Browsing Philadelphia’s past at the Navy Yard

Experienced collector, Jack Levy, used a flashlight to inspect the antiques even though it wasn’t dark at the Philadelphia Antiques Show.

He has been going to the annual event since the 1970s. This year he wanted to support the many collectors that were featured in the loan exhibit, called Celebrations: Antiques that Mark the Moment.

“There’s a lot of best things,” he said after looking over the exhibit. “This is a particularly good show.”

For the show’s 50th anniversary, there were 50 booths set up at the Navy Yard. The show, which is sponsored by Drexel Morgan and Company, runs through today and benefits Penn Medicine.

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Low classical music played as attendees walked from dealer to dealer.

Period furniture, folk and fine art, textiles and Americana were featured. On Sunday, attendees were also invited to join the guided tour of the loan exhibit with Peg Smietana, a Philadelphia Museum of Art Park House Guide.

“Everyone can relate to celebrating these things,” she said. “We all pretty much have the same ideas: honor our children and families, and mourn those we lose.”

Among the exhibits were fireman’s parade hats for the Franklin Company from the collection of Robert and Kathy Booth, and coral and bells (or baby rattles) courtesy of The Dietrich American Foundation, on deposit to the Philadelphia Museum of Art. The coral and bells are attributed to Joseph Richardson, Sr. and date to as early as 1740.

Standing next to each other for the first time in at least a century were The Grenadier, which came from The Philadelphia History Museum at Atwater Kent, and The Turk, from the Germantown Historical Society. Both painted dummy boards were part of Mischianza, the May 1778 farewell celebration for British General Sir William Howe. It was obvious by The Grenadier’s bright colors that the much darker Turk needed a cleaning.

Laura E. Beardsley, executive director of GHS, said The Turk had only been lightly treated because extensive work is too costly for the society. But standing together at the show with Mark Sellers, president of the GHS Board of Directors, all the pair could do was smile seeing seven pieces from the society showcased in the exhibit.

“This is the kind of recognition that Germantown should be getting and isn’t,” Sellers said. “It’s thrilling to see all these dealers and collectors looking at our objects.”

Philip H. Bradley also had something to celebrate, a anniversary of his own.

Philip H. Bradley Co., a Downingtown company selling 18th century American furniture and clocks, has been a vendor for 50 years. The business was started by his father, he said.

Bradley described the event as the best show for decorative arts that offered something for everyone. One of his main pieces was a 1690 lantern clock made by William Martin, who had also made a tall clock for William Penn.

The antiques show is packed with experts who know the significance of the rare pieces on display. Still, as the saying goes, sometimes there’s no accounting for taste. Though Edwin Hild, co-owner of Olde Hope Antiques, expected a 1785 chest made by John Bieber to be the main focus of his booth, attendees were drawn instead to the white embroidered candlewick display from 1830 that hung on the wall, he said.

Hild’s New Hope company’s speciality is folk art and painted furniture from the 18th and 19th centuries, which he was happy to share with the public.

“It’s one of the most important shows in the country,” he said. “It’s been a packed house.”


The Philadelphia Antiques Show runs through April 12. See the Web site for details.

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