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Brian Coole (British/American, b 1939) painted this scene of the USS Constitution in Boston Harbor. Circa 1840, it measured 17 by 30 inches in a 28-by-41-inch giltwood frame. It brought $5,120, the highest price of the auction from a buyer in New Hampshire.

Review & Onsite Photos by Rick Russack

STURBRIDGE, MASS. — D.L. Straight Auctioneers’ February 10 sale gave buyers 580 lots of “Americana, Folk Art and Estate Items” and more than 400 viewers were watching the sale on LiveAuctioneers as it began; it was also conducted on Invaluable. About 90 percent of the sale traded hands successfully.

David Straight was raised in the antiques business, working for his grandfather and going to auctions and Brimfield with him from an early age. He started selling on his own while in college in the 1970s.

“I conducted my first auction in 1990 and right now we’re doing six or seven auctions a year. I set up at Brimfield for years but stopped in 2019 when the auction business really got busy. The business today, as we all know, is so different from what it used to be. We used to use one only internet platform in the ‘old days’ when we used to get large crowds in the gallery. Now, we use three platforms, and the bulk of our offerings sell online. I was brought up in the business when nearly everything was New England-style Americana. I’m glad to say that the market for good Americana is strong and we’re seeing a lot of that material selling to West Coast buyers using the internet. It means we have to take a lot of pictures for our descriptions but buyers in that part of the country don’t have access to the amount of good, early country stuff that we do.”

When asked about his own collecting interests, he said that he and his wife go after trade signs from New England businesses, especially those from Boston. “And, of course, we have plenty of other stuff.”

Described in an early publication of the Rushlight Club, this 20-inch-tall three-light candle holder was used by tavern and innkeepers to inform travelers that there were vacancies. Circa 1810-20 and retaining its original paint, it sold for $1,088.

Early lighting devices started the auction. The group of about 30 examples was the second portion of a very good collection and included several unusual pieces; Straight said there will be one more sale from the same collection. Several of the examples had been pictured in the 1972 Rushlight Club publication, Early Lighting, A Pictorial Guide. Bidding was competitive for the scarce items; the most sought-after was a circa 1810-20 20-inch-tall sheet metal triple candleholder with its original painted surface. Straight said that, according to one of the books on early lighting, candleholders like this were placed in windows by early innkeepers or tavern keepers to inform passing travelers that they had vacancies. This one sold for $1,088. Another, described in the catalog as an adjustable tin oil “moderator’s lamp” had two small candles to heat the oil for the wick. It brought $288. A small round mold for making four candles made $160. A four-sided wooden candle lantern with a hand-forged tin carrying handle and cover went out for $576.

Paintings included an oil on canvas by Brian Coole, a self-taught British postwar artist born in 1939, who is best known for marine and historical subject matter. This painting showed the USS Constitution under full sail in Boston Harbor and surrounded by numerous other ships under full sail, small boats with passengers and the Boston waterfront in the background. It brought the highest price of the sale: $5,120 and sold to a buyer in New Hampshire.

Dave Straight was brought up in the antiques business and has been conducting auctions since 1990. He’s shown here with two of the Sarah Ray Bryant paintings that sold for $1,280 and was purchased by a buyer in Georgia who bought the other Sarah Ray Bryant lot.

Some watercolor portraits by an African American woman whose father had been a slave came with an interesting story. The untrained artist, Sarah Ray Bryant, was the daughter of Nelson Ray who had been born into slavery in New Orleans in 1820. The will of his owner, widow Velinda Ray of Missouri, stated that, upon her death, which was in 1846, Nelson was to be given his freedom. However, Nelson’s wife and eight children were not included in the release and remained slaves, some of whom had by then already been sold. Once he was freed, Nelson went West during the gold rush and in one year made enough money, $3,700, to return and buy his wife and three of his children from their owner. Ray and his reunited family went back to California, settling in Placerville, Calif., where he became a successful businessman. After emancipation, he was able to locate his other children who had been sold and reunite his family.

In 2022, a group of 15 other portraits by Sarah Ray Bryant were discovered by a real estate developer in Florida and sold by a Boston-area auction house to a private collector who prevailed against interest from multiple institutions.

A lot of three of Bryant’s paintings offered by Straight closed out at $2,432. A second lot, comprised of two larger paintings, made $1,280. After the sale, Straight confirmed both lots were going to the same buyer in Georgia, who had never previously bid in any of his sales.

Some bidders may have been discouraged by the fact that this pine and maple William and Mary highboy had, over the years, some restoration. Despite that, it reached $1,280, more than four times its high estimate.

There were several examples of early furniture, including some Pilgrim century pieces. A red-painted William and Mary maple and pine highboy realized $1,280. A set of six high-back side chairs from the same period sold for $1,536 and a Massachusetts Pilgrim period Carver armchair, circa 1670, realized $1,408. There were several Windsor chairs, including a Nantucket painted brace-back child’s armchair that topped off at $768.

A collection of nearly a dozen tea caddies included two Regency period tortoiseshell examples and some in unusual forms. A tortoiseshell caddy with interior lids earned $1,664; the other brought $1,152. An unusual mahogany one in the form of a sideboard with a backsplash and carved moldings earned a reasonable $480. Most of the caddies finished above or within expectations.

After the sale, Straight remarked, “It was a good, solid sale. I’ve spoken with our consignors and they’re all happy with the results. It took us about ten hours to get through everything. It was our first sale in our new facility and that worked well. We had space to display things before the sale and it’s an easy place to find. The lighting collection again did well and there’s one more good batch for an upcoming sale. The bowfront chest was a surprise and so was the Eldred Wheeler bed, which brought $1,216. I thought the Bryant paintings might have done better but both lots sold within our estimates. To sum up: I think it was a good sale with happy buyers and happy sellers.”

Prices quoted include the buyer’s premium as reported by the auction house.
For additional information, or 508-769-5404.



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