Research on Antiques & Collectibles



Evidence that Victoriana has worked its way into the American public consciousness can be found as close as your freshly decorated corner tavern. Drop in; observe the reproduction Tiffany lamps casting a multicolored glow on the newly minted tin ceiling, and the moose head over the bar. Or drive up to your neighborhood hamburger franchise - the one with the mansard roof and the blowups of nineteenth-century photographs. It's the kitsch end of the scale, but it's proof that the architecture and the decorative arts of Victorian America are vastly appealing right now.....   Read Full Story


THE FOLK ART COLLECTION OF STEWART GREGORY: A pioneer collector of American toys and decoys, weather vanes and whirligigs, portraits and painted furniture.

Stewart E. Gregory's ancestors knew the weathered red barn in Wilton, Connecticut, that their descendant bought some fifty years ago. When Mr. Gregory made his home there - along the same road where Deacon Daniel Gregory had built his house 200 years earlier - barns were not meant for human dwelling. They were occupied by cows and horses, and weather vanes were usually found perched atop the roofs. But Mr. Gregory.....   Read Full Story


ANTONIO GAUDI: Art Nouveau or Surrealistic Fantasy?

Each year thousands of visitors to Barcelona, this Catalan city of four million people stare - some in scorn, some in bewilderment, some in adoration - at the houses of Antonio Gaudi, which look like surrealistic mushrooms oozing with marshmallow syrup. The visitors look, with the same mixed reactions, at his cathedral towers, which the author James A. Michener has described as pretzel sticks studded with salt crystals; at his children's park, which looks like a whimsical dream of the brothers Grimm; and at his mosque like Arabic towers and Byzantine cupolas, curved and undulating, and.....   Read Full Story


SHINGLE HOUSES OF SAN FRANCISCO BAY AREA: How a roof’s Architectural style can be used to match the environment

Scattered across the hills surrounding San Francisco Bay are buildings that complement nature in color and form. Walls covered with weathered shingles harmonize with the colors and textures of local trees, shrubs and rocky hills. Houses, massed on different levels, climb the slopes, adapting themselves to the contours of the land. Asymmetrical forms crop out from the trees; windows, seemingly set among branches, mirror sections of the sky. Some of the houses project porches and terraces where.....   Read Full Story


NEWPORT FURNITURE: A historical perspective into Antique Blockfront Furniture and other curios in Newport, RI

For almost as many years as the Newport style of furniture has been recognized and admired, antiquarians and collectors have wondered just how it rooted and came to flower in and about the small, provincial Rhode Island seaport. What were the origins of these shell-carved, blockfront case pieces? What factors shaped their evolution? Almost everyone who has written thoughtfully about our colonial furniture has ranked these eighteenth-century pieces among the finest and most distinctive examples of early American craftsmanship. The cabinetmakers of Philadelphia, Boston and some.....   Read Full Story



AN OLD-FASHIONED CHRISTMAS IN AN OLD-FASHIONED HOUSE: Each year the Octagon House, a mansion in Washington, D.C., is turned out as it might have been in 1801

Tucked into the fanlight above the front door, a pineapple wreathed by shiny red apples welcomes visitors to the oddly shaped brick house. Inside, gaily wrapped gifts and toys are piled on a settee, garlands of magnolia leaves and pine needles festoon the mantels, and brimming bowlfuls of fruit are everywhere. It's Christmas at the Octagon - one of the oldest buildings in the nation's capital - where the holiday is celebrated much as it was when the new mansion was first occupied in 1801. This vision of Christmas past is....   Read Full Story



SECOND EMPIRE FRENCH ANTIQUE FURNITURE & ART: A time for Napoleonic redemption

History has not been especially kind to Napoleon III. Neither have the French, who've never forgiven him for losing the Franco-Prussian War. Had that war ended differently, so might regard for Napoleon and his Second Empire be higher. Now comes a new appreciation for Second Empire Art in France under Napoleon III, a spectacular array of items that should go a long way toward restoring luster to Bonaparte's rule. The years from 1852 until 1870 were a period of ferment in French art and taste and the Imperial family made....   Read Full Story



Slab tables were an important piece of domestic furniture in America, as in England, during the late seventeenth and the eighteenth centuries, but as a specialized type they have so far received little attention. The classification includes tables of various kinds in which slabs of slate or marble form the tops. Slate slabs preceded marble, but as they were more destructible, few slate-topped tables have survived and they are rarely seen outside of museums today. Slab tables were used in the Colonies in the....   Read Full Story



The earliest antique furniture at Williamsburg consists of oak and walnut pieces. Since the old inventories contain none of the descriptive terms we employ today, it is necessary to rely on the mere mention of the wood for a clue to style. An oak bed may be assumed to be Jacobean; a walnut piece is probably William and Mary or Queen Anne, although walnut came into widespread use about 1670, some fifteen years before the William and Mary period began. Mahogany supplanted walnut about 1720, so that early Georgian styles or.....   Read Full Story



The earliest American furniture which would have been known to Williamsburg must have been made locally, for importation from the North was not well established until the second quarter of the 1700's. Southern furniture is very difficult to date, since the early styles were continued over a long period. Queen Anne gate-leg tables, for instance, were made even into the 1800's. Examples of early types, however, have been secured for Williamsburg. The unusual William and Mary highboy, a Virginia piece in the Brush-Everard house....   Read Full Story






Least remembered of all the major contributions to the United States national culture, least collected and least studied, are the products of the French and Creole artists and craftsmen of colonial Louisiana. When Louisiana was transferred to the United States, the French had occupied the Mississippi Valley for more than a century. New Orleans, the capital of the Colony, had been established in 1718 and had a population of about 8,000. St. Louis, dating from 1764, the fur trade entry port of the West, was the administrative center of...   Read Full Story



In the last quarter of the seventeenth century, as one historian writes, France dominated Europe, not only by the success of her arms but by her achievements in art and taste. Paris was the capital of fashion, dictating even to the court of Charles II across the Channel. The magnificence of the Sun King, Louis XIV, found its perfect expression in the Chateau of Versailles, where the royal residence was established in 1682. To furnish the vistaed galleries and great symmetrical salons of this palace, artists and artisans were....   Read Full Story



Japan emerged from behind a "bamboo curtain" from the middle of the sixteenth century until the early seventeenth; then she retreated again because of the active rivalry between two missionary groups. Only the Dutch and English were allowed to continue their trade with Japan, and very shortly the English dropped out. The Dutch East India Company was permitted to maintain a trading post on the artificial island of Deshima in Nagasaki harbor, and it had the privilege of sending....   Read Full Story




In 1521 the supremely audacious conqueror, Fernando Cortes, described by one of his contemporaries as a man "of little belly and somewhat bow-legged," occupied Mexico City and destroyed the empire of the Aztecs. Eleven years later, Fortun Jimenez, adventurer, mutineer, and cosmographer, sailed westward from the mainland and discovered a barren peninsula which rumor soon endowed with gold, pearls, mermaids, and precious stones. In the course...   Read Full Story



Card Paying like dicing, ninepins, and "tobacco-talcing," was banned in our earliest Colonies, not because it was thought sinful but because a community struggling for the very necessities of life could not afford this "great mispense of time." By the middle of the eighteenth century, however, social life in New York, Philadelphia, or Newport, or among the wealthy planters of the South, was not very different from what it was in many European cities and card playing enjoyed just as much favor. On the eve of the Revolution one...   Read Full Story



Thomas Jefferson was the first President of the United States actually to live in the White House. The Adamses, to be sure, had moved in a few months before the close of their administration, and Mrs. Adams had written her famous description of what a President's mansion should not be; but Jefferson, who spent the eight years of his Presidency there, may really be said to have been its first occupant. It was he who selected its elaborate and forgotten...   Read Full Story



We are continually reminded of the danger of broad generalizations regarding American antiques. About the time we have definitely made up our minds, after years of observation, that furniture of a particular form or style never existed in colonial America, we are confronted by an example of the very type in question. In this instance, the subject was the Windsor chair. Discussion had arisen as to whether Windsor chairs were ever upholstered in the eighteenth century, and we felt that they were not. There were many points...   Read Full Story



Architectural accessories of ornamental cast iron came as a boon to the builder of the mid-nineteenth-century. Victorian home owners, in revolt against the classic severity of the Federal period, were eager for elaboration of their premises, and the recent introduction of ornamental cast iron provided an inexpensive means of achieving an elaborate effect. The city residence could now be fitted with an elegant floriated balcony, or with one of Gothic tracery...   Read Full Story