Vernay Archives at Winterthur

The antique dealer related archives at The Winterthur are an amazing resource, and the archive team there, led by Jeanne Solenksy, are simply great; they are certainly the most accommodating of archive teams (thank you to all!). And thanks again also to Chris Jussel (see previous blog posts) for donating the archive of Vernay & Jussel, and that of J.J. Wolff, to Winterhur archives – it was such a generous, and insightful, thing to do….without such ‘blue sky’ thinking we would not have such rich resources to investigate the history of the antique trade. As you probably know, antique dealer archives in public archive collections are very rare indeed.

Anyway, as readers of the blog may also know (see previous blog posts), the dealer Arthur Stannard Vernay (c.1877-1960) was one of the most important dealers operating in the USA in the period prior to WWI and up to the 1960s. He was born in Weymouth, in the UK, and Chris Jussel tells us, (in the oral history interview we did last week) that Arthur Vernay was originally called Arthur Avant, but changed his name to ‘Vernay’ in about 1903 or 1904 when he came to the USA. Vernay eventually had shops in New York, and in Boston, Massachusetts, but he also had a shop in London, at 217 Piccadilly, probably in the late 1910s-20s, (217 Piccadilly may also be the same location as Vernay’s address at Trafalgar House, 1 Waterloo Place?); Vernay also took a house at 51 Berkeley Square in the late 1920s, which also possibly operated as a showroom too.  So whilst he is primarily an antique dealer with associations in the USA, he qualifies as a suitable subject for the present ‘Antique Dealers in Britain in the 20th century’ project by virtue of his shop in London.

FYI – Vernay is also famous for his interest in collecting animal specimens, many of which he donated to the American Museum of Natural History, in New York – indeed the ‘Vernay-Faunthorpe Hall of South Asiatic Mammals‘ named in 1930 after Vernay and his friend and fellow explorer Colonel John Faunthorpe, remains at the AMNH.

The sales ledgers at Wintherthur contain all the sales made by Arthur Vernay from 1914 until the 1960s; from 1940 the business was continued by Chris Jussel’s father, Stephen Jussel, (Chris took over the business in 1972). The business records prior to 1914 were destroyed by fire, but the remaining early business records are a fascinating research resource, and contain detailed stock books and sales ledgers as well as other ephemera.  This example (below) is the 1914 sales ledger, and the copy invoice (image below) is to ‘Mrs J. P. Morgan’ wife of the famous collector; it is dated December 1914 and describes ‘One Chippendale pole screen with petit point frame, circa 1760’…sold for the princely sum of $450.

Vernay 1914 2

Vernay sales ledger, 1914. Coll 739 04×126.37. Courtesy, The Winterthur Library: Joseph Downs Collection of Manuscripts and Printed Ephemera.

vernay dec 1914 sale

Vernay copy invoice, December 1914. Coll. 739 04×126.37. Courtesy, The Winterthur Library: Joseph Downs Collection of Manuscripts and Printed Ephemera.

Vernay opened his first shop at East 45th Street, in New York in 1906 (the archives at Winterthur have a printed announcement dated March 1906) – his first premises are shown below.

vernay shop e 45th st ny 1910?

Arthur Vernay, first shop (1906) at East 45th Street, New York. Image c.1910. Coll. 739 07×56 Series IV. Courtesy, The Winterthur Library: Joseph Downs Collection of Manuscripts and Printed Ephemera.

The archives also have some photographs of one of the rooms in the interior of Vernay’s first shop, probably taken in c.1910 – which show what must have been a typical assembly of ‘antique’ objects of interest to collectors and furnishers in the period.

vernay 1st int 1910

Vernay shop interior, East 59th Street, New York, c.1910. Coll. 739 07×56 Series IV. Courtesy, The Winterthur Library: Joseph Downs Collection of Manuscripts and Printed Ephemera.

The archives also have a photograph of Vernay’s first delivery van, with it’s own livery! – (Chris Jussel tells me that the van was a Packard type, and was a bespoke model, and quite expensive) – as befitting the culturally significant goods that Vernay sold!

vernay van

Vernay delivery van c.1930s. Coll. 739 04×56 Series IV. Courtesy, The Winterthur Library: Joseph Downs Collection of Manuscripts and Printed Ephemera.

Like many other antique dealers we are studying, (and as previous entries on the Antique Dealer blog have highlighted) Vernay regularly produced catalogues of his stock of antiques, and staged temporary exhibitions to generate interest in particular kinds of objects, or periods/styles and etc. The archive also contains examples of this ephemera, and they clearly demonstrate how sophisticated an operation the Vernay business was. Here’s a selection from the late 1920s –

vernay 1929

Vernay catalogues, 1920s. Coll. 739 04×126.77. Courtesy, The Winterthur Library: Joseph Downs Collection of Manuscripts and Printed Ephemera.

And a selection from the 1940s –

vernay 1944

Vernay catalogues from the 1940s. Coll. 739 04×126.123. Courtesy, The Winterthur Library: Joseph Downs Collection of Manuscripts and Printed Ephemera.

There’s so much more to say about the Vernay, Vernay & Jussel, and the Wolff archives at Winterthur, they are an astonishing survival, and an amazing resource. We certainly hope to do further research on Vernay, and develop this as a potential ‘case study’ for the forthcoming edited book on the ‘British Antique Trade in the 20th Century’ which will be one of the outputs for this AHRC funded research project.

Mark

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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2 Comments to “Vernay Archives at Winterthur”

  1. Mark – enjoyable post! Thank you for your kind words and for making such good use of our collection. Looking forward to your return.

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