war ended, Washington left the army and returned home to Virginia to manage Mount Vernon, the plantation he had recently inherited upon the death of his older brother. 

George Washington’s legacy has endured a long process of untangling myth from fact. (3.) The famous cherry tree incident never occurred, nor did Washington have wooden teeth, though he did have only one tooth by the time he became president and wore a series of dentures.

In addition to advocating civilian control over the military, Washington possessed that intangible quality of a born leader and had earned a reputation for coolness under fire. During the French and Indian campaign, he dodged bullets, had horses shot out from under him and was even taken prisoner by the French. Part of his success in the Revolutionary War was due to his shrewd use of what was then considered the ungentlemanly, but effective, tactic of guerrilla warfare, in which stealthy hit-and-run attacks foiled British armies. In 1775, the Continental Congress unanimously chose Washington to command the new Continental Army. In 1789, in part because of the leadership skills he displayed during the war, the Continental Congress elected Washington as the first American president.

Bad Teeth and Lots of Virginia Corn: Washington’s HoeCakes

Made with Corn Meal and served with Collard Greens

Southern Hoe Cakes (HoeCakes) are little cornmeal pancakes that are wonderfully crispy around the edges.


  • ▢1 cup self-rising flour
  • ▢1 cup self-rising cornmeal mix
  • ▢1 tablespoon sugar
  • ▢1/4 teaspoon salt
  • ▢3/4 cup buttermilk
  • ▢2 large eggs
  • ▢1/2 cup water
  • ▢1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • ▢1/4 cup bacon drippings
  • ▢butter


  1. Combine flour, cornmeal mix, sugar, and salt in a medium bowl.
  2. Measure buttermilk in a glass measuring cup. Add eggs to measuring cup and whisk egg and buttermilk together. Pour into bowl with flour mixture.
  3. Pour water and vegetable oil into bowl and mix everything together.
  4. Heat a cast iron pan or nonstick skillet or griddle. Add bacon grease.
  5. Pour batter into pan to form hoe cakes, using about 2 tablespoons of batter for each one. I use a 1/4 cup measuring cup and fill it about half way.
  6. Cook until bubbles form on top, flip over and cook until bottom is golden and crispy on the edges.
  7. Serve with butter.

Although HoeCakes are now present on breakfast menus in the South in elite establishments- traditionally they were served as a main meal with collard greens. Collard Greens can be switched out now with blanched spinach or even an a la King. In our home, they are a traditional accompaniment to fried chicken.

This is a great way to introduce children to history and a fun way to celebrate the Holiday. If you are still in the mood for history…a good movie.

A scene from the Musical 1776….describes the situation that Washington found himself in…

Carrot cake for Dessert

Collecting a Troubling Past: Black Americana

Syl Turner is the owner of the Broad Street Antique Mall in Chamblee, Ga., and has thousands of African American artifacts on display. Turner also operates the BlackHistoryStore.com where one can view a collection that encompasses the full spectrum of African American life. Several years ago he penned what I have thought to be the best article on collecting Black Anericana that I have read. I keep it in my desk and I share it here with you in celebration of Black History Month. And we recommend a trip to Chamblee if you are ever down Georgia way.

Rare candid photograph of Booker T. Washington by
African American photographer Arthur P. Bedou, $4,950.

“As an antique dealer, I buy and sell a wide variety of collectibles. Over time, however, I have come to specialize in Black Americana. My focus on this type of collecting stems from my interest in history, and because of the fact that for years, it has been neglected in the field of American collectibles.

However, interest in Black Americana has grown dramatically in recent years. You can trace the rise in demand for anything of an African American nature to Alex Haley’s book Roots and to celebrities such as Oprah Winfrey, Bill Cosby, Whoopi Goldberg and Spike Lee who have been amassing huge collections. Average Americans who appreciate the historical and cultural significance of this type of memorabilia are also acquiring quality pieces. This increased awareness has led to an escalation of prices of just about anything relating to African American history.

Miniature wool rug made by
Dr. George Washington Carver, ca.1915, $9,500.

Black Americana collecting encompasses a wide variety of items. Many collectors focus on ephemera, which often features stereotypical caricatures and other offensive illustrations. These depictions can be found on old postcards, sheet music, calendars, food labels, posters, puzzles and other early lithographs, all of which have become highly sought after. It seems that the more despicable the representation, the greater its value. For example, there are some very offensive postcards that originally sold for a penny and now sell for $200. A real photo postcard of an horrific image, such as a lynching, can sell for $500 or more. Currier & Ives lithographs depicting African Americans are examples of racial imaging that has become very collectible. An original 1887 Currier & Ives print such as “Darktown Banjo Class” will sell up to $300, depending on condition.

Black Americans were often pictured in early advertising, and many of these representations can be just as offensive. Such images can be found on tobacco tins, foodstuffs, soaps, sewing items, toys and just about any marketable product.
African Americans were also depicted in home décor items such as ash trays, wall plaques, ceramic novelties, cookie jars, salt and pepper shakers, cast iron banks, etc. Most people agree that African Americans have been the most exploited ethnic group in the history of this country.

A 1936 autographed photograph of
Bill “Mr. Bojangles” Robinson performing
his famous hat dance valued at $1,295.

Without a doubt, most of these items are offensive, and some might question if they should be collected at all. They are collectible, in as much as they represent a record of our past. Simply ignoring the past would be disrespectful to those who lived through those difficult times. Although these reminders can be very painful, they can also be an inspiring testimony to the strength of the African American spirit in the face of discrimination and inequality.

There is another entirely different type of Black Americana collecting. It is the collection that focuses on the struggle to overcome slavery and on the positive achievements of African Americans. This field of collecting is often overlooked by antique dealers and collectors. This includes slave documents, broadsides, letters, newspapers, books, autographs, prints and photographs. Items relating to abolitionists like Nat Turner, Harriet Tubman, Sojourner Truth and Frederick Douglass are extremely desirable.

A Slave’s Petition for Freedom, 1790, Frederick County, Md., $1,695.

With a little searching, important artifacts pertaining to great Black leaders such as Booker T. Washington, George Washington Carver, Carter G. Woodson, W.E.B Dubois, Adam Clayton Powell, Marcus Garvey and Martin Luther King, Jr. can be found. The realm of historical artifacts encompasses items from the time of slavery through the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s. It also includes military heroes such as those who served in all Black regiments during the Civil War, the Buffalo Soldiers fighting on the western frontier, the Harlem Hell Fighters of WWI, and the Tuskegee airmen of WWII.

Scenes in the Life of Harriet Tubman by Sarah Bradford, 1869 First Edition, $3,000.

It must be noted, however, that photographs and documents need not be of famous people to have value. For example, an 1850’s 1\6 plate ambrotype of an unidentified black woman, (probably a valued servant) in a thermoplastic case in excellent condition is priced at $600, while an 1844 Alabama Plantation Slave appraisal complete with descriptions and values of 28 slaves is priced at $1,295.

Memorabilia associated to sports heroes such as Jack Johnson, the first black heavyweight champion, or Jessie Owens, the first American in the history of track and field to win four gold medals in a single Olympic Games, or Jackie Robinson who integrated major league baseball, all command high prices. In addition to these well-known champions, there are numerous individuals whose names may not be commonly recognized, but lead the way for others to follow. Athletes like Isaac Murphy, arguably the greatest jockey of all time, who won 628 of his 1,412 starts including three Kentucky Derbies. Or Howard Drew, the first in a long line of world class African American sprinters to hold the title of “The World’s Fastest Human”. Other sports pioneers include John Shippen, the first Black professional golfer, and Wendell Scott, the first African American to win a major NASCAR race.

Negro League baseball memorabilia is also in great demand. Items relating to great teams such as the Kansas City Monarchs, the Birmingham Blacks or the Homestead Giants, and their star players command high prices. Players like Buck O’Neil and Josh Gibson who hit more than 900 home runs in his 15-year career; and Satchel Paige, perhaps the greatest pitcher in the history of baseball; and the Cool Papa Bell who could do it all ­ hit, field and run the bases. Demand for Negro League photographs, tickets, broadsides, autographs, uniforms, bats, balls, programs, pennants, etc. is very strong.

A vast array of African American Entertainment memorabilia is on the market.
Sheet music, records, photographs, autographs, playbills and programs of famous performers such as Louis Armstrong, W.C. Handy, Duke Ellington, Billy Holiday, Josephine Baker, Bessie Smith, Marian Anderson, Hattie McDaniel, Bill Robinson, Ethel Waters, Cab Calloway, and Ella Fitzgerald to name a few, are very collectible.
There are, of course, many lesser known performers who were true pioneers in the entertainment field. For example, in 1892 “Black Patti” Sissieretta Jones was the first Black singer to perform at the White House. Legendary vaudeville comedian Bert Williams is considered the Jackie Robinson of Broadway ­ he broke the color barrier in 1910 starring in Ziegfeld’s Follies. Caterina Jarboro was the first Black to perform with an American opera company and was also the first Black Prima Donna, singing at the Metropolitan Opera House in 1934. In 1929, Clarence Muse became the first African-American to “star” in a film, and he appeared in more than 140 movies during his 50-year career. Maestro Everett Lee was the first Black to conduct a major symphony orchestra. Noble Sissle and Eubie Blake wrote the Broadway Musical Shuffle Along in 1921, and it was the first Broadway musical ever to be written and directed by African Americans.

Indeed, a listing of 19th and early 20th century accomplished African Americans would be very long. This list would also include scholars, entrepreneurs, writers, artists, politicians and spiritual leaders. All had to overcome racial barriers, Jim Crow laws and the indignity of segregation. Even seemingly commonplace items associated with these accomplished African Americans will often tell the story of their struggle and the obstacles they overcame, better than any history book.

Program for “The Installation of Martin Luther King Jr. as Pastor of Dexter Avenue Baptist Church”, October 31st, 1954, $3,000.

Any discussion on Black Americana collecting would not be complete without mentioning reproductions and fantasy items. Regrettably, the increase in demand for Black Americana collectibles has led to a proliferation of bogus items. Fortunately, most reproductions are easily recognizable, although some dishonest resellers attempt to age an object to make it appear old. Some fakes, however, can be more difficult to detect. For instance, some people will take an old alarm clock, and with the use of a computer graphics program, design a new dial face using an old racial image. The clock is old, the dial face looks old, and so buyers are easily fooled and will pay hundreds of dollars for a worthless forgery.

I stated earlier that I can defend collecting genuine Black Americana, even blatantly racial items, because of their historical significance. I cannot make that same argument about the demeaning items that are being produced today, even if they are identified as reproductions. Because these items are not genuine, I find them to be repulsive. In my view, it is only acceptable to collect the genuine articles that were produced during a time in our history, when as appalling as it may be, many in our country recognized and accepted such stereotypical images.”

Paris Porcelain Partial Serving Set then- Perfect for Two now

Use and History come together in Old Paris Porcelain

Old Paris Porcelain is very broadly defined as porcelain made by about 30 artisans in and around Paris from the late 18th century to the 1870’s. It is also called Vieux Paris. It was first beloved by Marie Antoinette (particularly the “cornflower” painted patterns) and utilized by only the wealthiest of French aristocrats. But the French Revolution forced makers of luxury items to regain financial stability by producing lower-priced goods made available to a wider public.
At the same time, the French were also celebrating anything Democratic and had taken a shine to the American Ambassador, Thomas Jefferson. In this light, these serving items featuring Corn, Squash and Figs as decoration take on the history as well as the taste of the times.
Jefferson’s purchases of porcelain tableware in France were numerous, but little is known about the design or manufacture of the lost and presumably destroyed works. We do know that he made it home with several of the cornflower painted items normally reserved for the King….he WAS clever!
In the collection of William Dupont who was a prominent collector of Delaware Valley antiques it serves as a nod to those times which did include imports and would have been thought quite unique with the finials supporting local harvests. Though these items are made in France, they would have been much sought after in the 1800’s.
Interestingly, these three serving dishes would have been part of a much larger service but today are the perfect size for a complete service for 2 – in America.
Covered Vegetable: 9 x 8 x 7
Butter Cooler: 6 x 6 x 5
Sauce Tureen: 6 x 3.5 x 4

FAQ’s : What is the difference between a Salesman’s Sample, a miniature and a toy?

It can be easy to confuse a true salesman sample from toys or children’s items especially if you are looking at Ebay where every small item is a salesman’s sample. But the proof is in the detail. If you look for great detail and specific aspects of the product you may well find the coveted sample. Salesman samples in metal usually have prominent company logos. Most salesman samples were made to 1/6 scale or 1/8 scale when compared to the actual product. (1/6 scale 1 inch is equivalent to 6 inches in full size and 240 inches long would be 30 inches in 1/8 scale.)

So id we find an item- we have but do the math.

I always say that everything before Andy Warhol was utilitarian. By this I mean that before we turned tomato soup into art, we made things for a reason. If you put yourself in the place of the consumer or maker- you can usually intuit why it was made. A small chair made for a child is going to be able to withstand a beating no matter how fancy- so weight so it does not tip over, lower seat height, arms usually low to hold them in and sturdy materials. For a doll, the maker would not use arms or if he did, they would be high to support the dolls arms and hold it up, it can be light weight and more in proportion to a real chair. In other words- good for display- not use. A miniature is going to be exactly to scale. And what would you need if you were a Salesman on the road in the late 19th C.

First you would want your customers to take you seriously and for you not to appear to be selling toys -so your samples would be lovely and beautifully finished. They would be perfectly to scale using the blueprints of the manufacturer and in scale, too would be the fabric. It would be an object that would not lend itself to play.

So when we go to sites that sell salesman samples of primitive or rustic furniture; it flies in the face of the purpose of a sample from a manufacturer. Not to say that furniture makers might not make a small version for sale as a decoration or toy- they might but they would be just that and you can see it in the details.

The example above of the Hoosier Cabinet shows working components in the exact materials as the original. A woman could see the flour sifter and the roll tops working. The examples below show the sturdy, weighty and low chair designed for a toddler, rustic toys to be played with and the perfect miniatures of furniture that would be available for order. We can also see the doll chairs that while lovely, would not be appropriate for a child and if blown up to 6 times the scale would not be in proportion.

Just In…

in 16 or 19 inch diameters

Our round rattan serving and ottoman trays with glass inserts will instantly add a gorgeous touch to any room of your home. Adding this tray to your décor brings both decorative and functional style with a 5 mm glass insert to protect the tray in heavy use environments.

Perfect to organize your coasters and remotes, set a table, serve drinks, or just add a new elegant touch. Products are handmade and each piece is unique therefore slight variations and imperfections exist.

  • 5mm Glass Insert Included
  • Hand Woven by Local Artisans from Burmese Rattan
  • Natural and Sustainable Product
  • Wipe Clean with Damp Cloth
  • Made in Myanmar

I use this on my Study table to keep my topiaries organized and from staining my table. In summer it becomes a drinks tray and bar on the porch. Great for ottomans as well.

$125 for the 19 inch

$107 for the 16 inch


at the Auction: a quick story

In an otherwise dull sale this week (usually full of great decorative things) Weschlers had for sale a “Chinese Export Type Porcelain And Carved Wood Standish”. It sold for 400.00 plus the 20% buyers premium.

Out of place in a weekly sale in my opinion this lovely French chinoiserie coromandel standish was very special. The auction house made special note of a signature in the right corner…

Had someone scratched their name into the inkwell as they sat at the desk? More than likely the reason for the auction house to bring it to your attention. But look closely at the period behind the the J and you can see that it matches the brush strokes of the decoration. Indeed J O Wilson was a painter of china and objets and became famous enough that his signature became valuable.

a Limoges cup painted and signed by J O Wilson in 1920

Properly restored the standish should be as nice as this one offered on 1st bibs $2250.00 now marked down to $950.00 also signed by J O Wilson, described by the seller as French 1860.

I dont know too many artisans in France in 1860 named Wilson and there was a J O Wilson in Boston Mass at this time who was known for electroplating or gilding metal. But a signed limoges cup from 1920 tells us that a J O Wilson was in France brush in hand. HMMM. In any case, The inkwell from Weschlers will be fabulous and the one on 1st Dibs in my opinion is well to under priced. A good clue to age is the chinese porcelain inkwells. I myself think these are both later, maybe 1890-1920 copies of the ormolu versions made popular in France in the 1860’s. Still just as fabulous and more easily used than the grandiose 1860 versions.

We were left paddle in our lap…..at the Auction.

at the Auction…Baltimore young collector opportunity

Alex Copper Auctioneers has put together a  Art Collector Discovery Sale: Featuring Indigenous Art and where I do not normally encourage people to check out an auction where I will be a bidder, I am going to break tradition and encourage anyone interested in being or adding to a collection to check out this diverse auction. They claim it has something for every level of collector and for certain it has some great things for those of us who like to be a little different.

FULANI BOY IN TRADITIONAL DRESS, PHOTOGRAPH Printed by Greatbigcanvas.com, sight size: 24 x 36 in., framed.

This piece is a decorator’s dream. Though there is no attribution to the photographer and the fact that it is done by a photo enlarging service which makes it’s value purely decorative- it is a killer piece and a great size for a young couple or an apartment dweller. The estimate is 200-400 in my opinion exceeds its resale value but is under its decorative value so that is what someone should fairly expect to pay. Alex Cooper does charge a 23% buyers premium which needs to be taken into consideration.

NAVAJO TWO GREY HILLS RUG 2nd quarter, 20th century; 5’2″ X 3’8″.

Several rugs are highly desirable and would be excellent in contemporary settings. Their estimates are perhaps low and I would expect them to top those by two but still worth the price for a terrific look.

For me, it is the baskets that steal the show. Although small and not as decoratively useful as I would like, together they are a terrific collection.

The Mid Century and more traditional art has some sleepers as well. I will forgo discussion of the item I plan to get a bid in on and focus on this beauty by PAUL REBEYROLLE probably from his 1970 publication.

Color lithograph, ed. 11/75, signed lr, sight size: 18 x 25 in., framed.

Estimated from 100-200, the winner of this item should be very happy if successful. And for those who might be more daring are two works by the well known ceramicist LORI EHRLICH KATZ which are mounted as wall hangings are are decidedly undervalued in the estimate. They are well worth the trip to Alex Cooper on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, 10:00am – 4:00pm to have a look in person.

because you never know what you might find if you are a collector….at the Auction.

check them out here but do see the items in person if possible.