Posts tagged ‘archives’

March 29, 2015

More on early 20th century antique dealers in New York

Following the blog post on ‘searching for Duveen’ in the streets of New York I thought it would be interesting to find the former locations of some of the other antique dealers I encountered in the archives at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York – it’s also the opportunity to share some of the fascinating archive documents in the archives (thanks again to Melissa Bowling, one of the archivists at the Met Museum for helping with the research for the Antique Dealer project!) Most of the dealer galleries dating from the early part of the 20th century seem to have been demolished in the continual processes of renewal of the architectural landscape of New York city, (as you’ll see in the comments below) – but I did find one building that still remains (although no longer the premises of an antique dealer).

Some of you may know of the dealership ‘C.Charles’ – he was a brother of the famous Joseph Duveen; he was, apparently, not allowed to use the trading name of ‘Duveen’ (there’s only ONE Duveen I guess), so began trading as ‘C. Charles’ in London in the opening decades of the 20th century, and by the 1930s was trading as ‘Charles of London’ in the USA. Here’s a fascinating invoice from ‘Charles of London’ dated November 9th 1936, for an ‘Old 18th Century Mahogany Desk’, sold to the famous American collector Robert Lehman for $550 – (I couldn’t trace this object in the Met Museum collections….).

charles inv 9.11.36

Invoice ‘Charles of London’ November 9th, 1936. Box 37, Folder 12, Robert Lehman Papers, The Metropolitan Museum of Art Archives. Courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum Archives.

In my walks around New York searching for the locations of former antique dealer galleries I found Charles Duveen’s gallery at 12 West 56th Street – a very elegant (as one might expect) building, designed in a similar vein to Joseph Duveen’s spectacular purpose built gallery on 5th Avenue (see previous blog post).

Charles 12 west 56th  st NY

Charles of London former gallery at 12 West 56th Street New York. Photo MW March 2015.

There were a few other letters and invoices from dealers I found in the archives, and I managed to find the former locations of the dealers – as I say, sadly the buildings themselves no longer exist. The location of the galleries of the famous antique dealers French & Co at 6 East 56th Street are now (maybe appropriately!) occupied by Armani –

former French and Co 6 East 56th st NY

Former location of French & Co (1916). Photo MW March 2015.

French and Co were at 6 East 56th Street, New York by 1916, as this invoice (again photographed by kind permission of the Metropolitan Museum Archives) demonstrates –

french invoice 7.9.15 det

Invoice, French & Co., 1916. Box 4, Folder 16, Durr Friedley Records, 1906-1918 (1917-1918) The Metropolitan Museum of Art Archives. Courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum Archives.

(I’ll come back to the contents of the invoice itself in another blog post…).

French & Co had moved to 210 East 57th Street by the 1930s, but again the building they occupied no longer remains…..

former French and co 210 East 57th st NY

Former location of French & Co, 210 East 57th Street, New York in the 1930s. Photo MW March 2015.

And here’s the former location of the dealer A.S. Drey, ‘Antique Paintings and Works of Art’, who, according to a note in the Metropolitan Museum of Art Archives moved to 680 5th Avenue, New York in 1929. The location is now occupied by shops and offices.

former Drey 680 5th Ave NY

Former location of A.S. Drey, 680 5th Avenue, New York in 1929. Photo MW March 2015.

And, just for the record, I also found the former New York locations at 6 West 56th Street for Frank Partridge & Sons (they were at this address from at least the early 1920s until at least the late 1960s – Partridge & Sons, like many of the dealers highlighted in this blog, are no longer trading).

former Partridge shop 6 West 56th st NY

Former location of Frank Partridge & Sons, 6 West 56th Street, New York. Photo MW March 2015.


And the locations of ‘Arnold Seligmann, Rey & Company Incorporated’ trading at 7 West 36th Street, New York in 1916, are now shops and offices….

former Seligmann shop 7 West 36th st NY

Former location of Arnold Seligmann, Rey & Co., 7 West 36th Street, New York. Photo MW March 2015.

Likewise the former location of the antique dealer and interior decorators ‘White Allom’ (led by Sir Charles Allom) at 19 East 52nd Street, New York in 1914, are now occupied by an hotel.

former White Allom 19 East 52nd st NY

Former location of the galleries of White Allom, 19 East 52nd Street, New York in 1914. Photo MW March 2015.

As you can see, the archives at the Met Museum were a catalyst for a fruitful perambulation around a (very cold) New York….








August 21, 2014

The Architecture of the Trade – antique, second-hand, and reproduction furniture

A longer than usual Blog entry – but the issues are complex! – I recently visited Tyne & Wear archives (at the Discovery Museum in Newcastle) to have a look at the archive of an antique dealer named Robertson, trading in Newcastle in the 1960s and 1970s. Unfortunately we couldn’t find the archive! I did have a reference (1556) from the National Archives site (honest!) and it suggested that the archive was in Newcastle, but there’s no record of it at T&W archives – more digging is needed.

Anyway, I didn’t waste the day, I had a look at the archive of George Hobbs Limited, which dates from c.1921 up to 1967. Investigating the Hobbs archive has directed attention again to key issues we are dealing with in the research for the project – we’ve had endless discussions about this! And that is who/what we include in our ‘cultural geography’ of the antique trade. The main point here is that any history of the antique trade needs to address both the mutability of the term ‘antique’ (more on that in a future blog entry), and the hybridity of antique trade itself. Historically the ‘Antique Trade’ has involved a complex overlapping of practices and initiatives. Hobbs is a good case in point.

George Hobbs is not listed under ‘antique dealers’ in the trade directories in the period 1920s-1950s, but is firmly categorised under ‘Furniture Dealers’  or ‘Furniture Brokers’- in the period in question this would normally indicate that Hobbs was a ‘second-hand’ furniture dealer.  You’ll already see a key point here…when does ‘second-hand’ furniture become ‘antique’ – the notion is too complex to deal with here in a short blog entry, but it’s worth holding that thought for now.

What is interesting about the Hobbs archive though is how it illustrates how ‘trade directory’ classifications are themselves a meta-classificatory form, one that smooths out, elides and indeed often obscures the complex nature of antique trade.  The stock books of Hobbs clearly demonstrate this (to me anyway!) –  the early stock books of the firm (dating from 1930s) clearly show that the majority of the furniture that they sold was described as ‘antique’ – here’s a few examples:

‘Old Chippendale armchair’ which was listed as valued at £1.0.0. [this is pre-decimal currency] in January 1939. Again, there’s not space here to deal with the semantic field but it’s worth noting the descriptive term ‘Old’….

‘Antique Mah[ogany] Bow Chest’, which was bought for £7.0.0. [this is pre-decimal currency) in August 1944, and sold for £29.10.0 [they did quite well out of this transaction!] in September 1945.

‘Antique Mahogany DL [drop leaf] table’ which was bought at the auction house of Anderson & Garland in September 1944 for £3.5.0. and following some restoration costing £3.19.0, was sold in January 1945 for £22.0.0.

There are many more examples in the stock books in the 1930s and mid 1940s of the sales of ‘antique furniture’, alongside quite obvious ‘second-hand’ and household furniture – things such as ‘4ft Hair Mattress’ bought for £5.10.0. in May 1945, and sold later that same month for £8.5.0. What is striking is that by the early 1950s the stock books clearly indicate that the selling of ‘antique’ furniture by Hobbs was much less common and second-hand furniture seems to have become much more the main trading activity of the firm. There may, of course, be some very specific reasons for the gradual change in the trading activities, but the point is that all the while that Hobbs was selling ‘antiques’ the firm remained in the trade directories at least, as ‘furniture brokers’.

Searching for ‘Hobbs’ in the trade directories in the archives at the Discovery Museum also illustrates a, by now, familiar pattern of practices that form, morph into, the ‘antique trade’ (if you’ve read my Dictionary of 19th Century Antique & Curiosity Dealers (2009/2011) you’ll read about this formation – (sorry for the plug there…I still have some copies btw if you’re interested!…).

Anyway, the firm of ‘George Hobbs Limited’ was incorporated in 1925 (as ‘Cabinet Makers and House Furnishers’…yet another practice!) – they appear to begin with ‘James Hobbs’ listed as ‘Chair Manufacturer’ at 14 Pilgrim Street, Newcastle, in trade directories in 1874; James Hobbs is then listed as ‘Cabinetmaker’ in 1886, before a listing as ‘Furniture Broker’ in 1889, when his son, George Hobbs, was also listed at 88 Pilgrim Street, as ‘Furniture Dealer’.  George Hobbs continues to be listed in the trade directories in the early 1900s to the 1920s as ‘Furniture Broker’.

This ‘problem’ in terms of classification is helpful though, as it directs attention to the complex nature of the history of the antique trade. Indeed, here’s another example to reinforce (and complicate) the point – it’s also an opportunity to show some photographs of another archive that I recently acquired, and that will be a useful resource for the research project of course!

The archive is from the firm of W.W. Hawkins, St. Michaels Tudor Works, Bond Street, Ipswich, Suffolk, and is composed of a number of albums of photographs and working drawings of furniture designs, and dates from c.1917 to to c.1960. Hawkins supplied ‘handmade, hand-carved’ reproduction furniture – the ‘Furniture of Old England’ as the livery on their vans indicated:


W.W. Hawkins delivery van, c.1950.


Reproduction furniture made by W.W. Hawkins c.1950.

And here’s an example of the kind of oak furniture (sometimes described as ‘Jacobethan’) – for those that are interested, the descriptions, left to right, are: ‘Tallboy, £34.19.0; Dressing Table £22.7.0.; Mirror £14.13.0. Stool £4.6.0.; 5ft Wardrobe £72.3.6.; 4ft Wardrobe £37.10.0.’


Design for a chair: W.W. Hawkins – design dated 1953.

Here’s also a design for a late 17th century style armchair. The archive is a fascinating insight into the fashion for reproduction antique furniture in the period.

I can’t categorically say that Hawkins sold ‘antique’ furniture as well as manufacturing reproduction antique furniture, but one of the photograph albums certainly appears to have illustrations of genuine antique furniture – they may have been models for the craftsworkers at Hawkins of course – this example (below) is one of a number of pieces in an album dated c.1917-1927 that appear to be genuine examples.



But even if Hawkins did not actually retail antique furniture there are plenty of examples of ‘antique furniture manufacturer’s’ also selling genuine antique furniture alongside the practice of furniture making, and, as I’ve suggested above, this was a practice through which the ‘antique trade’ as we now understand it, emerged. There are many other hybrid forms of course, ‘Interior Decorators’ is just one that automatically comes to mind, and part of the objectives of the present research project is to ‘unpack’ (as we say in academia!) these complex practices….


July 4, 2014

Antique Dealer archives – Stair and Andrew c.1910-1915

We have also recently discovered 2 volumes clippings and photographs of antique furniture, ceramics, glass and silver etc that came from the antique dealers Stair & Andrew.  The volumes appear to have been visual resources for the directors of Stair & Andrew, and bear several stamps ‘Stair and Andrew Ltd., Director’. The volumes are undated, but appear to date from the period around 1910-1915.

100_2914 This volume, titled, ‘Furniture, 21 Manchester Square, Vol.1.’ contains a whole range of clippings from publications such as Country Life, and Connoisseur. They appear to have been used by the Directors of Stair & Andrew to identify and date objects. The earliest date recorded in the clippings in the volumes is 1904.








We’re also doing further research on this album….!


July 4, 2014

Antique Dealer photograph album 1940s, 1950s

As part of the research project we’re looking at a whole range of dealer material in national and regional archives, and we have been working through material in various locations.  We are always on the look out for interesting antique dealer related archive materials that also occasionally come onto the market –  and recently, at Mellors & Kirk’s auction sale in Nottingham, I managed to acquire this fascinating photograph album. Greenwood archive cover

The album appears to date from the 1940s and into the 1950s (one of the photograph captions in the first few pages is dated 1949) and is full of B&W photographs of ceramics, all, apparently antique dealer stock.  Greenwood archive photo 1They provide a fascinating insight into dealer practices in the 1940s and 1950s – with, as is usual practice, prices (probably prices paid?) in code penciled in next to the descriptions.  This page (above), shows a ‘Staffordshire double tea caddy, screw caps, decorated in underglaze high temperature pigments, Blue , Orange, Yellow, Green,and Maganese.’

Dated ‘c.1775’, with a pencil code Y/-/-. Obviously pounds, shillings and pence. The right-hand photograph has a range of English ceramics.

Many of the photographs have the stamp of ‘Will Acton A.R.P.S. Photographer, 3 Kings Sq. York’. One photograph has a pencil inscription ‘W.E.(sic) Greenwood’  and another is stamped verso with the dealer stamp of W.F. Greenwood and Sons, Stonegate, York. The photographs certainly appear to be one of the stock books of W.F. Greenwood & Sons, the very well known antique dealers trading from York and Harrogate in Yorkshire throughout the 20th century. Greenwood was established in the mid 19th century, initially as cabinetmakers and gradually moved to trading in antique furniture and other objects. The firm ceased trading in antiques about 10 years ago, but their Stonegate shop still exists in York – with a framed photograph of a visit by Queen Mary fixed to the exteriors of the shop!

I’m aware of some other archive material from Greenwood and Sons, located in Yorkshire and will soon be checking this present album with the photo archive already located.

Greenwood archive photo 2 Some of the photographs, such as this one (above) also record the prices the object was sold for – the photograph on the left here, ‘Rare Bow Group of the Sailors Farewell…c.1760’, with pencil code ‘QL/C/-, was recorded as ‘sold for £185’ – the caption is dated 1956.  Greenwood archive photo 4






We will be doing some more detailed investigation of this album over the coming months, and will post a summary of the results on the project blog…so watch this space!


October 25, 2013

The Antique Dealers project blog goes LIVE

Welcome to the Antique Dealers AHRC project blog – we’ve set up the blog to allow anyone, anywhere, to follow and to contribute to the research project, so do sent us a note to for an invitation to post a blog entry!

Mark, Eleanor and Lizzy (Project Team)

invoice from Adams antiques

Invoice from Adams, Antique Dealer, Edinburgh and New York, 1907

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