Machmer, Richard & Rosemarie — Provenance Pook 10-24-08

Richard & Rosemarie Machmer Provenance

The following remembrances were publishing the Pook and Pook auction catalogue for this sale, held on October 24 and 25, 2008. For coverage of this sale, please see the account in Maine Antique Digest, published in January of 2009, available at

About thirty-five years ago, I traveled around two hours to an evening country auction in Schnecksville, Pennsylvania. As I walked into the auction house, facing me was one of the finest dower chests I had ever seen. It had the most wonderful fish on the front panel. By the time it came up for sale, I thought for sure it would bring around twenty-five hundred dollars. When all was said and done, it had brought an astonishing fifty-five hundred dollars. I asked someone next to me, “Who bought it?” They replied, “Dick Machmer”. I briefly spoke to him that night and he invited me to his home the following week. It was then that our long friendship began.

In the many years to come, Dick was at every sale that I attended. Whether it was night, day, Saturday or Sunday, Dick never missed a country sale. I learned more about him in the years that followed. I realized that he had an incredible, relentless thirst for knowledge of the local history of the Pennsylvania German culture and its craftsmen. When Dick bought a great object, he wanted to know who made it and where and why it was made. With all his knowledge, Dick was able to write books and several articles. He was also a valuable asset to the Reading Historical Society for his research and great depth of knowledge in local German history.

A few years ago, Dick called me to come to his house and see something. He was very excited and he wanted me to look at five Fraktur book plates that he had found in a bible. I rushed over to his house and he opened up this local family bible that was filled with Fraktur. They had the most wonderful color and they were great. For forty-five minutes, Dick educated me on the family’s history, where they were made, and how. I thought to myself, “I don’t care about history. The Frakturs are great and I want one”. When Dick finished, I asked, “How much are they?” There was a long pause and he said, “Oh, they aren’t for sale”.

That was what Dick Machmer was all about: collecting throughout his life with an impeccable taste. In the small town of Hamburg, Pennsylvania, he amassed one of the finest collections of Pennsylvania German material that exists today. Dick was a good friend, a mentor, and a scholar, as well as a great collector. His passing is a tremendous loss to his family, friends, and colleagues and he will always be missed.
-Jim Grievo

Knowledge and experience together with a great eye for collecting explain the success of Richard S. and Rosemarie B. Machmer, veteran dealers, collectors and authors who amassed their Americana collections in a period stretching over half a century.

Both descendants of Germans who emigrated to Pennsylvania in the 1730s, they said their love for ethnic art came naturally. A native of Kutztown, Dick, 80, died May 4, 2006, and Rosemarie, 80, a native of nearby Hamburg, died two years later May 20, 2008.

A World War II Navy veteran, Dick worked as a rural mail carrier, deerskin shop proprietor and in landscape architecture before he began his career in antiques. His eye for antiques went back to his rural carrier routes, where he returned to capture pieces he had spied while mingling with his postal patrons.

Machmer, who was also a carver, lecturer and appraiser, stated that most of his collection was purchased from families of the original owners within a 50-mile radius of Berks County from the Susquehanna River to the Delaware River in the east. He could be found six days a week centering his attention in northern Berks, Lehigh and Northampton counties, where he left bids or had a friend or acquaintance bid for him. By 1948 the couple had begun collecting Victorian antiques to furnish their first home, but sold those pieces and started over again to furnish their newly built house in Hamburg with pieces from the 18th and 19th centuries.

“Rosie”, as Dick referred to her, graduated in 1945 from Hamburg High School, where she was valedictorian and yearbook editor. In 1949, she graduated magna cum laude from Albright College with a bachelor’s degree.

Rosie was a teacher of English, French and Spanish at Hamburg Area High School until she retired in 1980 to join Dick in the family businesses. The couple had a son, Chris, in 1950, who became known for his knowledge of antiques and promoting them. He died June 26, 2003 at 52. The proceeds from the antique sale of his estate were presented to Albright College for partial scholarships for Hamburg High students. In addition, Rosie gave a major gift to Albright in 2007 in memory of both Chris and Dick.

Teaming together the couple authored the popular book “Just for Nice, Carving and Whittling Magic of Southeastern Pennsylvania” published in 1991. They also wrote “Printed Taufscheins,” “A History of Hamburg, Pa. 1750 to 1950,” and “Berks County Tall-Case Clocks.” They were elected to the Hamburg Hall of Fame for having distinguished themselves in the field of literature for not only writing books, but also magazine articles. The couple was also well known for participation in discussions on folk art on radio and television, museum gallery presentations, and antique shows.

Their philanthropy and cultural enthusiasm will be missed by friends, scholars and other collectors.
-Gene Friedman

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