Antiques Blog

Wilton’s Militia: Fighting America’s Battles the Old-Fashioned Way

Each April the states of Maine and Massachusetts celebrate Patriot’s Day to commemorate the battles and skirmishes that began our fight for independence on April 19, 1775. That “shot heard around the world” mobilized local militia throughout the colonies and today brings to mind the forgotten, often nameless farmers and shopkeepers who banded together in order to protect their local communities. Continue reading “Wilton’s Militia: Fighting America’s Battles the Old-Fashioned Way” »

What’s Cooking at Plimoth Plantation

New England was home to the original Thanksgiving Day feast. That first celebration after the harvest of 1621 probably wasn’t about turkey, Aunt Sadie’s sweet potatoes, or time-honored recipes like creamed peas with onions, cranberry sauce, and pumpkin pie. So, I wondered as I drove to Plimoth Plantation, just what kind of cooking was done in early seventeenth-century Massachusetts? The aroma of frying onions drifting out of one of the houses partly answered my question and whetted my appetite for what lay ahead. Continue reading “What’s Cooking at Plimoth Plantation” »

Victorian Cameos

Throughout history royal figures have set the tone for fashion. Queen Elizabeth I enjoyed wearing cameos, and Catherine the Great maintained an impressive collection of them. The enthusiasm for cameos in the French court of Napoleon I saw a liberal use of carved gems as jewelry. Continue reading “Victorian Cameos” »

The William Cullen Bryant Homestead – Cummington, Massachusetts

William Cullen Bryant’s Homestead is nestled in the sunlit hills of Cummington, Massachusetts overlooking the Westfield River Valley. A staunch conservationist, Bryant was integrally linked to its farmland, forests, and streams, which inspired the great majority of his poetry. Today, the Homestead is a property of the Trustees of the Reservations, under whose stewardship visitors can see the home life of a man often described as America’s first poet of genius. Continue reading “The William Cullen Bryant Homestead – Cummington, Massachusetts” »

The Timeless Designs of William Morris

Textiles play a vital role in decorating our homes. How different a house would look without rugs, quilts, pillows, and gorgeous fabrics on chairs, couches, ottomans, and hanging from windows. It was William Morris who brought an expanded understanding of how textiles could beautify a home’s interior. Morris’ designs were a dramatic contrast to the stuffy and sometimes overwrought heaviness of Victorian interiors, and today they remain as vivid and fashionable as when he first produced them. Morris famously advised, “Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.” Continue reading “The Timeless Designs of William Morris” »

The State Department Rooms

One of the most exceptional collections of Americana is, in fact, one of the least known. Yet, the Collection of the Diplomatic Reception Rooms of the United States Department of State in Washington, DC retains some of the finest examples of American paintings, sculpture, decorative arts, and furniture from the golden age of American art dating approximately 1750 to 1825. The Collection was formed in only 30 years by Clement Congor, the founding curator, and cost the taxpayers of this country nothing. Every artifact and every dollar for acquisition was provided through the generosity of individual and family donors. Continue reading “The State Department Rooms” »

The Mark Twain House – A house with soul in Hartford, Connecticut

Hartford’s historic Asylum Hill section is a priority destination for those who follow the paths of literary genius, for here is the location of author Mark Twain’s primary residence from 1874 to 1891. These were the years of his greatest productivity, when he wrote The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, and A Yankee in King Arthur’s Court. Continue reading “The Mark Twain House – A house with soul in Hartford, Connecticut” »

The Boston Tea Party

By the middle of the 17th century, tea began to arrive in the port of London aboard the East India Company’s ships. The exotic beverage was costly and in the beginning, enjoyed only by the upper classes. At first, the China Drink or Tee, was taken as a major social occasion in the drawing rooms of the wealthy, and was accompanied by fine Chinese porcelains, genteel manners, and rich silver serving pieces. However, within a hundred years, the prices were gradually reduced, and tea became the drink of the masses both at home and in the Colonies. Continue reading “The Boston Tea Party” »

The BIG Price Guides: How Good Are They?

In the storehouses of our collected past, the answers to two key questions separate the treasure from the junk: What is it? and What is it worth? For decades, amidst the burgeoning drive to collect, publishers have hurled themselves directly at these questions with the price guide. Perched atop the annual price guide pile are a number of general guides devoted to an astoundingly wide range of antiques and collectibles. Continue reading “The BIG Price Guides: How Good Are They?” »

The 1795 Giles Warner House at Hardwick Winery

Winding rural roads with wonderful old farmsteads are ubiquitous in Massachusetts, and are part of the pleasure of a visit. As I drove north of Ware, Massachusetts past venerable stone walls shaded by massive maples and oaks, I marveled at the old places I passed. When Giles E. Warner built his country center chimney mansion in 1795, it was one of many in and around Hardwick. But, today it is nearly one of a kind. The house was abandoned around 1970 and when the Sameks found it, the windows, interior doors, and a number of architectural elements had been stripped out by vandals. But the house was pure, never having been electrified and still without interior plumbing. Continue reading “The 1795 Giles Warner House at Hardwick Winery” »

Reflecting Life The Social Origin of Mirrors

When Robert Burns wrote these lines he was thinking of character, but had he lived in the early seventeenth century, some 200 years earlier, he would probably have been thinking of appearance. Living as we do in a society of the self and of self-image, it is hard for us to imagine a life in which we could never see ourselves as others see us. A life without mirrors (or photographs, which are another way of seeing oneself) would be for us a life of anxiety. And yet, in Elizabethan England, that was how people lived. Continue reading “Reflecting Life The Social Origin of Mirrors” »

Quimper Pottery

Quimper (pronounced kem-pair), located in northwestern France in the province of Brittany, has been a pottery town since the days when the area was part of the Roman Empire. Eventually settled by Celts from what is now Wales, Brittany did not officially become part of France until 1532, relatively late by European standards, and thus, it has retained its Celtic heritage. Today, the town has become virtually synonymous with its pottery. Continue reading “Quimper Pottery” »

Eighteenth Century Figures – Theater, Dance & Porcelain

Lover’s of continental porcelain need to take notice, as a cultural spotlight shines on a single gallery in the Morgan Memorial Building of The Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art. This jewel box of an exhibition is small in size, but significant and visually stunning. The rationale of the show is to examine the impact of theater and dance on 18th century porcelains and is intended as a counterpoint to the equally agreeable Ballets Russes to Balanchine on view at the museum through January 2, 2005. Continue reading “Eighteenth Century Figures – Theater, Dance & Porcelain” »

260 Years, One Family – The Fairbanks House

Built in 1637 – or thereabouts – just footsteps away from an Indian Trail that became the Boston Post Road and later was named East Street, Fairbanks House is one of the most important historical attractions in Dedham, Massachusetts. The property is significant not only because it is the oldest surviving wood frame house in North America, but because of its remarkable state of preservation. Continue reading “260 Years, One Family – The Fairbanks House” »