Sunday, March 4, 2018

Catalog for 1928 A.J. Pennypacker sale of antique furniture

"Largest Sale ever held in the State of Pennsylvania" claims the cover of this 24-page staplebound catalog from 90 years ago.

Antiques dealer A.J. Pennypacker's four-day whirlwind sale was slated for October 3-6, 1928, in Pennsburg, Pennsylvania.

The catalog is filled with photos of dressers, chairs, tables, painted chests, bottles, tableware, and more chairs.

Just two years before this sale, in October 1926, Pennypacker had been involved in a bit of harrowing misfortune, as documented by The Morning Call of Allentown:

A.J. Pennpacker, Driver of Car, Had Just Made Purchase

An automobile load of antiques being transported by A.J. Pennypacker from Easton to his store at 601 Main street, Pennsburg, was burned up when the engine of the machine caught fire after it skidded into a pole at the eastern end of Bethlehem at about 5 o'clock yesterday afternoon.

In the collection, valued at $500, which Mr. Pennypacker had just purchased at Easton, was a picture, "George Washington at Philadelphia." Other articles were mostly of old and rare chinaware. An old-fashioned, long-handled, fire shovel and two pairs of antique fire tongs were the only pieces salvaged.
A loss of $500 would be the equivalent of more than $7,000 today, but it might not have been as bad of a setback as you might imagine. An April 1931 newspaper article, again from The Morning Call, paints a picture of a very prosperous antiques-dealing business for Pennypacker.
Pennsburg Antique Collector
Made Many Famous Transactions

A.J. Pennypacker Has Annual Sales That Have Brought to Pennsburg Many of the Leading Collectors Throughout the Country

[Snip] ... In offering the type of antiques that are both useful and ornamental to residents of Pennsburg and vicinity we find that A.J. Pennpacker, of 501 Main street, has established himself as one of the foremost representatives of his community.

[Snip] ... His annual sales are an event that bring buyers from all over the country. Representatives of some of the world's foremost antiques collectors have attended these sales and Mr. Pennypacker's reputation for good judgment and straightforward dealing has become a byword in this section.

He has been affiliated with this line of endeavor for twelve years and during this period of time has gained a conversance with his field that sets him apart from the average dealer.

Many of the most notable sales in this entire area have been handled by Mr. Pennypacker. To Francis T. Garlin he sold a highboy for $17,000. It was brought from Texas by Mr. Pennypacker.

Another highboy brought $12,000 and was purchased by I. Sacks, of Philadelphia.

Mr. Kern of Philadelphia paid $16,000 for four chairs and a like number brought $25,000 when sold to H.F. Dupont, of Wilmington, Delaware.

[Snip] ... Mr. Pennypacker served in France and is now a member of the American Legion. ... He is a member of the L.O.O.M., of Allentown, and the Orioles, of Boyertown. ...
As just one example, let's assume that $17,000 highboy was sold in 1930, as the Great Depression was getting underway. That would be the equivalent of a quarter-million-dollar piece of furniture today.

Also, the "I. Sacks" is almost certainly a misspelling of legendary dealer Israel Sack. And, yeah, Henry Francis du Pont was kind of rich and famous, too, and could probably use his pocket money to buy four chairs for $25,000.

So let's backtrack now to this catalog and the 1928 sale. In the introduction to the collection of photographs, Pennypacker writes: "This will be one of the largest sales of Early American Antiques, mostly Pennsylvania pieces, ever held in Pennsylvania. ... I am certain it will be worthwhile for any one to come to this sale. I guarantee each and every piece to be genuine and as represented."

And then there is his list. Take a deep breath, because this is just part of it...

  • 25 corner cupboards
  • 7 Grandfather clocks
  • 25 decorated chests
  • 10 slant-top desks
  • 60 bureaus
  • 40 Dutch cupboards
  • 4 Welsh or pewter cupboards
  • 25 drop-leaf tables, including Chippendale and Hepplewhite
  • 25 Chippendale mirrors
  • 35 walnut blanket chests
  • 15 bench tables
  • 20 day beds
  • 15 dough trough tables
  • 500 bottles
  • 200 pink luster pieces
  • 75 sawtooth or pineapple glass
  • 50 pieces thumb fruit glass
  • 100 lamps
  • 35 pieces painted tinware
  • 200 goblets
  • 25 pieces Bennington pottery
  • 200 pieces Sandwich
  • 50 pieces blue glass
  • 75 candlesticks
  • 40 pieces Bohemian glass
  • 75 pieces Spatterware, some very rare
  • 400 Currier & Ives prints, some very rare
  • 50 lanterns
  • 300 homespun linen sheets

Here are some additional photographs from the 1928 Pennypacker catalog...

This gives me flashbacks to the basement of the Wallingford house.

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