20 Reasons To Love Americana, Day 11

Today’s blog showcasing standout examples of Americana that will be offered at the Winter Antiques Show January 19–29 at New York City’s Park Avenue Armory uncovers some of the history behind a historic sign.

Historic signs, trade signs in particular, are especially sought after by Americana collectors and this example offered by Suzanne Courcier and Robert Wilkins, Yarmouth Port, Mass., certainly fits the bill.

This double-sided sign was made to hang outside the Rising Sun Tavern, which opened in 1816 on the green in Hillsborough Center, N.H. Joseph Wilder Jr built his house in 1815 and opened a tavern here the following year. The sign is dated 1816 in block lettering on the side with the eagle and has wonderful graphics and retains much of its original paint as it has never been cleaned.

The 38-by-39-inch pine-construction sign also includes its original iron hangers and hung outside the tavern for years. Joseph Wilder died in September 1846 and his son Barrett Wilder died in 1864 and is believed to be the last Wilder to run the tavern. The building became a private residence at some time during the Nineteenth Century, and the sign remained in the attic of the two-story Colonial building for many years and at some point was removed.

“I used to move furniture around in that house,” says local pewtersmith Jon Gibson, saying he would help an elderly woman close down the house when she used it as a summer place years ago. An avid historian, he reports that the stretch just northeast of the village in the historic district was referred to as “Wilder’s Hollow” as several Wilder family members had homes there in the 1800s.

In an 1928 book, Legends of Center Folks: Their Homes and Institutions Now and Long Ago, author Lisabel Gay writes, “Joseph Wilder built this house in 1815. He kept a tavern called The Rising Sun.” She then describes the sign “still in the Cobb attic,” as the house came to be known later.

According to the book, Barrett Wilder and his sister Ann ran the tavern for a while after their father’s death, but Barrett headed South, roving from one area to another. Apparently, his strong Yankee views got him into trouble in the pre-Civil War times and may have cost him his life, as he was buried in Arkansas.

“Other than its history and the remarkable condition in which it has survived, it is the imagery, especially on the sunrise side, that spoke to us,” says Bob Wilkins.

For more information, call the dealers at 508-362-5420. Make sure to visit the dealers’ booth at the Winter Antiques Show to see this and other fine examples of Americana. For show information, www.winterantiquesshow.com or 212-987-0446.

–Andrea Valluzzo


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