Posts tagged ‘Stair & Co’

June 23, 2019

New Antique Dealer Archive Material – Stair & Andrew (Stair & Co)

Thanks to the generosity of Robert Luck, a former Director of the antique dealership of Stair & Company, we have another cache of antique dealer material for the project archive. Robert passed on a selection of Stair & Co sales catalogues (see below) of various dates, from the 1950s to the 1980s; some of the catalogues retain annotations of prices and stock codes – which make fascinating reading in terms of the changing sale values of antique furniture.

A selection of Stair & Co sales catalogues for the Antique Dealers Research Project.

The catalogues are a very useful resource for the project, and illustrate the changing practices, and changing taste, of one of the leading dealers in antique English furniture and works of art.  Stair and Company was established in 1911 as Stair & Andrew, at first in London and then in 1914 in New York; the business was founded by Arthur Stair, who trained as an architect, and Valentine Andrew.  The partners met at the furniture manufacturer Waring & Gillow, before working at the decorating firm, Crawford & Co in New York and then setting up business together in 1911.

The business became Stair & Co after the Second World War, and from 1952 was owned by Jules C. Stein, (of MCA, Music Corporation of America).  In 1968 the business acquired the antique dealership, R.L. Harrington (formerly Christy’s of Kent), then also, like Stair & Co., trading in Mount Street, London; this allowed Stair to operate from 2 interrelated shops (120 & 125 Mount Street) in one of the most important locations in London for antiques at the time.

Stair & Co., 125 Mount Street, London, 1970. Photograph, Stair & Co archive.

Stair & Co 120 Mount Street, London 1970 – formerly the shop of R.L. Harrington. Photograph, Stair & Co archive.

In 1980 the business was again bought by an American businessman, this time by David Murdoch, the Los Angeles based financier and owner of Pacific Holdings Corporation – both Stein and Murdoch were serious collectors of antique English furniture.

The Stair & Co catalogues are fascinating, as I say, but more importantly Robert also passed some rare survivals from the business archive of Stair & Co., including a copy of the first business account books from the Stair & Andrew Limited business.

Stair & Andrew Limited, Signed Accounts book c.1912-1937. Stair & Co archive.

The account book shows the balance sheet and profits of the Stair & Andrew business from April 1912 (when the business made sales of £8445 and 6 shillings and 3 pence), until June 1937 (when the business made sales of £25,071 and 5 shillings and 1 pence). The accounts are an amazing survival and give a unique insight into the working practices and profit and loss accounts of one of the world’s most important antique dealers of the 20th century.

But perhaps more significantly Robert also passed a large collection of the client cards from Stair & Co – these are truly fascinating and an amazing resource for the antique dealers research project.  The cards appear to date from the 1950s up to the 1980s, and record the changing addresses and the changing family members involved in the business, as well as recording changing members of staff, and details of when people left particular firms, or had died.  This information is particularly useful for the data in the antique dealers research project interact map website.

Stair & Co., client card – Stair & Co., archive.

Here’s just one of the client cards – this one recording the information on fellow antique dealers Norman Adams Ltd, then trading in Hans Road; the verso of the cards also record the purchases made from Stair & Co by the particular client – here’s the verso of the Norman Adams Limited card, listing purchases from 1964 to 1968 – it’s a great pity that the actual stock books of Stair & Co no longer survive – Robert Luck believes that they were destroyed when the business closed in 2004.

Stair & Co., client card for H.C. Baxter & Sons, verso recording purchases. Stair & Co archive.

The client cards may need sensitive handling in the archive, given the nature of the personal information that they contain, and will probably be need to be partially embargoed for a number of years.  But even so, the Stair & Co archive material that Robert Luck has so kindly donated to the Antique Dealers Research project archives is an amazingly generous gesture and will be a major resource for future researchers.

Mark

July 21, 2018

Antique Dealer Map

We thought we would update you on the continuing development of the Antique Dealer Map website antique dealers.leeds.ac.uk

We have been adding more data to the website, mainly, as many of you will know, focusing on adding names and addresses for antique dealers trading in Britain in the period 1900-1950 (with any branches in other countries too, as long as the dealership has been based in Britain at some stage).

There’s still an awful lot more data to add of course, and once the student volunteers return to the university in September we’ll have a new ‘cohort’ of helpers adding data to the website; so we hope to continue to increase the amount of data added to the website in the coming months.  I should add that if anyone out there would like to help in adding data, please do email us and we can set this up for you, (after a little bit of training of course) – and besides helping with this important research project, you will also get your name on the roll of honour on the project website.

Anyway, I’ve been looking at the data we have already in the website and even with the partial data we have, there are some fascinating facts emerging from the map – one can already imagine how significant the map website will be as more and more data is added. The map, as many of you will know, can illustrate the clusters of dealers as they evolve in various locations, from a bird’s eye view, as well as down to street level.  So, for example, here’s a view of the dealer locations in London, in and around Bond Street, W1 in the period 1900 to 1910.

Antique Dealer Map, University of Leeds.

And here’s the same view, for 1930, where one can see the expansion of the trade over the decades:

Antique Dealer Map, University of Leeds.

And the same view in 1950, which illustrates a continued expansion;

Antique Dealers Map, University of Leeds.

One can also focus on the development of dealer shops in many different towns and cities in Britain of course – here’s the map of Southsea, Hampshire, in 1900

Antique Dealers Map, University of Leeds.

Southsea became a very popular location for antique dealers during the period between the end of The Great War (1919) and the period after World War II, as this screen-shot of the Map in 1950 demonstrates:

Antique Dealers Map, University of Leeds.

The map also reveals some fascinating information on the popularity of particular shops as locations for antique dealers, perhaps also revealing previously hidden networks of dealers and of key relationships between dealers.  For example, the famous dealers Stair & Andrew (later, Stair & Co) were located at 25 Soho Square, in a shop that was previously occupied by the well-known dealers Nico Salomon and the dealers Hamburger Brothers –

Antique Dealer Map, University of Leeds.

And when Stair & Co moved to Bruton Street, London in 1929, they were joined in the premises by the antique dealers, H.G. Rye, and Arthur Watson in the early 1930s.  And when Stair & Co left the shop in Bruton Street in the 1940s, the dealer G. Jetley took over the shop.

Antique Dealers Map, University of Leeds.

And in Bath, for example, the shop of the well-known dealer and author R.P. Way was later occupied by the dealer Nat Ayer, before Ayer moved his business to Mount Street in London in the 1960s.

Antique Dealers Map, University of Leeds.

As we add more and more data to the Antique Dealer Map, more and more of these interesting relationships will emerge and be visualized, and this will help us to build up a fascinating ‘picture’ (quite literally) of the evolving antique trade in Britain in the 20th century.

Mark

 

 

August 29, 2017

New Oral History Interview – Michael Pick of Stair & Co.

Our Oral History Interviews with key members of the antique trade continues – thanks to the energy and enthusiasm of Chris Coles, our Lead Volunteer Researcher; and thanks again to the BADA, who so generously support these new ‘BADA Voices’ extensions to the Oral History research theme for the Antique Dealers project. 

Our new interview is with Michael Pick, who for many years worked at the well-known English Furniture dealers Stair & Company – Michael also worked at Frank Partridge & Co., so his experience at the top of the antique trade is very considerable indeed.

Michael Pick, in 1995, whilst at Stair & Co. Photograph courtesy of Michael Pick.

Catalogue of Stair & Andrew, c.1920s. Private collection.

Michael started his career in the antique trade in 1978, joining the firm of Stair & Co (established as Stair & Andrew in 1911) under the care and tutelage of Mary Holder, who had formerly worked for the dealership R.L. Harrington, which Stair & Co purchased in 1968. Michael stayed with Stair until 2000, when he joined Frank Partridge & Co., staying until 2006. For more information on Stair & Co., and Partridge & Sons, and many other dealers, please see our research project interactive website antiquetrade.leeds.ac.uk

During this highly engaging interview Michael told us how he was introduced to the world of antiques by the well-known writer on collecting, Bevis Hillier (who was at the time at Connoisseur Magazine) before he eventually obtained a position with Stair & Co in 1978. Michael reflected on his time at Stair & Co., recalling the regular buying trips with Mary Holder around the other London dealers, in the Fulham Road and Kensington Church Street in the 1970s and 1980s. As Michael suggested during the interview, the importance of American collectors to many British antique businesses, not least Stair & Co., was a key theme. Stair had opened shops in Palm Beach and Williamsburg in the USA after WWII, expanding their American operations that had been established by Stair & Andrew in New York in 1911.  Michael highlighted how crucial the UK-USA market was to the Stair business, recalling that Alastair Stair came to London 2 or 3 times a year with his wife Phyllis, buying 300 or so pieces on each trip to feed the appetite for American collectors and decorators.

As many of the followers of the Antiques Dealer project will be aware, Stair & Co was bought by the music mogul and antique collector Jules Stein (1896-1981)  (owner of MCA, Music Corporation of America and film star agent), in 1952; the business was sold to the financier David Murdoch in 1981 after the death of Stein. Michael tells us that the Stair business shifted slightly with the acquisition by Murdoch, moving to a much more eclectic look, a mixture of old and new, that is now so fashionable.  Indeed it seems that David Murdoch preferred this look, exemplified, as Michael tells us, in the collections that Murdoch assembled at his home ‘Casa Encantada’ in Bel Air, Los Angeles. This was a property originally built in the 1930s for the Hylda Boldt Webber, before being bought by the hotelier Conrad Hilton (1887-1979) who sold the house to Murdoch in 1979, shortly before Murdoch bought the Stair & Co business.  And here’s a an early photograph of ‘Casa Encantada’ (taken in 1939), when it was then owned by Mrs Boldt Webber.

Casa Encanada, Bel Air, Los Angeles, in 1939, the home of Mrs Boldt Webber. Photograph copyright University of California.

Murdoch apparently purchased the Bel Air mansion fully furnished from Conrad Hilton, before selling the contents and refurnishing the property with, then, very fashionable ‘English Antiques’. These recollections from Michael certainly reinforce the historical significance of the transatlantic trade in antiques, not just in the opening decades of the 20th century (as many people will know), but also how these significant exchanges continued throughout the 20th century.

Our interview with Michael continued with his reflections on his move to Frank Partridge & Sons in 2001; Michael recalled that the most significant change was not so much in the quality of the objects that Stair & Co and Partridge sold, but more in the sheer scale of the operations – Michael tells us that Stair & Co had just 3 members of staff, whilst Partridge had as many as 32 members of staff when he joined the firm.

Partridge & Co., New Bond Street, London, c.2000.

There are many other fascinating observations on the history of the antique trade in our interview with Michael, from the changing taste in antiques, the presentation (and sales ticketing) of objects, to the increasing significance of Antique Fairs.

Like all of our other Oral History interviews with members of the antique trade, our interview with Michael will be available via the project websites, once our team have had a chance to edit the interview.  Our thanks go to Michael and Chris for all their help with the ‘Voices from the Trade’ oral history interviews project.

Mark

 

 

 

 

July 27, 2017

Stair & Andrew material comes to the archive at Brotherton Library Special Collections, University of Leeds

Following the blog post highlighting the recent donation of the H.M. Lee and R.A. Lee archives (see previous blog post), we discovered that mixed in with the material that Georgina Gough so kindly donated to the University of Leeds was some material related to the well-known antique dealers Stair & Andrew.  Its not known how this material ended up in the Lee archive, perhaps one of the directors at Stair gave Ronald Lee the material when the firm of Stair & Co (as the business was then called) closed in the early 2000s?

Stair & Co album. Brotherton Library Special Collections, University of Leeds.

The material is relatively small, comprising  just three albums of press cuttings, advertisements and some brochures, dating mainly for the period from the 1940s onwards; it includes a folder devoted to the firm of R.L. Harrington (formerly known as Christy’s of Kent), trading from 120 & 125 Mount Street, London, which Stair & Co acquired in 1968

Stair & Co album. Brotherton Library Special Collections, University of Leeds,

The firm of Stair & Co were highly significant dealers, having been established in London as Stair & Andrew in 1911, before opening a branch in New York in 1914. The business was founded by Arthur Stair and Valentine Andrew, who met at the furniture makers Waring & Gillow, before working for the decorating department at Crawford Company, New York.

The actor-manager and collector Sir George Alexander and the furniture historian and collector  Percy Macquoid  were directors of the firm in the early days of the business; Arthur Stair bought Percy Macquoid’s ‘Yellow House’ in London in the 1920s, retaining some of Macquoid’s furniture collection. Alastair Stair (1913-1993), the son of Arthur Stair, joined the firm in 1935. They traded as Stair & Co after WWII, and was 50% owned by the collector Jules C. Stein (of Music Corporation of America) from 1952. David Murdock, the Los Angeles financier, bought the firm in 1981.

The Stair & Co material will, eventually, be supplemented by some other Stair & Andrew material already promised to the archive – see an early blog post on the antique dealer blog (post July 2014) – here’s an image of one of the two scrapbook albums promised to the Brotherton Library Special Collections.

Stair & Andrew album, c.1915. Private Collection.

This small collection of Stair & Co material will soon be available for research in the Brotherton Library Special Collections.

Mark

The Period Room: Museum, Material, Experience

An International Conference hosted by The Bowes Museum and The University of Leeds

H. Blairman & Sons Ltd

A research project investigating the history of the antiques trade in Britain in the 20th century

Museum Studies Now?

'Museum Studies Now?' is an event which aims to discuss and debate museum and heritage studies education provision.

The Burlington Magazine Index Blog

art writing * art works * art market

East India Company at Home, 1757-1857

A research project investigating the history of the antiques trade in Britain in the 20th century