Bonhams Skinner Announces Major Americana Auctions Featuring Items from the Collections of Renowned Antiquarians

Two August auctions paint a vivid picture of American life through objects from the 16th – 19th centuries

MARLBOROUGH, MA – Bonhams Skinner is pleased to announce two upcoming auctions of Americana this August. An eclectic range of historical American antiques will feature across both sales, including museum-worthy items from early and influential collectors associated with several New England institutions and The Rushlight Club. An online auction, taking place August 6-16 will be accompanied by a live sale on August 13 in Bonhams Skinner’s Marlborough galleries. 

A selection of exceptional items from pioneer collectors and preservationists Bertram K. and Nina Fletcher Little’s son, Warren and his wife Jean’s collection, will be included in the auction.  Highlights from the collection include a relief-carved double-sided portrait of Gen. George Washington by architect and craftsman Samuel Macintire (Lot 39, Estimate: $60,000-80,000). This remarkable plaque offers a glimpse into the revolutionary spirit that accompanied the neoclassical style Macintire is so known for today. Possibly used as part of a trade sign, this early homage to Washington bears the natural weathering of several centuries of American life.

Two-sided Carved and Painted George Washington Profile Portrait Plaque, Salem, Massachusetts, c. 1805-11
(Lot 39, Estimate $60,000-80,000)

Another highlight includes a painted Liberty cap, carved from pine and gilded on the bottom rim (Lot 43, Estimate: $4,000-6,000), personifies our nation’s earliest ideals. Used as a symbol of freedom since the halcyon days of the American Revolution, this Phrygian cap was often depicted on the head of Lady Liberty herself, most famously in the “capped bust” coins of the early 19th century, which this fine carving predates.

Carved, Gilded, and Painted Phrygian Cap,
likely New England, c. 1800
(Lot 43, Estimate: $4,000-6,000)

Important ceramics in the Little collection include a late 18th century creamware “Success to the crooked but interesting town of Boston” jug, (Lot 17, Estimate $3,000-5,000). In addition, a selection of Historical Blue Transfer Decorated earthenware includes a rare Battle of Bunker Hill pierced bowl and undertray (Lot 19, Estimate: $4,000-6,000).

Creamware Transfer Decorated “Success to the Crooked but interesting Town of Boston” Jug, England, late 18th century
(Lot 17, Estimate: $3,000-5,000)

The sales also offer a microhistory in the advent of American yachting, including a yachting scene Sweeping Along, Yachting at Cowes, Isle of Wight by renowned maritime artist Montague Dawson (Lot 49, Estimate: $60,000-$80,000). One of the most important lots in the maritime section of the sale is the original manuscript journal Cleopatra’s Barge On A Voyage Of Pleasure documenting the voyage of George Crowninshield’s famous yacht (Lot 54, Estimate: $75,000-100,000) – the exquisitely detailed account of what is considered to be the earliest pleasure yacht made in America, which took its maiden voyage between March and October of 1817. Bound in red Moroccan leather and containing a complete narrative of the trip and illustrated with twenty-two finely painted watercolors and pen and ink drawings of the harbors and towns Crowninshield encountered on his journey, this unique item presents the very beginning of luxury pleasure cruising from an American perspective. With no comparable precedents in its field, the sale of this manuscript is sure to be closely watched.

Manuscript Journal of the Yacht Cleopatra’s
Barge on a Voyage of Pleasure
(Lot 54, Estimate: $75,000-100,000)

Paring patriotism and the rise of the train in the American landscape, the Americana sale features two Andrew Clemens sand bottles, including one 1880s bottle with a locomotive on one side and an eagle holding the flag on the other (Lot 147, Estimate: $50,000-75,000). The sale also features a diminutive Clemens sand bottle with a floral composition bearing the date 1890, made to commemorate the birth of a girl.

Patriotic Sand Bottle with Eagle,
Locomotive and Tender, McGregor, Iowa, 1880s
(Lot 47, Estimate: $50,000-75,000)

Both auctions are also notable for their range of home goods, including a remarkable New York collection of approx. forty extraordinary needlework pictures from the 17th and early 18th centuries, and a large and important collection of fine wicker furniture from Norman and Diane Bernstein’s Cape Cod estate some of which is featured in American Wicker Woven Furniture from 1850-1930 and some previously exhibited at the Renwick Gallery of the National Museum of American Art.  Also featured is an extensive collection of early American lighting from the Leonard H. Chace, Jr. collection including wrought-iron rushlights, unusual tin lighting devices, and a large selection of whale oil and fluid lamps made at Boston Sandwich Glassworks in the 19th century. 

Additionally, both sales will present significant collections of Chinese export silver including hollow-ware and flatware, alongside esoteric pieces of 18th and 19th century Chinese export porcelain, including a plate used in Ulysses S. Grant’s dinner service (Lot 1016, Estimate: $300-500). Several China Trade Paintings will also be featured, including a Portrait of High Imperial Commissioner Kiying/Qiying/Ch’i-ying (Lot 117, Estimate: $15,000-20,000), a watercolor and gouache painting of Praia Grande Harbor, Macau (Lot 118, Estimate: $10,000-$15,000) and from another collection a diminutive early 19th century School of Spoilum, View of the Hongs, Canton (Lot 115, Estimate: $8,000-12,000). 

Chinese Export Gouache Portrait of High Imperial Commissioner Keying Kiying/Qiying/Ch’i-ying
(Lot 117, Estimate: $15,000-20,000)

Previews, Catalogs & Events 

Previews for the auction open August 10-12. Free and open to the public, book a preview appointment on Bonhams Skinner’s website to attend. Specialists will be on hand to answer questions.

About Bonhams Skinner

Bonhams Skinner attracts top consignments and commands record-breaking prices in the international auction marketplace. In March 2022, Skinner was acquired by the global auction house Bonhams, simultaneously bringing Skinner to the world’s stage and providing Bonhams with greater access to the North American market. With renowned expertise and extraordinary service, Bonhams Skinner is the place for buyers, sellers and the passionately curious. Bonhams Skinner appraisers are familiar faces on PBS’s 19-time Emmy Award-nominated ANTIQUES ROADSHOW. Visit us in Boston, Marlborough, New York, Maine, Florida, or online at

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