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
2707 Twin Oaks Court
Decatur, Illinois 62526
All rights reserved.
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!
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. SOLD
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". $795
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. 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. $2,250
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. $1,775.
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.
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.
Early Carved Man-in-the-Moon
One of the most unusual man-in-the-moon carvings I’ve seen in a long time. In much the style of the early 20th C. carnival carvings created by the same immigrant European artisans who ornamented circus wagons and carousels and produced tobacconist figures. However, this appears never to have been part of any larger construct, instead intended to be hung on a wall. The “man,” if you will, is a fully shaped cherub’s face with inset blue glass eyes. And the surface is oxidized oyster paint. 12”h x 4½”w and when hung it stands out from the wall about 10”. A really striking piece of folk art!
Rare Scrimshaw on Glass
While normally found on ivory, baleen or whalebone and occasionally on wood, scrimshaw is seldom worked on a fragile medium like glass. Done with a fine sailmaker’s needle, it’s called pickwork. The canvas for this presentation piece is a 6½” tall spirits bottle with a bulbous body, swelled neck and a double collar that dates it between 1840 and 1860. The sailor-artist is unknown, but he dated his work 14 September 1850 and embellished it with borders, arcading, tassels, birds in trees, and a large central heart. It’s dedicated to Helen Beaton, an image of whom, waving, is on the other side of the bottle. Quite an extraordinary piece of nautical folk art, and that it has survived for more than 160 years is remarkable. Dark amber glass without crack or blister.
Spectacular Moravian Star Barn Finial
The Moravian star form derives from a German geometry schoolbook exercise introduced in the 1830s and came to America in the 19th C. with the influx of German immigrants who settled in eastern Pennsylvania, in enclaves in northern New York state, as well as further south in North Carolina. Smaller versions of the star were often hung in the window as Christmas decorations. This one is free-standing, 46” tall and mounted on an iron post rooted in a base of zinc-coated sheet iron, a process developed in 1839. The star probably crowned the roof of a Pennsylvania barn. 23” point to point and is extraordinarily good condition. Probably the last quarter of the 1800s.
Rare Boston Schoolgirl Needlework
Silk and chenille on silk Boston schoolgirl needlework with watercolor details, possibly the work of “The Boston Limner,” portrait painter John Johnston. This scene depicts Maria, a character from 18th C. novelist Laurence Stern’s 1768 Sentimental Journey. Stern’s work was a popular source for paintings and needlework among schoolgirls at exclusive academies in the early 19th C. Her flute and small spotted dog are both elements in a late 18th C. Angelica Kauffman painting of Maria, drawn from the same literary source. Bordered by a black gilt and eglomise mat, and in what appears to be the original water gilt frame. This needlework may have been done by a student at Susanna Rowson’s school. 11½” x 13½” SS. 16⅜” x 19” overall. $2,775.
19th C. Polychrome Barber’s Sign
Distinctive “Barber Shop” sign from the last quarter of the 1800s. Instead of the typical turned wooden post from the 1920s, this was a working trade sign that was screwed to the wall outside the shop door. Contained inside a faded yellow painted frame, the diagonal red, white and blue stripes make the lettering pop. And the crazed surface of the paint is perfect. Without question, one of the better trade signs I’ve ever had. 32’’ x 16” Ca. 1880.
Early 20th C. Carved Carnival Racer
Once every carnival boasted at least one horse- or dog-racing game with carefully carved and brightly painted wooden figures that were frequently by the same artists who produced the cigar store Indians. Those early racers have mostly vanished and Arcade racing games today use cheap die-stampings or plastic. In the 1940s I grew up in Rye, NY, the home of Playland Amusement Park with merry-go-round animals and chariots carved by Charles Carmel in 1915, and racing games along the midway. This carving looks exactly like the ones they used. One of the concessions had racers said to have been carved by Marcus Illions in the late 1920s.This paint surface is superb. 15½”L. $1,850
Original Theatre Royal Drury Lane Lobby Display Board
Original lobby display board from the historic Theatre Royal Drury Lane created and signed by artist and stage designer Peter Bax for the 1928-1929 London run of the iconic Jerome Kern-Oscar Hammerstein musical “Showboat,” which debuted on Broadway in New York in 1927. Peter Bax became part of the BBC in 1934 and in 1936 assumed the position of the BBC's overall Artistic Director. Although this lobby board appears at first glance to be needlework, it’s actually hand-painted in imitation of cross stitch on fine burlap and carries the motto of river boat gambler Gaylord Ravenal, the musical’s male lead.
Fascinating Early 20th C.
Folk Art Game Board
Clearly home made, it has a playing surface of reverse painted black squares alternating with gold foil squares, each highlighted with small fragments of mother of pearl. Surrounding this are ads for early 20th C. Danbury, CT businesses, hand lettered on coarse brown paper, offering everything from raw coal to hosiery to auto tires and tubes to baked goods. I was able to locate the John McCarthy Coal Company, founded in 1911 on Elm St. in Danbury, CT. By 1918 it had moved to Easton, MA, so this board appear to have been made between those years. Black painted frame and a wooden back sealed with a sheet of heavy card stock that bears a the printed legend “Second Ward—Women,” and a typewritten roll of female voters from the 1930s. A wonderful survival. 25½” x 25”.