Exploring Ralph Willard’s Tower Antiques Show

The caliber of items offered at the Tower Antiques Show in Fair Park, Dallas seems to have improved over the last visit. Not that it was ever disappointing  but for some reason there were more items of interest to engage with this time. The show seemed full, with a steady crowd observed on Saturday and reports of an enthusiastic crowd having made purchases on Friday.

The show has a wide-variety of merchandise offered by dealers mostly from Texas, but also Alabama, Illinois, Florida and elsewhere. Most are offering traditional antiques, jewelry and art with the new look containing “found items” is creeping in.

John Whittemore Truck Front Ralph Willard's Tower Antiques ShowOne dealer in this category is John Whittemore, a recently repatriated Texan, back from New York.

Whittemore made a bold statement with the front part of a mid-century truck greeting visitors to his booth. This kind of funky, rustic Americana (known well by viewers of American Pickers) makes up a larger portion of shows like Fort Worth’s Metro Show (formerly Dolly Johnson), as well as stores in hip areas of Austin, Dallas and elsewhere.

While it’s great to see this new style of merchandise in a show, I would be disappointed if every booth adopted this look.

Americana with a southern or Texas flavor, was popular in the show. Sandra Worrell, from Houston, showed naïve portraiture of children along with fancy furniture featuring painted surface. The oil money can be sniffed from the floor too. Many items (from bookend to real hardware tools, to early prints related to oil rigs were plentiful. Or, if one regards them too small for a state famous for being BIG, a vintage TEXACO sign will certain fill a whole wall. Made of plastic, the sign can be illuminated from inside. More interesting find came from J Compton Gallery of Wimberley, Texas. A pie safe stood with old southern charm and hospitality. The safe was made circa 1870, from southern states such as Tennessee or South Carolina.

Pie Safe Ralph Willard's Tower Antiques Show Fair ParkThe striking patterns on the tin door are, in fact, for utilitarian purposes (for a 19th century precursor of modern day refrigerator). The punctured holes enable ventilation while keeping away insects. (In particular, all the holes were punctured from inside to create harsh edges and borders to stop insects). The crest was added later, making it more elaborate. At certain time of its history, it has been repurposed to be a wardrobe. It can see it attractive to both hard-core Americana collectors and decorators looking for the right balance between functions and decorations.

Horseshoe Curve Postcard  Victorian GreyhoundVintage postcards are abundant in antiques malls. I can spend hours going through piles of cards with regional interests. Linda Mahlke of Victorian Greyhound, however, made it easy. Collected and apparently cherished by their original owner, a set of pristine post cards were sorted (based on subjects) and stored in two albums, as if they were family photos.  Eric immediately spotted two cards of Horseshoe Curve of Altoona, Pennsylvania. The panoramic view of curved railroad looked even more impressive with two cards, each carrying half of the scene, placed side by side.

pub sign Burtonwood Leftover from Brenham TexasAt Leftover from Brenham Texas, a metal sign, probably from a bar, looked very Texas. It was funny to see the gigantic head of a cow inched so close to a butterfly. In the shadowed background, however, were depicted two guys hand in hand. It turned out this was from England and Burtonwood, written on top of the sign, was probably the name of the bar.

Frederick MayhewFred Cain from Fort Myers, Florida presented a primitive portrait attributed to Frederick Mayhew. Charming yet mysterious, the sitter has an elongated face, echoed with a set of books on the upper right corner. It is a fancy design of symmetric patterns and a careful study of personal character. Born in 1785, the Nantucket painter left no signature on his portrait. Yet the peculiarity of his artistic style helped the collectors identify the hand behind a few (although scant) charming stylized portraits. The last auction record on the artist (from Skinner) was $30,000. A secretary from late Federal period, also from Mr. Cain, kept a manageable scale while maintained a pristine condition of its mahogany veneer. itcould satisfy many needs of a household (book shelf, clothing storage, writing desk or even for a laptop), especial for those multi-taskers.

Rod Bartha

A gigantic bed from Rod Bartha of Riverwoods, Illinois was eye-catching. Although Victorian furniture has fallen out of the style so that one could hardly spot them in an antiques show now, this one is of top quality. It should satisfy anyone who is seeking a high Victorian bed.

Time spent at Ralph Willard’s Tower Antiques Show is time well spent. The quality of merchandise is generally very good and the dealer’s are knowledgable in their area’s of expertise. This show is the best bet for a mostly traditional Americana show in North Texas.

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