Star-spangled shows: Antiques and folk art historic militaria RALLYING 'ROUND AMERICAN ANTIQUES

November 03, 1991|By Carleton Jones

The vans will be rolling up Howard Street on Wednesday and Thursday rain or shine as exhibitors arrive in Baltimore from all over the place for the 14th annual antique show of the Maryland Historical Society.

It's regarded as a major tour stop on the national antique show circuit because of the select nature of participating galleries and firms. This will be the second time the society has set up at Maryland's 5th Regiment armory, a free-standing space that is one of the state's largest under roof, famed as the setting of the 1912 convention that nominated Woodrow Wilson for president.

On Friday between noon and 1 p.m. Clement E. Conger, State Department curator, will be signing copies of the new book "Treasures of State" on the floor of the exhibition. The color-illustrated album celebrates the collection of American antiques assembled under his direction and added over the years to the diplomatic reception rooms of the Department of State, Washington.

The latest edition of the historical society show is billed as "A Star-Spangled Celebration," with accents on patriotic notes and images in antique furniture, silver, ceramics, glass, folk art, paintings, rugs, prints, jewelry and other memorabilia.

The Historical Society will present a special exhibit on the patriotic image theme and the show will offer the public a rare peek at some of the rarest of all 19th century decorative fabrics, a series of Baltimore-made "album quilts."

"They are really fine art rather than folk art," says Jennifer Goldsborough, society curator.

The fragile and highly detailed coverlets, done in the "applique" technique and dating to about 1850, are among the premiere examples of 19th century American needlework. They are rarely exhibited because they are so valuable and would sell on the open market for up to $250,000, according to Ms. Goldsborough. One of the society's specimens was made to commemorate the then-recent war with Mexico in 1847. It is not known whether the quilts were made by single seamstresses or groups of quilters.

Other exhibits sponsored by the historical society will stress patriotic and civic designs on Maryland art antiques with perhaps attention focused on one of the rare flags carried during the Mexican War.

Items in the society's "theme" exhibit will include fire company relics that Ms. Goldsborough says are "lots of fun." The show will also include a pair of solid silver parade torches made about 1852 for presentation from a Baltimore fire company to the visiting Goodwill Fire Company of Philadelphia. The torches "have rosewood handles and amethysts set around them and were made just as a presentation gift to the visitors," says Ms. Goldsborough.

The pre-Civil War silversmiths, Canfield Bros., made the flashy torches and engraved them with an image of Baltimore's Washington monument and a heart-rending scene of an angel rescuing Philadelphia children from a fire. The pair is a gift to the society from Mr. and Mrs. Leslie Legum.

Concurrently with the antique show, and on the same site, one of Maryland's largest military memorabilia collections will be on display. This is the armory's little-known state National Guard museum, founded in 1983 and directed by Brig. Gen. Bernard Feingold.

The extensive museum occupies a large suite on the north side of the armory in what once was command headquarters of the 29th Division.

There is no admission charge to the Maryland National Guard Military Museum (which has a separate entrance from the show). The museum includes Civil War memorabilia, photos, uniforms, documents and prints from the 19th and 20th century, a fully equipped World War II jeep with all of its gear intact, memorial bronzes won by National Guard teams and individuals, German and Japanese captured armaments and many other items.

Unique, perhaps, in American collections are the National Guard museum's costumed mannequins of a Civil War military couple in the attire they actually wore to their wedding. Also rare and perhaps unique is what is regarded as the only assemblage of pictures of a complete Civil War Union army company, with individual photographs of all its members taken at the same time during the war. The Maryland Antiques Show, with 50 exhibiting galleries, opens Friday at 11 a.m. at the armory and will close at 8 p.m. that day. Saturday hours are 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Sunday hours are 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is $7 daily. The armory is just west of the 1000 block of North Howard Street at Dolphin Street.

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