Jan and John Maggs Antiques

Conway, Massachusetts

Newsletters - 2007

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January, 2007

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Since last month's newsletter . . . .

. . . our biggest news is the sale of our Ashfield property. We closed last week, and, although our financial ledgers indicate that we finished slightly in the red, our emotional resources are at an all-time high. If you missed the five-part pictorial account of our two-year project, it's now online in a single multi-page file. To view it, click on Our Ashfield Odyssey.

For a number of reasons, our 2007 show schedule will be somewhat smaller than last year's, down from 25 shows to 18. We've chosen to drop three of our less successful shows (Guilford, Brewster, and Newport), and Country Cape Antiques Shows has discontinued their schedule, eliminating our two Mystic shows and New London. Sadly, the Vermont Dealers' Show conflicts with the Golden Ball Tavern show, which we enjoyed very much last year. We've added one major show in January, Americana at the Piers, and will move from May's Brimfield show to Heart-of-the-Mart. These changes will allow us to be in the shop more regularly and cultivate the face-to-face and Internet sides of our Conway business.

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This Month's Features

Yes, two features this month. The first is a pictorial account of our visit to the Franz Hals Museum in the Netherlands -- A trip to Haarlem.

The second begins a twelve-month serialization of the daily life of a young woman living in western Massachusetts 133 years ago -- A nineteenth century diary.

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Tales of the Trade

This month's tale reveals the clash between early nineteenth and early twenty-first century values. Read The Perpetual Calendar.

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The Back Page

A picture and a note from two friends who know how to enjoy their collection. For a bit of Christmas whimsy, click here.

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 February, 2007

Fourth Anniversary Issue

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Two pictures of our booth at Americana at the Piers, from last week's Antiques and the Arts Weekly.

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Since last month's newsletter . . . .

. . . it seems as if we've been on the road constantly. Americana at the Piers was very strong for most exhibitors and was our best show EVER. On the following weekend, Tolland was also predictably strong, and this pair of shows has gotten the year off to a great start. Last weekend's Concord show was very good for many dealers, not so strong for us. The feeling at these shows and in our shop has been very positive. While it's tempting to speculate on the reasons for this optimism, we'll just enjoy it while it's happening.

Having divested ourselves of Ashfield property obligations, we're devoting our building and decorating energies to the house and shop. Because of our decision to cut back on shows, we'll be able to open the shop each weekend from now until the end of March, when we'll fly to England on a brief buying trip. After we return home, our first major event is our Gala Opening at the end of April. In the meantime we're making regular day trips to acquire new stock and paying special attention to our expanding online business and our home.

It hardly seems possible, but this month's Newsletter marks the beginning of our fourth year of publication. Throughout the past three years we've managed to get out an issue every month, and the format and content has evolved in response to our observations of its strengths and weaknesses and the suggestions of readers. We're instituting two more changes in this issue: a navigation bar below to speed you to your favorite parts, and thumbnails for featured merchandise to enhance browsing. Let us know what you think.

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THIS MONTH'S FEATURE STORIES

Last month we began a twelve-month serialization of the diary of a young Greenfield woman in 1873. This month we continue with her journal entries for the month of February, including an outbreak of smallpox in Easthampton. Click here to read this month's installment.

Also this month: Cherubs at Play: A Unique Collection of Delft Tiles

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TALES OF THE TRADE

A chair purchased to be restored becomes a treasured fragment. Read A fabulous chair comes home.

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THE BACK PAGE

Some people visit fancy pet stores to buy toys for their animals. Others are happy to appropriate more humble playthings. Click here to see Pippin's playhouse.

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March, 2007

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March snowstorm

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Since last month's newsletter . . . .

. . . . things have been pretty quiet here. Our reduced show schedule has given us time to complete some long-awaited home and shop improvements. Our decision to stay in Conway has inspired us to give ourselves a few of the amenities we'd planned for our new home, and we've spent much of our "down time" making it happen.

Part of this process has been the replacing of many of our antique and semi-antique rugs with newer carpets. We've added our older rugs to our inventory and, at the same time, have added a Carpet Gallery to our website. See the link to this gallery below, and visit it for some good buys on rugs.

For several months our letters from readers of this newsletter have been about equally divided between comments and inquiries about antiques and letters about our young snow leopard, Pippin, who makes an occasional appearance. For family and friends who have expressed appreciation, we offer these Pippin Pix, in what might become a regular department in our monthly e-journal.

We're off to England next week, and are confident that we'll return with new finds for our Spring gala in April. (Details below.)

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This Month's Feature

Jennie Williams' journal entries for March 1873. Click here.

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Tales of the Trade

Photo shoot in New York

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The Back Page

A befuddled harbinger of Spring is caught in a moment of silent reflection on this month's Back Page.

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April, 2007

ENGLAND HOMECOMING ISSUE

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Leaving London on Easter Sunday, homeward bound.

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Since last month's newsletter . . . .

. . . . we've been to England and back, on our continuing quest for fresh goods for our American customers. Interestingly, though we saw a few stateside friends, other Americans were in relatively short supply this time. Whether this was because of the Easter holiday, the weakness of the dollar, fear of flying, or sheer coincidence, the English dealers we spoke with were very happy to see us -- and ready to offer very good deals. As a result, we've once again come home with a pile of new stuff -- and a few good stories as well.

This month's newsletter is mostly about our trip: a good story, lots of pictures, and details of our gala weekend in about a week.

Need a small tractor? We're selling the 26 HP Goldoni we bought for our Ashfield project. If you or someone you know is interested in a real tractor at a very affordable price, click here for more information.

Our friend Lisa Freeman informs us that she has just completed the new Vermont ADA website, giving it a sleek, modern appearance and providing easy access to VADA's membership. Click here to visit.

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This Month's Features

A Walk in London's Kensington Gardens

A nineteenth century diary -- April 1873

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Tales of the Trade

A Freak Accident

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Pippin's Page

Several readers wrote in response to last month's pictures of Pippin. One reader sent the following:

Thank you, thank you for the fabulous pinup pictures of Pippin. He clearly loves his toys! Please do it every month. He wants his own page.... maybe the whole newsletter.

So, for those of you who'll enjoy them, follow this link to Pippin's Page.

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The Back Page

Two London pubs

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May, 2007

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Two of Jan's flower arrangements for last month's Post-England Gala.

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Since last month's newsletter . . . .

. . . . we've had a most extraordinary month. The excitement began with our England Homecoming Gala. Buyers came to Conway from six states and gave us a weekend that surpassed our greatest expectations. Thanks to all who came, as well as to those who chose their purchases by phone or through the Internet.

With our bank account bolstered, we set off for Brimfield to fill holes in our inventory. We set up at two fields and shopped the rest. At the end of the week we were not disappointed by our finds; several are listed below, and others will travel with us to Rhinebeck this weekend.

Interesting news on the show front. Linda Turner's Riverside show during New Hampshire Antiques Week has been cancelled, as has Marilyn Gould's summer Wilton outdoor show. Signs of the times?

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This Month's Feature

Since January, we've published the monthly entries from the 1873 diary of Jennie Williams. Although she was a very ordinary middle-class resident of Franklin and Hampshire Counties, her writings provide an interesting picture of daily life in this area 134 years ago. This month we're happy to publish May 1873.

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Tales of the Trade

A wonderful surprise, discovered after our return from England. Read The Dutch Spice Cabinet.

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The Back Page

The most unique of the four flower arrangements at our opening is the subject of this month's Back Page. Click here for a look.

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Pippin's Page

For all who enjoy seeing pictures of our snow leopard Bengal, follow this link to Pippin's Page.

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June, 2007

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Part of our booth at last weekend's Mount Hope Farm show in Bristol, Rhode Island

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Since last month's newsletter . . . .

. . . we had one of our best Rhinebeck shows, selling several excellent smalls as well as a few paintings. Furniture sales were less than impressive, possibly hampered by a new booth configuration, which we plan to address. Our shop and online business continue to be strong.

Our biggest news -- we're thrilled to be included in Country Home Magazine's annual Top 10 Collectibles. Our thanks to Kathryn, Rachel, and everyone else at Country Home who made it happen. Click the cover of the magazine to see the story - - or click the photo of the blanket boxes to read our chronicle of the photo shoot in New York, as published in our March newsletter.             

             

We've just booked our October trip to England. This October's Rhinebeck show will prevent us from getting to the big fairs in Swinderby and Newark, so we've planned a shorter visit, focusing on our regular pickers and shops. We'll be in London briefly, but plan to spend most of our time combing the countryside, which we most enjoy.

Last weekend's Mount Hope Farm show in Bristol, Rhode Island was disappointing for us, although managers Brian Ferguson and Tom d'Arruda created an exceptionally pleasant setting and brought in hundreds of buyers. Although many dealers did very well, we felt that the potential of this beautiful show hasn't yet been realized - for us, anyway. We expect Tom and Brian to initiate changes that will enhance next year's edition.

Also on the show front, we learned this month that, after canceling her outdoor Wilton show, Marilyn Gould has also cancelled her craftsman show at Strawbery Banke in Portsmouth. We shopped Farmington on June 10th and were dismayed to find that this once proud venue with about 600 dealers has shrunken to a field of fewer than 200. We arrived for the 8:00 opening and were on our way back to Conway by 9:15.

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This Month's Features

For the past five months, we've presented in serial form the writings of a young Franklin County woman, Jennie Williams, whose diary came to our attention several years ago. Many of you have written or spoken to us about her interesting, though unremarkable life. These month;y installments will continue.

This month we also offer a short piece by a woman of our century: a researcher, librarian, musician, and friend, alive and well, though now far from Western Massachusetts, where our friendships were forged. Her essay Word Play is a response to a most interesting book, which she discovered in the stacks of the library that now employs her. Caution: while a few paragraphs of this essay might disturb the overly fastidious, it's all in good fun and, in fact, all found in the dictionary!

Use the links below for this month's feature stories.

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Jennie Williams' Diary - June 1873

Word Play

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Tales of the Trade

There was more than met the eye in this set of English table cutlery. Read about our Unexpected Find.

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The Back Page

After two years of Ashfield-induced neglect, our gardens are once again getting the attention they deserve. This week we weeded the side entry garden and laid a path of Goshen stone. Have a look.

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Pippin's Page

Newsweek.com reported earlier this month that "Americans this year will spend $40 billion to keep their pets fed, adorned, healthy and amused." While we have no doubt that Pippin is worth at least this much, he seems quite content with more simple amusements, as this month's Pippin's Page will show.

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July, 2007

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Since last month's newsletter . . . .

Our hottest (!) story is Brimfield. On Tuesday, opening day, the temperature nearly hit 100 degrees, with the humidity not far behind. Consequently, attendance reached near-record lows, even for the July show. Many of the fields appeared to be at least 50% empty, and the number of buyers was the lowest we've seen since the anniversary of September 11. Between our two shows we sold six items, all but one before the gates opened. Our motto for the week was, "We were doing pretty well until they let the buyers in!" Idle and with several hours to think, we allowed ourselves the luxury of asking "Just why is it that we do this?"

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When we began selling at Brimfield twenty years ago, we regarded it as a market for merchandise that had been in our inventory for a while. We brought fresh stock, of course, but much of what we sold were "old friends". We marked them at or below our cost and fed a market of dealer-buyers from far away. For them and for their customers our old friends were fresh finds. In those days it was not uncommon to write single receipts for a dozen or more items.

This was the old Brimfield, enticing buyers from across the country with hundreds of dealers offering tens of thousands of interesting items for sale at reasonable prices. We sold, then took our new dollars and bought new stock from the cornucopia at our fingertips. We walked for hours, but the rewards were many. At the end of a typical day, we might have bought thirty or more items, feeding the Brimfield economy by thousands of dollars.

Now, for many reasons - the cost of fuel, the downturn in the trade, the Internet, inflated prices, and the decline in the quality of what sellers bring - many of these buyers no longer come, and many of the better sellers have decided to stay away. In their place comes a swarm of more casual visitors who've heard about Brimfield in the newspapers, magazines, and television. These shoppers might find something to buy, but they have neither the need nor the desire to buy more than a trinket or a piece of furniture for a particular corner of their living room or kitchen. Brimfield's golden era is a thing of the past.

For example, last May, at Heart of the Mart, a shopper spotted an expensive box in our booth. After checking the price - several hundred dollars - she told her companion that she had wanted one for years, and ours was the first one that she liked that she could also afford. She then stunned us by telling us that, as she had left her house for Brimfield that morning, her husband suggested that she take a(!) check with her. Her reply to him? "No, thanks. I'm not planning to buy anything."

Fortunately for all, her friend came to the rescue, and she left with the box. But this story exemplifies the new Brimfield. Dealers still come, of course, but those with deep pockets are looking for rare finds at any cost, while the rest of us are looking for good things at true wholesale prices. Dealers in both categories are having decreasing success. This month we shopped for three days, spent less than $1000, and bought only four items, two of which are in need of restoration!

We've decided that, as a sales venue, Brimfield is no longer viable for us. Not only is it unprofitable but, in order to generate enough revenue to break even, we bring merchandise that would best be saved for our shop or a better show. Consequently, we've made the decision to eliminate Brimfield from our show schedule. In the future, we will participate only as buyers.

This decision reduces our show calendar to twelve shows. Five years ago, we were doing more than 40 shows - an outrageous and impractical number. As we've reduced the number, our success rate has improved. We expect (pray?) that this decision will have the same effect.


On a more positive note, last Saturday's Dorset show was a great success. And after a week at Brimfield, it was a special pleasure to chat with knowledgeable buyers and see fine antiques offered for sale. We wish that there were more one-day shows like Dorset, offering antiques of quality.

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This Month's Feature

Jennie Williams - July 1873

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Tales of the Trade

We've written before in this newsletter about our adventures as importers of European antiques. Recently, an oil painting shipped to us from the Netherlands by a dealer friend, made it from Amsterdam to New York in two days, then languished in U.S. Customs for nearly two weeks. The package arrived unopened, but two weeks late. What could they have been thinking?

This month's Tale of the Trade is a transcript of a phone conversation with a FedEx customs agent a few years ago. We hope you find it more amusing than we did when it occurred. Read The Tale of Mr. Jones.

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The Back Page

Visitors from beneath the earth

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We recently celebrated the first anniversary of our young snow leopard and us. For pictures of him then and now, click on this link to -

Pippin's Page

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August, 2007

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Our summer project continues: windows, windows, windows.

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Since last month's newsletter . . . .

. . . . we've been repairing, re-glazing, repainting, and refitting all of the windows in our house. Those of you who have ever painted 12-over-12 windows (inside and out, by the way) will understand why we've been dreaming of paint brushes for the past four weeks. We hope to complete the remaining windows before the end of next week. Our reduced summer show schedule has given us the time to complete this important preliminary to next summer's painting of the whole house.

Our most recent show, in Little Compton, Rhode Island, was held for the first time at the Sakonnet Vineyards, just outside of the town's center. The show was moved from the grammar school in the center of Little Compton for several reasons, not the least of which were cramped quarters and parking issues. The new location, with approximately 60 dealers occupying two large tents, with acres of parking, not only addressed these difficulties, but also provided a beautiful setting for the show. Our only fear was that buyers might not be willing to move to the new location. Fortunately, these fears were unfounded; buyers came from Little Compton and beyond, validating the decision to move. Congratulations and thanks to Ferguson and D'Arruda for having the courage to improve this fine, established show.

New Hampshire's August overdose has just come to a close. We've not yet heard any reports, but we're pleased that we stayed home where, once again, several New Hampshire-bound antiquers found time to visit the shop.

Thanks to all who wrote or spoke with us about our Brimfield decision. As September approaches, we're more certain than ever that "doing" Brimfield as buyers, rather than sellers, will be a most positive change.

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This Month's Feature

Since January, when we started our serial presentation of Jennie Williams' little diary for 1873, the year of her wedding, we've been quite pleased to receive notes of appreciation from one or two readers each month. For her August journal entries click here.

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Tales of the Trade

A tale of a pair of chairs: their unfortunate past, their restoration, and their proud place in our personal collection: The Odd Couple

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The Back Page

More windows!

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A cold, rainy afternoon, a fire in the fireplace, a forbidden table: this month's Pippin's Page.

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September, 2007

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Since last month's newsletter . . . .

. . . . we enjoyed our first selling-free Brimfield. We shopped nearly every field and brought back almost 50 fresh pieces. Free to wander and observe, it became apparent that the number of buyers at Brimfield has dropped considerably during the past decade, with a corresponding decrease in the number of sellers. Some fields appeared to be less than 75% full. Nonetheless, fewer buyers means less competition, which certainly played a major role in our success. And, observing the laissez-faire attitude of most other buyers affirmed our decision to be stallholders no more.

Our sales at Antiques in a Cow Pasture, on the Sunday after Brimfield, were disappointing, although we were able to buy a few small items to add to the week's total. Frank Gaglio again assembled a small coterie of fine dealers, but our efforts were not rewarded by strong attendance. Dealers in our neighborhood spent their considerable idle time speculating on the reasons so few buyers came and pondering the future of this enjoyable little show.

On the Saturday prior to Brimfield week we shopped Farmington Antiques Weekend. We arrived for the 8:00 opening and were  on our way home by 9:30, since the field was even smaller than in the Spring. Although we consider the day's buying a success, we wonder how much longer this show can continue.

Because we bought so well at these three events, our shop is fuller than it has been for a while. A few of our new finds will be found below.

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This Month's Feature

Don't miss this month's first-hand account of Jennie's marriage to George Bardwell in the September 1873 entries of Jennie Williams' Diary.

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Tales of the Trade

A Brimfield find with a twist: read A Good Deal.

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Pippin's Page

We're told that Bengal cats love lofty places. Click here for a look at Pippin's most recent conquest.

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The Back Page

We're still rushing to button up for the coming Winter. The scariest task is now behind us - The Cupola

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October, 2007

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A quiet country road near Stow-on-the-Wold

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Since last month's newsletter . . . .

. . .  we’ve exhibited at two major shows -- VADA and Rhinebeck -- and spent a week in England shopping for new stock. We're excited about our "new stuff" and are looking forward to unveiling it for customers and friends at our Fall Gala (details below).

We're writing this first draft of our newsletter 39,000 feet above the Atlantic Ocean, en route to Heathrow. Because our Fall trip to England was abbreviated and delayed a week by the late date of Rhinebeck this year, we've not been able to attend the two mammoth fairs in the British Midlands. Since these two events have always been a mainstay of our trips and an excellent source of good, affordable smalls, our efforts in the Cotswolds and London will be more challenging than ever. Looking out at the clouds below us, we’re optimistic that beneath them we’ll be able to find interesting items to add to our stock.

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It's now a week later, and we're in a departure lounge at Heathrow, waiting for our flight to be called. As we look back on our whirlwind week, we feel that we've been very successful. Once again, although our dollars aren't worth what they once were, our English friends were eager to help accommodate our financial limitations. Economic conditions have hurt their business, and they appreciate our custom, as we value the things they offer us. Consequently, we were able to fill several holes in our inventory and are bringing home a very interesting and appealing group of antiques.

Not only has our trip been productive, we’ve had a wonderful time, visiting with dealers we’ve come to consider friends, all of whom are experiencing the same difficulties that we and our American dealer friends are having at home. We’ve also enjoyed good food and some of England’s best real ales, and spent time exploring the English countryside, which becomes more familiar with each visit, but never less magical. We’re eager to be back in Conway, but will carry with us many very pleasant memories of this journey.

We hope that, if you're close enough, you'll be able to join us in our shop on November 10th and 11th for our annual FALL GALA, when our new finds and several pieces we've set aside for the event will be displayed for the first time.

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This Month's Feature

Last April, on our Spring trip to England, we visited the historic village of Lacock, in Wiltshire. When we arrived, we were delighted to discover that our visit coincided with Lacock’s annual Spring festival, when many of the young people of the village decorate yards, gardens, and buildings with whimsical scarecrows. Prizes are awarded, and visitors come to the village from miles away. As a Halloween gift, we share with you some of the photographs we brought home with us last April. Click the highlighted text for Scarecrow Festival in Lacock Village.

With Jennie now married to her darling George, she seems to need her diary less than in the nine months leading up to her wedding. October's entries shift to domestic concerns, and Jennie begins to feel homesick for her friends in her earlier life. Click to read Jennie Williams, October 1873

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Tales of the Trade

This month’s tale illustrates the power of the Internet and its uncanny ability to connect people and things. Read The Nathan Lane Blanket Box.

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The Back Page

October Rhinebeck was disappointing to many, and dealers were going to hilarious lengths not to let unusually slow sales break their spirits. One such attempt gives us this month's Back Page.

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Pippin's Page

Throughout last Spring and Summer Pippin has spent most of his daylight hours on our screened porch. As the evenings have become cooler, he’s decided that a perch near the fire offers a comfortable vantage point from which to oversee his domain – and catch a few winks. Click here for Pippin's Page.

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November, 2007


November eve

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Earlier this month we held our annual Fall Gala, celebrating our fresh England finds and other new stock we'd set aside for the event. We enjoyed the company of others throughout the weekend and by Sunday afternoon several pieces had found new homes with dealers and retail customers. Once again, our heartfelt thanks to those who came or who participated by phone or Internet.

SPECIAL HOLIDAY HOURS

This year's calendar gives us five weekends between Thanksgiving and Christmas. We'll be open on Saturday and Sunday of all five weekends, offering a selection of gift items at affordable prices. These holiday gift suggestions will be in our heated main showroom, as will a selection from our furniture inventory. Look for reduced prices on many items and expect the showroom to look a bit different. Mulled cider, tea, and sweets will be available throughout the day. We hope you'll include us on your holiday shopping itinerary.

Following this holiday sale, the shop will be open by appointment only from the last weekend in December through the first two weeks of February, as we refurbish the shop and office. Please call if you'd like to come; we'll be happy to see you. We'll resume our regular weekend hours on February 16.

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This Month's Feature

The joys and challenges of married life appear to have diminished Jennie's need to write in her diary. Nonetheless, November's entries, though briefer, are no less interesting than those of the past ten months. Click here for this month's installment.

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Tales of the Trade

Dealers often ask if our website is effective. Our answer is always positive; not only do we stay in touch with many of our customers, the Internet brings us new contacts, and an occasional shot of serendipity. This month's story is an example of how the Internet expands our world. Read The Dutch tile.

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The Back Page

As Winter approaches, we thought you might enjoy this picture, snapped on a warm July day at Brimfield. Click here.

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Pippin's Page

Looking out a second floor window last Summer, while we worked on windows.  Click here.

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December, 2007

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PRE-HOLIDAY SALE

Saturdays and Sundays -- 10:00 until 4:00 -- through December 23

 Special gift items  ++  Markdowns on selected pieces  ++  Cider, tea and sweets 

A few gift ideas currently on display in our shop. Look for details below.

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This Month's Feature

Last January we began a serialization of the diary kept by Jennie Williams of Gill, Massachusetts during the months preceding her marriage to George Bardwell. This month we offer the twelfth and final month. Click here for the entries of December 1873.

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Tales of the Trade

This month, a price tag causes some confusion at the VADA show. Click here for "The Vanishing Decimal Point".

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Pippin's Page

Greetings of the Season

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The Back Page

We're excited to announce that we have a new sign at the end of our driveway. Click here for a look.

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