March 2014 Dig Antiques Newsletter
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Electra Havemeyer Webb: A Pioneering Woman

Electra Havemeyer WebbIn Honor of Women's History Month

Electra Havemeyer Webb was a larger-than-life woman. Born in 1888 in Babylon, NY, Electra grew up in the lap of luxury and surrounded by the woks of European masters. As a child, Electra’s parents frequently took her on trips around Europe visiting top art museums. Electra’s first “serious” art purchase was a Goya. But her passion soon turned to Americana and folk art.

Electra shared the story of her purchase of a cigar store Indian from in front of a tobacconist shop in Stamford, Connecticut. She was only 18 when she paid $15.00 for the sculpture and brought it home to her mother. “Ladies and gentleman if you could have seen my mother’s face. She said, “What have you done?” And I said, “I’ve bought a work of art.” She said, “This is perfectly dreadful.”

Electra Webb became the first and perhaps foremost collector of Americana and folk art. By 1911, she began collecting in earnest. Working with some of the top antiques dealers of her time, she amassed “collections of collections” spanning antique weather vanes, shop signs, decoys, hooked rugs, quilts, paintings, New England vernacular architecture and more. In 1955, Electra wrote:

“What is American Folk Art? My interpretation is a simple one. Since the word ‘folk’ in America means all of us, folk art is that self expression which has welled up from the hearts and hands of the people. The creators can be kin or strangers and they can be rich or poor, professional or amateur, but in America, and particularly in Vermont and all of New England, they are still known as ‘folks.’ Their work can be exquisitely wrought or it can be crude. We are apt to differ in our ideas as to whether it is truly art, and to what degree it is artistic. But we must sense in all of the work properly identified as folk art the strong desire on the part of the people to create something of beauty. When our forefathers create it, they were expressing themselves and they were trying to transmit that feeling to the work itself. Perhaps the creators did not think of it as art, but I am one who has thought so for approximately fifty years.”

Many collectors still share the same definition of folk art as Electra articulated. Her voracious collecting filled multiple estates. Electra wanted to share her collection with the public and so she organized the Shelburne Museum in 1947 to meet her goal. She spent the time from then to her death in 1960 creating a museum to fulfill her vision. In total, thirty-nine old buildings and structures were preserved and moved to the museum grounds. The buildings were filled with almost all American antiques and include folk art, carriages, sleighs, pewter, furniture, dolls houses, toys, needlework, farm implements, early wrought iron kitchen and other utensils and much, much more.

Her vision and artistic touch brought the collecting and preservation of American folk art and antiques to the attention of other wealthy and influential people. We have Electra Havemeyer Webb to thank for preserving a staggering quantity and quality of our collective American history.

Search for folk art, pewter, quilts, iron, toys, furniture and more on Dig Antiques.


Digging for a Bargain
Written by Guest Columnist: Lyn Andeen

We have all witnessed it. We go into a shop filled with salt and pepper shakers and there in the rubble we spot a real treasure. Our heart leaps in our chest. We think "Oh boy, I'm going to be able to buy this for a great price". Then we turn over the price tag and to our dismay, it is priced three times what we would price it!

Now I'm not saying it isn't possible to find a "sleeper" now and then anymore, but they are few and far between.

I personally have not had much luck at auctions either. I usually have landed up paying more than I thought I was going to and have also seen things go for crazy high prices that I would have walked right by at a show marked for much, much less.  I must admit I really don't have the patience required to sit through a lot of auctions.

I loved the old days when you went into a shop, sat and swapped war stories and left with some found treasure under your arm. I love a good show. The smart dealers leave room for someone else to make a profit. A good dealer always leaves some meat on the bone.

Now the internet gives us mini shows to shop.

Let's be real. We are going to leave no rock unturned. We will still hope for that treasure in the rubble, hope no one at the auction has any interest in what we are there for, and dig through shows to hunt for that bargain.

Happy digging at

About Lyn Andeen
Lyn Andeen has been an avid collector and dealer for the past 28 years. She has been in group shops, setup at countless antique shows and has a true artistic eye. Lyn's passion is for quality 18th through early 20th century Americana, decorative arts, Shaker and folk art. You can find Lyn online through Andeen Antiques.
Special Memories of a Special Woman

Our article this month was inspired by March being Women in History month. It triggered our thoughts about women influencing our antique collecting. Those powerhouse women like Electra Havemeyer Webb influenced America overall, but we all have special memories about a woman in our past that has contributed greatly in our antiquing life. Whether she was a dealer or a collector, she educated you about many different antiques that you both loved and had a common passion for. From seeing and touching special antiques up close and personal that you only before dreamed about or saw in a book to hearing great detailed stories on how, when and where each were found. Finally, how each antique in their collection meant so much to them and not only had a special spot in her home but in her heart as well.  And not for least today!

If you haven’t been to the Shelburne Museum in Vermont, we highly recommend that you plan a trip. The museum is only open May-October. The 45 acres contains restored buildings filled with the best of Americana and folk art. It is a feast for your eyes and your soul.

Tom & Sheila Baker


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