We devote a great deal of time to finding the best in 19th C. American folk art. We avoid
what was created expressly to be folk art and focus on pieces fashioned as part of daily
life in the 1800s. Weathervanes, hooked rugs, toleware and gameboards were made as functional objects for the home. Family portraits, small watercolors, theorem and samplers decorated the walls. Trade signs, architectural carvings and decorated stoneware were intended to serve commercial purposes. We offer fine examples of each on this site.
Halsey Munson Americana
204 North Summit Avenue
Decatur, Illinois 62522
All rights reserved.
Mid 19th C. 4-Color
Ca. 1850, tinned iron architectural downspout/rain water collector in weathered but still vivid four-color polychrome paint decoration. Excellent condition. 21”H. Great functional folk art.
19th C. Banneret Index Weathervane
By an unidentified maker, but very similar to scrolled vanes produced by J.W. Fiske in New York. Sheet copper scrolls, and the pointing hand is lead, used to weight the front of the vane and detailed with fingernails and a buttoned cuff. Either this weathervane was mounted on a factory roof or downwind of a smokestack because there is ancient smoke residue coating portions of the gilt. There may be points of mold resoldering along the horizontal . 39”L x 11”H on a custom display stand.
Mid-19th C. Prior-Hamblen portrait of a woman, attributed to Jacob Bailey Moore. Oil on artist’s board in a period maple frame. J. Bailey Moore was born in Candia, NH in 1815 and worked as an itinerant painter throughout New England. He is considered part of the Prior-Hamblen school. Moore is known to have executed portraits of three members of the Cass family in the 1830s. Those portraits are on display at the Fitts Museum in New Hampshire. The resemblance between the sitter and Hannah Brown Cass is striking and they may have been sisters. Purchased in 1941 By Doris Stockman from Roger Bacon, this portrait was exhibited at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston in 1971. The Museum’s label is on the back. Sight size is 9½” x 13½”; framed dimensions are 17½” x 21½”.
19th C. White Mountain Landscape
Beautiful White Mt. luminist landscape that gives North Conway’s Intervale a velvety glow separating this canvas from the work of Cole, Champney and Kensett. Although unsigned, the painter may have been an artist known only as H. Staples. A signed and dated work by Staples, with uncanny similarity in size, color palette, format, texture and technique. From the Meryl Weiss collection. Unlined, original frame. SS 12” x 17”. Ca. 1850-1870.
Great Folky Count-Down Clock Face
Unusual 19th/20th C. sheet iron clock face in original paint with only eight digits which, clockwise, would appear to count down to zero. The hole pattern and weathering on the rear indicate that it was mountedoutdoors. I don’t know its exact purpose, but I like to think it was used to keep track of the time left in an 8-hour work day!
1849 VA Signed Applique Theorem
An exceptional Loudoun County, VA applique theorem. Appliqued fabrics on a cotton ground with inked embellishments. Incredibly vivid after 165 years, a yellow and black two-handled vase holds an explosion of multi-colored flowers and foliage with inked accents and tendrils. Precise stitching that’s still wholly intact. In the lower a dove holds a banner that reads “Amanda Donohoe, Philomont, VA.” In the lower right another inked banner with the date “December 25, 1849.” 13” square overall. Amanda Heaton Donohoe was born in 1815, died in 1901, and is buried in Mountain Chapel Cemetery in Philomont, VA. Signed applique theorems of this quality are exceedingly rare and this is one of the two best I’ve ever owned.
Wonderful Naïve 1867 Country Sampler by Jane Hardisty
with charming details, not the least of which is a large, smug tiger-striped cat perched on a posh pillow. Everything in this sampler revolves around his nibs—paired peacocks flanking a church, a pair of enormous butterflies, one of whom appears to have narrowly escaped being trapped in the border, fanciful flowering plants and, above the cat a speckled heart. Even the inscription at the bottom is whimsical. Jane starts well with a fine capital J, but then wholly loses track of her stitching and her name turns into an endearing riot of mis-matched letters. Mechanically perfect samplers stitched under the watchful eye of an instructress are beautiful but often lack the unaffected charm of Jane Hardisty’s work. $950
Signed and Dated Sailor's Ditty Box
The 19th C. sailor’s ditty box of Charles Wiley, St. George, ME. Maple and thick pine top and bottom. Cut nails in the beveled lap. Carved into the lid is a Mariner’s star enclosing another star, enclosing a pentagram, associated with good luck. The beveled faces of the star appear to have been colored with a dye or nautical bottom paint. In 1860 James Wiley, 39, master mariner, was living in St. George, ME. Also listed at the same address was his son, Charles H. Wiley, 11. According to Sailing ships of New England, the “Ocean Queen,” 824 tons, was built in Newburyport, MA and launched in 1847. In 1870 the Ocean Queen spent part of a year in Gloucester, MA, a fact noted on the bottom of this ditty box by Charles Wiley, who was 21 at the time. The intricate star-within-a-star on the lid was probably the work of Charles Wiley himself. Ancient, long-ago-repaired girdling crack in the lower section. 10" x 5".
19th C. New England Reverse-Painted Genre Scene
Attributed to painter Benjamin Curtis, brother of clockmaker Lemuel Curtis. After his apprenticeship to the Simon Willard in 1801, Lemuel worked in Concord, MA between 1816 and 1821 making banjo and girandole wall clocks with decorated throats, and lower glass panels decorated by his brother in Boston. This reverse-on-glass panel was undoubtedly salvaged from a damaged Lemuel Curtis banjo clock, either made in Concord or between 1821 and 1832 when he worked in partnership with his former apprentice, Joseph Dunning, in Burlington, VT. In a 20th C. gilt frame. 9½” x 7¾”. $125
Paint-Decorated Table Top Box
Remarkable paint-decorated table top box from the last quarter of the 1800s. Possibly a “sweetheart box.” Vivid 5-color surface. Full mariner’s compass designs span every corner and on the lid semicircular motifs highlight a compass-drawn starflower. The box itself is made from the fine light mahogany referred to by sailors as “island wood” in the 19th C. and secured with early drawn nails. The interior is patterned wallpaper. Which makes sense because the box is said to have been made by an American sailor. A beautifully planned design and the color rhythms seem almost inevitable. 9”L x 5½”D x 3”H. $1,850
Large 4-Color Crib Quilt
Spectacular large 4-color crib quilt in an unusual variation of the Bethlehem Star pattern. Deep turkey red, rich cheddar and fugitive green on a cream-white ground. Star-burst corner blocks, floating Lemoyne stars, sawtooth border. Slight color lifting in the green border and one faint nickel-sized residual spot on the back. Crib quilts in star designs are quite rare. 50” x 49”. Ca. 1880-1900.
Early 19th C. Table Mat
Remarkable, perhaps unique, early 19th C. table mat with serpentine border surrounding early cotton on cotton appliqued brown and indigo whales with embroidered eyes and tongues, riding on simulated waves, classically Hawaiian indigo and white corner frond motifs, and a central decoration with an ancient and traditional central X design reminiscent of a bird in flight. The fabrics are of the 1800 to 1830 period. The applique stitching is tiny, fine and about 8-10 per inch. This table mat has its origin in an 1820s visit to Hawaii by a group of NH missionaries led by a Boston minister named “Hale.” Made in Hawaii, the ground fabric would have been tapas cloth. Since it is cotton, this needlework was likely made by one of the group when they returned to the mainland. Wear to the base fabric, but none to design elements. An amazing survival. Now mounted on a 30” x 30” frame. $925
Early 19th C. Hudson River Cityscape
Wonderful early 19th C. schoolgirl Hudson River painting of Newburgh, NY done in watercolor on white velvet. Rare to see theorem conventions so successfully applied to a townscape. The scattered homes suggest a date in the early 1830s. Newburgh’s sister city, Beacon, NY, is just visible beyond the bluffs on the far side of the Hudson. The painting is signed in the eglomise mat at lower right, “M.O. Davis” and mounted in a period gilt frame. With the exception of a crack in the mat at the extreme lower left corner the condition is excellent. From the personal collection of Nina Fletcher Little and bequeathed on her death in 1993 to the Fenimore Museum in Cooperstown, NY. On pp. 31-49 of her book Country Arts in Early American Homes, Nina Little discusses and illustrates examples of exactly this kind of landscape. 14½” x 21¾” sight size. 25½” x 18” overall.
Perhaps the Ultimate
Three-step base and yellow top segment are secured to the column with large wooden pins. The remainder of the column is lathe turned, then carved from a single balk of hardwood. Not one nail is visible. Three slender blue tendrils swirl down to a yellow base, enclosed by three larger carved elements in red, green and yellow. Probably a plant or drink stand. Ca. 1880-1900. Two old repaired cracks, but all original.
Excellent 19th C. 7-Color Hooked Rug
Vivid 19th C. hooked rug with a 7-color center of concentric rings surrounded by red, white and blue hearts in each color, on a variegated background. Cotton and woolen yarns on burlap. Probably 4th quarter of the 1800s. Found in Wisconsin and possibly made there. Excellent condition. Professionally mounted. 40” x 33” overall.
Scarce Early 19th C.
Early 19th C. swallow-tail banner weathervane probably originally mounted on the peak of an outbuilding like a storage barn or pumphouse. The turned wooden painted finial may or may not be original, but it is quite early, shares the vane’s coat of weathered grey paint and still shows square nail holes. The banner is tinned sheet iron in early dove grey paint over gold gilt. Several points of the starflower are detached from the banner. Weathervanes of this sort are far more rare than the customary late 19th C. factory products. A similar small banner weathervane with same starflower, mounted on a wooden base, attributed to the Mennonites and dated to the early 19th C., is illustrated as figure B, p. 338, in Antique Iron (Schiffer). With turned wooden base, 28” H. Ex-Jefferson and Anne Miller Collection.
Superb Small Watercolor of a Boy
A very special near-miniature portrait of a handsome young boy, clearly from an affluent family, leaning on a pedestal table and looking directly at the viewer. This sort of candid gaze is somewhat unusual in period watercolor portraits and the artist uses it to create a sense almost of serenity and connection. Early American folk portraits were, for the most part stiffly posed. The relaxed serpentine line of the boy’s body is unusual and suggests the work of a talented if not formally trained artist. Equally distinctive is the use of blue beneath his eyes and to hollow his cheek. This portrait is unsigned and I haven’t yet been able to identify the artist. But the sitter’s name is lettered in faded ink on the wooden backboard: “William Henry Charpentier.” Interestingly, I own a small Pennsylvania fraktur from 1855, which would date probably 15 or 20 years after this portrait was done, signed “David Charpentier.” 4¼” x 4” sight size in an ebonized frame with a lemon gilt liner. Ca. 1835-1845. $1,695
Molded 1800s Redware Hand
Unusual folky redware hand holding a pencil, with detailed shirt cuff and defined fingernails. Possibly intended ass a paperweight. The oxide slip is in remarkably good condition with professionally done restoration to two fingertips, invisible except under black light. 4½” X 2½”. Possibly Pennsylvania or New Jersey, but more likely of Ohio origin. Second half of the 1800s. A great piece of folk art.
CA. 1870 Still Life by Henry Church
A previously undiscovered still life by celebrated Ohio folk artist Henry Church jr. Not only are his paintings part of the permanent collections of a number of museums, among them the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller at Colonial Williamsburg and the Springfield Museum of Art, but most recently were featured in exhibitions at the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the Keny Gallery in Ohio. Church is listed in almost a dozen major art references including American Folk Painters of Three Centuries, American Folk Paintings and American Folk Paintings and Drawings. This canvas is almost certainly one of his earliest works, pre-dating the iconic “Monkey” painting now at the Abby Aldrich. Over the last year examinations by museum curators, fine art restorers familiar with his work, as well as the leading authority on Henry Church, Jane Babinsky, have conclusively authenticated this painting to Church’s hand. This documentation will accompany the canvas. 24” x 39”. Condition: Excellent. Unlined, on the original artist-made stretchers. A 1” x 1” patch with associated retouch at the extreme lower left corner.
Fine New England Mother and Daughter Folk Portrait
Early 19th C. New England folk portrait of a Mother and daughter on a green classical sofa with scrolled arms. Gouache on heavy wove stock, with colors that have remained vivid. The delicacy with which the artist treated the figures is remarkable, and this is one of the very few Mother and child folk portraits in which both subjects are beautiful and the child doesn’t look like a doll or a loaf of bread. The details are wonderful, from the matching coral jewelry both wear, to the wedding ring on the Mother’s hand, to the tiny baby shoes peeping out from under the daughter’s dress. All original—frame, glass and back. 11¼” x 13¼” overall. Ca. 1830. Found in Maine. Ex Jean Curtin collection.
Optician’s Trade Sign in Original Paint
Delightfully quirky optician’s two-sided trade sign probably from the first quarter of the 20th C.—blue eyes with long lashes on one side, green eyes on the other. The painted eyes are protected by glazed-in glass panes on front and back, and the paint is almost certainly original. Foil, sandwiched behind the pupils, provides a glittering effect. One spot of reglazing with associated repaint. Because of the protective glass panes, the paint is in excellent condition and remarkably vivid. 23”W x 9”H. $1,850
Rare & Wonderful Black Marionette
From the second half of the 1800s. Pine, maple and ash, with zinc hands and zinc-weighted feet. Completely articulated including his ankles. Remnants of black thread. I see no evidence of repairs or even appropriate replacements. Although black figures in the form of hand puppets and artist’s mannikins are not at all common themselves, early black marionettes top the rarity chart. 17” tall.