Ron Bourgeault

Unfashionable antiques


From Robert Whitcomb’s “Digital Diary,’’ in

My clan has some elderly furniture and other old stuff. There’s a maple grandfather clock made for a great-great-something grandfather of mine called Rufus Noyes in the 18th Century, my father’s desk, with numerous hiding places for documents, from the same period, some uncomfortable old chairs from Victorian times, some old bureaus and end tables, some musty religious and other books from the 1600’s, my murdered great uncle William Dale White’s limited edition of the complete works of Alphonse Daudet and other odds and ends, including a nice portrait of a Whitcomb lady ancestor of mine done in about 1830 and looking a bit like the poet Emily Dickinson, and a pretty good painting of Minot’s Light, with three-masted schooner, off Cohasset, Mass., where I lived as a boy. None of it has much value, except emotionally. There’s a family story with each of these things.

Indeed, the value, especially of the furniture, could be falling as I type, if a rather sad Yankee magazine article on the antiques business is on mark. It’s titled “The Death of Brown Furniture,’’ and basically asserts that Millennials, being more interested in “experiences’’ than in “things,’’ aren’t interested in really old stuff, although many apparently like such “Mid-Century Modern’’ furniture as Danish modern.

The veteran antiques dealer and frequent Antiques Roadshow guest Ron Bourgeault, who is quoted in the article, is probably correct: Society’s and especially younger folks’ waning interest in, and knowledge of, history explains at least some of the falling price of antiques. That’s too bad. If we don’t know where we’ve been, it’s harder to know where we’re going. I don’t have all that much interest in the precise genealogy of my New England/Minnesota/New York/English/Scottish/French ancestors but I love to learn the stories associated with these old artifacts, some of which contain some useful lessons.

I remember with a pang my mother throwing out Victorian and Edwardian furniture back in the late ‘50s, perhaps after a few drinks. A lot of it was ugly, but, again, each piece had story with it, happy or sad.

Oh yes, I forgot the old banjo clock with the picture of the Boston Massacre on it and the collections of the works of Sir Walter Scott , Robert Lewis Stevenson and James Russell Lowell! All asthma-inducing.