Pook & Pook to Auction Machmer Collection

Painted birds, fanciful tulips, colorful hearts, vibrant parrots, fans, stars, etc., are all decorative elements of American painted furniture and folk art, and are all incorporated into many of the pieces to be offered in the collection of Richard and Rosemarie Machmer. Pook & Pook, Inc., will sell this outstanding lifelong gathering on October 24 & 25, in Downingtown, Pennsylvania. The Machmers were well-known for their scholarship, hard work, historic community involvement and impeccable taste. As veteran collectors, “Dick” and “Rosie,” amassed exceptional pieces of painted furniture and accessories, carvings, fraktur, textiles and Native American objects.

Interspersed among the 816 lots are a wide variety of local carvings, primarily from the 19th and 20th centuries. Many of these items were pictured in Just for Nice, Carving and Whittling Magic of Southeastern Pennsylvania, written by the Machmers in 1991. One of the favorite carvers, John Reber, is well represented in the auction. Reber, born in Lehigh County, Pennsylvania, in 1857, is known for his realistic work and attention to detail. Several of the Reber highlights include a “Dan Patch” figure of a horse with sulky and driver (estimate $25,000 to $35,000), a stallion (estimate $12,000 to $18,000), a 17-inch-long pheasant, a guinea hen, and several roosters. The work of carver “Schtockschnitzler” Simmons of Berks County, Pennsylvania, can be found in several museums including Winterthur, Henry Ford, Berks County Historical Society, and others. Three polychrome decorated bird trees by Simmons will be offered, one having nine birds in vivid shades of red, blue, yellow, brown and white, 19-1/4 inches high (estimate $30,000 to $50,000). A bold multicolored Simmons figure of a parrot is sure to interest collectors. The bird stands 7-3/4 inches high and carries an estimate of $8,000 to $12,000. Simmons was also known for his canes, and there will be five presented in the sale, including one with the grip in the form of a hand supporting a bright red bird on a basket.

Cumberland County, Pennsylvania, whittler Wilhelm Schimmel is perhaps one of the most widely known Pennsylvania carvers, and is famous for his eagles and eaglets. An unusual carved and polychrome decorated dog with a basket in its mouth by Schimmel will attract bidders. Illustrated in Just for Nice (figure 61) and lot 223 in the sale, is a fine carved angel with an ivory surface by the Ephrata-Schoeneck carver (estimate $10,000 to $15,000).

A favorite of Dick Machmer’s were the Jail Carvers. These men, working from 1900 to 1945, were originally taught in the larger prisons of the Philadelphia area and then transferred to local county prisons, including Berks County Prison where one of the purported carvers, Alvin Sweitzer, was incarcerated. They primarily whittled hobo figures, but are also known for their Amish family groups. A recognized example of their work is lot 113 which depicts a policeman arresting three vagrants under a lamppost.

Another favorite of the Machmer’s was George Wolfskill, born in Lancaster County in 1872. An elaborate fox hunt scene, 24 inches long, illustrates three hunters and eleven dogs chasing two foxes. Of special note is Asa Carpenter’s great carving of a sow and her offspring. Inscribed “Jacknife Carving by Asa Carpenter,” this will be a serious temptation to many. Other well-known carvers represented include the Virginville carver, Nathan Ruppert, Lewis DeTurk, Stephen Polaha, Noah Weiss, etc.

Entering the Machmer house, one of the first things you were likely to notice was their collection of canes, from a variety of different carvers – some known and some not. Of the approximately thirty-three canes offered, a patriotic example stands out as one of the best. This polychrome decorated piece has a foliate decorated handle above two American flags, flanking inset figures of two soldiers above twenty-two carved relief heads of United States Presidents from Washington to Cleveland (estimate $15,000 to $25,000). Another important cane, signed “J.P. Zweizig Reading, PA” has a bird grip and a shaft decorated with Masonic emblems, a trolley car, Native Americans, flag, etc. Other canes have a myriad of different relief figures, including elephants, dogs, alligators, hearts, birds, deer, human figures, and floral and geometric patterns.

Several of Pennsylvania’s itinerant painters were known for their representations of various almshouses. Both John Rasmussen and Charles Hofmann took refuge at the Berks County Almshouse, and painted intricate colorful views of that institution. While most of Rasmussen’s works were painted on tin, the excellent piece in the Machmer collection is oil on canvas. The central bird’s-eye view depicts the facilities with figures engaged in various activities, surrounded by five smaller vignettes. It is, without a doubt, one of his finest works.

A Pennsylvania scene of the Old Snyder Farm, by Franklin Eshelman, will be offered. This painting was exhibited at the Reading Public Museum in 1982 and an example by the same artist (of the same farm) was sold in the collection of Julie and Sandy Paley, at Sothebys in January 2002. Three works by Augustus Kollner will also be sold, including a very fine bird’s-eye view titled “Pottsville Penna from the Northeast” (estimate $5,000 to $8,000). Two fine oil on canvas paintings of chicks, by Ben Austrian, will be included. Other represented artists include Ferdinand Brader, Edward Howell, Mary Leisz, Timothy Barr, Christopher Shearer, John Berninger, and Samuel Moon. Five examples by Pennsylvania artist Hattie Klapp Brunner, including two snow scenes, two vibrant farm scenes, and an auction scene are highlighted together with nineteen pieces by Pennsylvania artist David Ellinger. Ellinger, long known for his oil on velvet works, will attract interest with a large farm scene (estimate $8,000 to $12,000) and a theorem of a basket of fruit (estimate $5,000 to $8,000).

Because of its genealogical and historic interest, fraktur was of great interest to Richard and Rosemarie Machmer. They amassed a large collection, with many well-known artists represented. These colorful illuminated manuscripts have yielded a tremendous amount of family information, all recorded in various education institutions. A rare example by the I.T.W. Artists of Berks County, with its red, green and yellow mermaids, parrots, and tulips, was made for Jacob Adams and is dated 1805. Another dramatic birth certificate, by Christian Mertel for Henrich Gehug, depicts bold castles and recumbent lions with human faces. Other fraktur artists include Martin Brechall, Henrich Dulheuer, Ehre Vater, Wilhelmus Faber, Abraham Huth, Frederich Krebs, David Kulp, Friederich Kuster, Heinrich Otto and John VanMinian.

In addition to Just for Nice, Richard Machmer also wrote another antique reference book titled Berks County Tall Case Clocks 1750-1850. Three outstanding clocks, including a figured cherry example by Peter Gifft of Kutztown that is pictured in this book, will be sold. The most important is a Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, Chippendale walnut tall case clock, by Adam Brant. This clock is in remarkable condition with original carved finials and rosettes and a virtually untouched “in the black” surface (estimate $60,000 to $90,000).

Painted furniture still retains the unwavering attention of many collectors and dealers. Some dazzling examples will be offered on both days of the auction. A Berks County two-part Dutch cupboard has its original pure brilliant orange and salmon swirl decoration and red moldings. A nearly identical example is on display in the Landis Valley Museum and has the signature of Benj. Blatt. Both of these pieces are likely from the same shop and probably the same hand. A Montgomery County corner cupboard, lot 568, retains a similar vibrant red and yellow swirl decorated surface. Purchased at a Schnecksville Auction about 35 years ago for an amazing (at the time) $5,500, it is one of the dower chests from Dick’s collection that is well documented and known. This Pennsylvania chest, decorated with stylized floral trees arising from tulips, birds, and four fish, is illustrated in The Pennsylvania Germans, A Celebration of The Arts, (figure 35) and in Folk Hearts, (figure 71).

A beautiful Lehigh County, Pennsylvania, dower chest dated 1785 is a highlight. Inscribed with the name “Sofia Resinger,” this piece has two green sponge-decorated hearts, each with pinwheels, and all within an interlacing circle border above two drawers (estimate $50,000 to $80,000). Pictured in The Pennsylvania German Decorated Chest, (figure 135), is another dower chest to be offered. This Lancaster County example, from the workshop of Johann Flory, is decorated with prancing horses, parrots, and pinwheels. A Lehigh County miniature painted dower chest with large floral sprays emanating from urns will be offered on Saturday.

Two East Hempfield Township, Lancaster County schranks, both made for members of the Kauffman family, have sulphur inlaid panels inscribed with initials and dated 1764 and 1768. A very fine Chester County walnut spice box with compass star inlaid door, and ball feet, will be a feature lot (estimate $50,000 to $80,000). The inlaid furniture category is further enhanced by a walnut blanket chest with inlaid tulips, pinwheel, hearts, and six-pointed stars.

Textiles were a passion of the Machmer family. Both had an eye for bold colors and graphic design elements. There are many wonderful examples, including a yellow, green, and red quilt with four large eagles with shield breasts, a vibrant mariner’s compass quilt, a red and green Amish sawtooth center diamond quilt, and a folk art appliquÈ quilt with four panels, each with an Indian with bow and arrow. Many crib quilts will enhance the textile category, together with Pennsylvania coverlets, pillow shams, needlework purses, and pinballs.

A rare Philadelphia stoneware pitcher attributed to Richard Remmey with relief man’s face, is a much sought after piece. The face has a cobalt highlighted goatee, mustache, eyes, and eyebrows, and stands 10-1/4 inches high. (Estimate $40,000 to $60,000). Many other fine pieces of stoneware are interspersed throughout the sale. Redware will also be offered on both days. A Shenandoah Valley whimsy depicting a gentleman seated on a tree stump with a bottle in his hand and a dog at his feet is a rare item.

A myriad of important accessory items will attract attention. Examples include a fine Drissell box, two “Compass Artist” boxes, Weber boxes, large polychrome-decorated chalk cat, numerous baskets, great cookie cutters and butterprints, pewter, wallpaper boxes, many vibrant toleware pieces, metalware (including an eagle escutcheon), a Richardson silver bowl, Georg Jensen tea service, and many other items.

To round out the day, a collection of Native American items will be sold. A Northwest coast carved totem and polychrome decorated face mask depicting typical stylized human and animal figures are offered. Many fine baskets will also cross the block, including a massive Apache coiled olla, several California Yokuts basket bowls, Attu lidded baskets, and Apache trays. Regional Navajo rugs, pottery, beaded items, Kachina dolls and jewelry will finish the sale.

For further information on Pook & Pook, Inc.’s sale, call (610) 269-4040; or visit the Web site at www.pookandpook.com.