2014-07-24 / Front Page

Fifty Objects Highlight History at Antique Show

By Marion Laffey Fox


Ruth Taylor, Newport Historical Society’s executive director holds an ironstone “Votes for Women” plate by John Maddock & Sons of England. The plate, featured in “Fifty Objects That Shaped Rhode Island History,” was made for the Conference of Great Women held at Marble House in July 1914, hosted by Alva Vanderbilt Belmont. (Photo by Susan Duca) Ruth Taylor, Newport Historical Society’s executive director holds an ironstone “Votes for Women” plate by John Maddock & Sons of England. The plate, featured in “Fifty Objects That Shaped Rhode Island History,” was made for the Conference of Great Women held at Marble House in July 1914, hosted by Alva Vanderbilt Belmont. (Photo by Susan Duca) The long-anticipated Newport Antiques Show, running Friday, July 25, through Sunday, July 27, is offering serious collectors as well as casual browsers much more than a leisurely stroll around more than 42 well-appointed booths. A comprehensive series of lectures is scheduled for both Friday and Saturday, and an important loan exhibit entitled “Fifty Objects That Shaped Rhode Island History” is the result of a scholarly partnership between The Rhode Island Historical Society and the Newport Historical Society.

The show is no stranger to partnerships. Since 2007, it has had two beneficiaries, the Newport Historical Society and the Boys & Girls Clubs of Newport County, raising over $1.6 million through sponsorships and ticket sales. “The partnership behind this year’s loan exhibit is a natural extension of the many collaborations that make the show possible,” says Ruth Taylor, Newport Historical Society’s executive director.


This trophy is among the items featured in “Fifty Objects That Shaped Rhode Island History.” Silver King’s Cup trophy by Tiffany & Company, awarded to Robert W. Emmons II by the New York Yacht Club in 1908. Emmons’s sloop, Avenger, was the winner of the Cup that year. This trophy is among the items featured in “Fifty Objects That Shaped Rhode Island History.” Silver King’s Cup trophy by Tiffany & Company, awarded to Robert W. Emmons II by the New York Yacht Club in 1908. Emmons’s sloop, Avenger, was the winner of the Cup that year. “In 1822, Rhode Island’s General Assembly recognized the need for an organization to collect and preserve our state’s history,” explains C. Morgan Grefe, Rhode Island Historical Society’s executive director. “In that year RIHS opened a Northern and Southern Cabinet, in Providence and Newport, respectively. In 1852, the two cabinets split because of the vast physical distances between the sites. Thus was born the Newport Historical Society. Our collections were divided and for the last 150 years we’ve both gone on protecting and sharing our state’s history. But in the 21st century, there is no such thing as too great a distance – and certainly not between Providence and Newport. The RIHS is delighted and honored to join the Newport Historical Society at the antiques show to present Fifty Objects That Shaped Rhode Island History. Together we will tell the statewide story and bring our collections into conversation again – where they have always belonged.”

The loan exhibit’s carefully culled 50 Objects present a riveting look at the state’s history and represent a diverse collection of artifacts that range from a 1696 Seal of the City of Newport and circa 1630 brass compass and sundial owned by Roger Williams to a handsome 1735-1755 walnut and maple slip-seat Queen Anne-style side chair crafted by Job Townsend Sr. There is also a framed proclamation by the British Governor Joseph Wanton, written in 1772, signed with the exuberant salvo: “God Save the King.” Show-goers will delight in the colorful ink-on-paper, watercolor cartoon by Matsumoto Harushige, entitled “Commodore Perry Visits Japan” that depicts several amusing views of Perry and his fleet. A collection of torpedo earrings and ID badges from 1945 reminds visitors that Goat Island in Newport Harbor served as an important torpedo station during World War II.

On Friday, July 25, at 11 a.m. Rhode Island Historical Society Director of Collections Kirsten Hammerstrom will present “Big History, Little State: 375 Years in 50 Objects.” Hammerstrom will address the extraordinary process of research and consideration used in selecting artifacts from tens of thousands of objects for the exhibit.

Later that day at 1 p.m., Grefe’s lecture, “Fruits of Our Labor: Industry, Immigration, and Rhode Island’s Road to Riches,” will examine Newport’s allure as a summer destination, as well as the families that built the magnificent mansions for which the city became famous. To many observers today, they stand as grand examples of gilded beauty for the pampered few. But when they were built, Rhode Island represented a shining example of industry and enterprise. It was bustling with mills manned by immigrants speaking different languages, and its streets were lined with housing for the thousands of workers who gravitated to the seat of American ingenuity. Dr. Grefe will explore the nuances that facilitated the rise of industrial Rhode Island and discuss why the substance of the state was actually much more than a playground for the wealthy.

On Saturday, July 26, at 11 a.m. Nicholas Schorsch, Chairman, CEO and co-founder of American Realty Capital, will discuss his passion for antique cars and the development of the car museum that he and others are establishing in Newport. In addition, his talk will take a look at the history of automobile racing on Aquidneck Island and the possibility of bringing racing activities back to the island.

Taylor, exudes enthusiasm for the event. “It takes many hands to make the Newport Antiques Show a success. The behind-the-scenes collaborations are an essential part of what distinguishes the show from other events. From our partnership with our co-beneficiaries at the Boys & Girls Clubs, to the loan exhibit we’re co-presenting with the Rhode Island Historical Society, alongside the dozens of dealers who travel from far and wide to exhibit here, we have an outstanding team. And we owe a great deal of credit to Show Chair Anne Hamilton, who created this event to support Newport’s past and Newport’s future.”

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