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Antiques Considered - March 25, 2009

Many years ago a gentleman in the Northern Neck received this tramp art shelf from a prominent community leader, who told him that it had come down through his family.  It is made of wooden sewing spools and pieces of orange crates.  Many years ago it was stained, possibly when it first was made.
This hanging shelf is difficult to date.  It probably comes from the late nineteenth century, or the early years of the twentieth.  It represents the typical homemade art of that period, composed of found objects, and assembled by amateur craftsmen.
Hobo, or Tramp, Art has become quite popular in recent years.  The name comes from the idea that hoboes, having no money, made things from found objects, which they in turn sold for very little money in order to obtain the necessities of life.   These were indigenous craftsmen who were unemployed, and literally living from hand to mouth.
Some of them were so talented that their works inspired cabinetmakers and artisans to make new pieces patterned after the work of the hoboes.   If one looks at a piece of tramp art, normally the difference in the level of sophistication is apparent.  In other words, one can tell if the piece originated with a genuine, certified hobo.  If so, the value is higher.
This shelf is interesting for both its composition, and its recycling of found objects, such as the thread spools and the orange crate boards.  The value of the piece also comes from its fine condition.  Often pieces of hobo art received rough handling and wound up getting broken.  This piece is worth $75.  I suggest writing its provenance on the bottom of one of the shelves, thereby documenting its local origin.  I have witnessed countless incidents whereby family lore was lost, of left undocumented, thus eliminating a significant part of an antique's history.
• Lisa  and Henry Lane Hull operate Commonwealth Antiques and Appraisals, Inc. at 5150 Jessie DuPont  Hwy. (P.O.Box 35) Wicomico Church, Virginia 22579, a firm which he founded in 1973.  The appraisal service began in 1976.  Write to him there,  or by e-mail at comantqu @ crosslink.net, with pictures and descriptions of items you wish to have him treat in "Antiques Considered."  Please include a stamped, addressed envelope if you wish a personal acknowledgement.
 

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