Uniquely NH Antiques

Before you enjoy Antiques Week and the 61st annual New Hampshire Antiques Show, learn a little about antiques from the Granite State.
Left: This highboy is attributed to Moses Hazen Jr., who was born in 1776 and settled in Weare, New Hampshire. Right: The Dunlap family started making furniture, such as these chairs, in the 1700s.

New Hampshire’s rich history of antiques and fine art makes antiquing forays in the state fun and fascinating. Every antique discovery is like a time-travel history lesson. From highboys and wing chairs to grandfather clocks and landscape paintings, 18th- and 19th-century New Hampshire was a prolific region for furniture makers, clock makers and fine art painters.

A highboy that was recently here at our shop, New Hampshire Antique Co-op, illustrates quality New Hampshire craftsmanship from the late 18th century. Attributed to the workshop of Moses Hazen Jr., the highboy pictured was made of indigenous tiger maple with pine secondary wood (meaning wood that is not visible from the exterior, such as the drawer interiors). The furniture makers of the 1700s and 1800s often embraced the availability of New Hampshire’s native woods such as maple, cherry and birch instead of the more expensive, traditional imported mahogany.

Born in 1776, Moses Hazen Jr. was a cabinetmaker who settled in Weare, New Hampshire, to set up his workshop. This highboy bears Hazen’s characteristic carved fan with pinwheel design. Hazen’s furniture was influenced by the Dunlap family, who also hailed from southern New Hampshire, and were among the most acclaimed cabinetmakers in the state. Their unique style typically incorporated elaborate woodcarvings, such as fans, shells, scrolls and basketweave motifs. The Dunlaps started making furniture in the 1700s, and the family tradition continued through future generations into the 21st century. Donald Dunlap, a descendant of the Dunlap family of woodworkers, is a contemporary furniture maker living and working in New Hampshire. Excellent examples of Dunlap furniture can be seen at the Currier Museum of Art and the New Hampshire Historical Society.

Left: A detail of the Hutchins tall case clock’s face. The handpainted ship is automated and rocks back and forth with the motion of the pendulum. Right: The Hutchins tall case clock stands more than 8 feet high.

Clocks are another mainstay of New Hampshire’s craftsmanship from centuries ago. Levi Hutchins was one of New Hampshire’s notable clockmakers. Born in New England in 1761, Hutchins was old enough to serve in the Revolutionary War as a fifer in the regiment of his father, Colonel Hutchins. After the war, he and his brother, Abel, apprenticed under the renowned American clockmaker Simon Willard. Around 1784, the brothers settled in Concord, where they made clocks together for 20 years before branching out on their own. Levi was credited for making the first American alarm clock. The Hutchins brothers were the first in New Hampshire to make clocks with brass works, following Willard’s teachings. Levi lived a full life; he had 10 children and died in 1855 at the age of 93.

The Hutchins tall case clock pictured above is a great example of New Hampshire ingenuity. Standing more than 8 feet high, it features an intricate inlaid case and a boldly painted dial. The rocking ship movement, which is the hand-painted ship in the arch section above the number 12, is automated and rocks back and forth with the motion of the pendulum. This clock still keeps perfect time after more than 200 years.

A prevailing and patriotic artistic movement in the 19th century was celebrating the grandeur and uniqueness of the American landscape. In the 1800s, the New Hampshire outdoors inspired artists from afar to visit, stay and paint in the White Mountains, which ultimately formed the roots of the White Mountain School. Founded in the 1850s in North Conway by artist Benjamin Champney (1817-1907) and based on the style of the Hudson River School, White Mountain art became very popular.

“October in NH, Near the Foot of Mt. Washington” by William Louis Sonntag (1822-1900)

Artists came from New York to paint the splendor of New Hampshire’s mountainous landscape. These paintings popularized the region and soon grand resorts and hotels were established, which furthered tourism to the area. These resorts would often have an artist-in-residence who would sell works to the tourists. The White Mountains, with their dramatic peaks, rugged terrain, lakes and valleys, became the perfect landscape for these pioneering artists to explore and paint. One artist from New York who frequented this terrain was William Louis Sonntag (1822-1900). The work pictured on the opening spread is titled “October in NH, Near the Foot of Mt. Washington” and was painted in the 1870s.

Jason Hackler is the manager and co-owner of New Hampshire Antique Co-op in Milford. Stop in for a narrated tour of New Hampshire paintings, furniture, folk art, artifacts and ephemera in the shop and gallery. Also, this month you can enjoy Antiques Week (August 5-11) and the 61st annual New Hampshire Antiques Show (August 9-11, Manchester).

Categories: Features