Saturday, September 30, 2017

Antiques Roadshow Newport

Well, we got to the Antiques Roadshow in Newport, Rhode Island. I must say that they do have their act together. With hurricane Jose whipping up the wind and dropping some rain along the New England seaboard ... Newport was no exception, but thankfully it was minor ... the Roadshow folks had very efficient transportation, tents and loads of happy, helpful volunteers. We took our treasures and got in line. (BTW none of the lines were long and they moved quickly ... well orchestrated considering there were about 3000 people scheduled that day.) Susan had her powder puff and her little celluloid box ... I had my Civil War diary and my Sconce family archives. (See earlier posts about these items.)
Photo from the Newport Daily News
Photo from the Newport Patch

The show was held at Rosecliff, one of the Newport mansions along Ocean Avenue and the Cliff Walk. Rosecliff was built around 1898-1902 and is open to the public as a historic house museum. The house has also been known as the Hermann Oelrichs House or the J. Edgar Monroe House.

Susan took her items to the collectibles table. Unfortunately the appraiser there did not have a clue about these items, so he consulted with the "experts" at the ladies' accessory table. He told us little and guessed at the prices. For these items we knew more than they did. Darn.

I had better luck with my books. The appraiser told us that the Civil War journal/diary was interesting, but not down the line of what Civil War collectors preferred. He said they like diaries that are contemporaneous with the war ... written during the war, not as recollections 40 years later. Still, he figured it was worth $550-800 at auction.

He looked at the Sconce family archives. He limited his comments to the little book by Robert Clement Sconce and to the drawings by Herbert Sconce. The book, which I absolutely love, was only given a cursory glance. He liked it but not as much as he liked the drawings. He zeroed in on the ethnographic images, saying that with the artist's historical background in Indian events, and the quality of the drawings, that this collection of ethnographic drawings were worth $10,000-15,000 at auction if kept together.

None of the items were given TV appraisal status. So you won't see us on a future episode. But it was fun.

For more on this Roadshow see these articles:

Newport Rhode Island

Narragansett Bay ... Newport in the distance
So we are back from our Antiques Roadshow adventure ... no richer, no more famous, but we had a good time. More on the appraisals in the next post. Newport is an interesting town ... very touristy, but loaded with history ... the waterfront is replete with mediocre restaurants, but a little search reveals some delicious gems ... and there are even a couple of wineries close by. It is home to the International Tennis Hall of Fame, the annual Newport Jazz Festival, the Newport U. S. Naval Academy and the Naval War College.

Newport Harbor
Newport, of course, is famous for its Cliff Walk ... a 3.5 mile trail/walkway (in five easy walking segments) along which you can marvel at the natural beauty of the Newport shoreline with the architectural history of Newport's gilded age. The blue ocean on one side and the fabulous mansions of the New York City rich and famous on the other.

Cliff Walk
The other end of the architectural spectrum of Newport are the dozens ... over 100 ... historical homes preserved by the Doris Duke founded Newport Restoration Foundation. In California we think of "old" as 19th century ... in Newport "old" is early 1700s!

Cahoone -Yates House 1763
Billings Coggeshall House 1784
Old House with Decoration
While in Newport we stayed in a mid-19th century house ... the La Farge Perry House B&B. It is a lovely home style retreat, reasonably located near shopping, walking, dining and even touristy stuff.

La Farge Perry House
La Farge Perry House Dining Room
Thames Street is where the action is ... lined with everything from souvenir shops to upscale boutiques. So are Broadway and Bellevue Avenue.

Thames Street
We took a few side-trips, including a couple of old forts and a couple of wineries. The forts have loads of history, the wines are nice and the wineries modern.

Newport Vineyards
We had a good time in Newport ... our third visit to the town on Narragansett Bay.

Love the architecture ... and the flag!

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Antiques Roadshow and the Sconce Family Archives

Several years ago I obtained a sizable archive from the family of Robert Clement Sconce (1787-1846). It contains hundreds of photographs and negatives, dozens of letters and documents, a hundred or so drawings, sketches and watercolor paintings, and a number of books, journals and diaries.

Robert Clement Sconce, while born and raised in England, spent most of his adult life in the Mediterranean on the British controlled island of Malta. He held numerous positions in the British Admiralty that afforded him time and space to dabble in botany and art. He was in Malta as secretary to Admiral Sir John Duckworth and for ten years he was also Naval Agent Victualler for HM Dockyard, Malta. Although he was never wealthy, he and his family lived well and circulated in upper class English society.

Portrait of Robert Clement Sconce

In 1861 his daughter put together his life and Letters in two volumes:  LIFE AND LETTERS of ROBERT CLEMENT SCONCE, formerly Secretary to Admiral Sir John Duckworth, Compiled for his Grandchildren by his daughter Sarah Susanna Bunbury.
Title Page from Robert Clement Sconce Life and Letters
Sconce was an artist, among all of his other achievements and positions (see my earlier post) and his letters reveal some of his advice to his daughter Sally, who was an accomplished artist in her own right.

His pencil revelled in the glorious Swiss scenery, after his long imprisonment at Malta; and he made an immense number of sketches, colouring a great many on the spot, and making exquisitely-finished drawings from them on his return to Malta. There was at Malta a little valley near Boschetto, containing about half a dozen fine trees,—a species of ash and of these my Father had made some dozens of finished drawings, making portraits of them in every point of view.

Whatever you sketch, colour it from nature when you can. All the great authorities agree, and my own experience has amply proved it, that an hour's work from nature is more improving and more interesting than a month's from memory or imagination.

I believe some of the paintings in this archive are his, but these are not signed, so I cannot be sure. In the comments about publishing Sconce's Life and Letters, Sarah mentions that while she wished to have included copies of her father's paintings in the book, finances did not allow for it.

His son Herbert Sconce (1833-1867) was also an artist … the artistic talent seemed to pass on to the next generation. His real job was as Principal Commissioner and Captain in the Bengal Army, as he was stationed in Assam, India. Alas, as an ambassador from Britain in India, Herbert was a disaster. His arrogance and antagonism toward the people of the Pulagahri region led to the now infamous and deadly uprising in October of 1861.

According to family members, Herbert was just not into the “commissioner thing.” He left the administration and decision making largely up to his deputies. In official meetings he was bored and inattentive. He would spend his time drawing sketches, many of which he later would color at home. This archive has dozens of his sketches and drawings.
Herbert Sconce Self Portraits

Above are all by Herbert Sconce

Another relative of Sconce was John Lawrence Habberton (1842-1921) … he was the author of Helen’s Babies, published in 1866. Habberton’s daughter, Florence married Herbert Sconce’s son Robert Clement Sconce (grandson of the Robert Clement Sconce above). A couple of early copies of this book are in this archive … one was sent to a Capt. Swinnerton in 1896, who proceeded to annotate virtually every page with notes, criticisms, corrections and suggestions, and then returned it to the author!
The Helen's Babies book as sent to Capt. S. A. Swinnerton

The Helen's Babies books and Amy Sconce's journal

Another item I am taking from this archive is a book containing the observations of Amelia “Amy” Sconce (1869-1939), daughter of Herbert Sconce, on trips to Niagara Falls in 1904 and to New York City in 1906. Hand written and quite interesting.

Amy Sconce's journal entries of her travels in New York

The final item from this archive is the most special of all the items … the little book Robert Clement Sconce wrote for his daughter Sally in 1820. I covered this book in a previous post.
Plants Quadrupeds Birds by Robert Clement Sconce c1820
I think this archive is quite significant … and hope to get confirmation of that in this visit to the Roadshow. We will see.

Antiques Roadshow with a Special Powder Puff

Years ago we came across this little treasure in a San Anselmo antique store. It was just too precious to pass up. It is labelled "La Pomponette / Modele Depose / Made in France."

The powder puff is held in a brass case which has a leather pouch made for it. The case has a compartment at the bottom where the  powder is added. Since it has a screen inside, when you give it a shake, it dusts the powder onto the puff inside the case. The top lid has a mirror like a compact.

BUT what is truly marvelous is the powder puff itself. Tug on the finial, which is decorated with a blue glass cabochon, and out pops this "umbrella" shaped goose or swan down powder applicator. Truly amazing!

We have seen just a few of these online, so while unusual and different, it is not truly a "rare" item ... but it is truly a wonderful 1920s treasure. We are anxious to find out if the Roadshow folks love it as much as we do.

Antiques Roadshow and Sewing Goodies

Susan has looked at her treasures and come up with three items she would like to take to the Roadshow. I know, she only gets two ... so she still has to choose. 

Susan's choices
The three items are shown above ... a Victorian sewing case ... a tiny celluloid "box" with a cute face ... and a leather pouch with a special surprise in it (more on this one in the next post).

The Victorian sewing case is just beautiful. It is made of mother of pearl with silver decoration. Inside are places for needles and pins and a little notebook too.

The other item is the cutest little miniature celluloid thing. What is it? What is it for? Wish we knew. Susan has several little cases of this type, but they are all bigger. Most are sewing cases, though a few are bottles, another a pencil holder.

The little head screws off the base revealing a little space below. It is too small for pills. Maybe it is for some kind of unguent or cream ... more probably for smelling salts. Women "suffered from the vapors" back in the 1920s!!!

This is made in Germany using French ivory, a type of celluloid (an early processed plastic) that is hand painted. I love the little "feather" in her hair.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Antiques Roadshow and a Civil War Journal

Susan and I have been lucky enough to win the Antiques Roadshow ticket lottery!! We will be heading out for a future Roadshow and are taking some interesting items ... we hope interesting enough to make it to the taping and maybe appear on the show! We will let you know how it goes when we go there.

Meantime, here is the story of a Civil War journal I am taking. (Other items to follow.)

I got this fantastic ledger about seven years ago. It was with some other ledgers and journals I picked up at an auction. Most were just nice old books, but one is truly special. It is the Short Autobiography of the Writer's Life by Mrs. Sarah Frances Hershey. WOW!

Sarah went by the name "Sallie." She was born Sarah Frances Walker in the little village of Gap, Pennsylvania in 1849. She lived her whole life in Gap and Philadelphia. Married Jacob Henry "Harry" Bair Hershey in 1871. Harry was born a year to the day after Sallie in 1850.

Sarah Frances Walker Hershey passed away barely six months after finishing this journal. In her lifetime she accomplished much. She bore five children, endured the loss of three when they were very young and raising two beyond youth and into successful lives. She tended to both house and business … as it appears that Henry Hershey was only able to earn enough to cover the bare needs of house and home.

She was clearly intelligent, well-read and a capable author and poet. I have accumulated many of her poems and stories in an additional book. Many of these are excellent … both in content and in thought. Her talents were rewarded by having many of her poems published in the Christiana Ledger.

Sallie began writing her autobiography in 1906, detailing her upbringing and how her family dealt with the Civil War, including the exploits of her brother who fled to Canada to escape the draft and her sister who worked in a confederate hospital and ran through enemy lines to bring medicine from Pennsylvania to Richmond for her patients. The family was conflicted by the war ... they had sympathies with the southern people, but were not in favor of slavery ... even more so as Mennonites, they were against war.

Sallie continued writing in the book as a journal from 1906 to her death in 1911. In the frugal fashion of her day, she used the back of the book to record the transctions from her "business" dealings and the center of the book as a scrapbook.

Photos, of course do not really do justice to this autobiography/journal/ledger/scrapbook. We will see if the Roadshow appraisers think it is a significant item or not. I know that I consider it a real treasure.
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