Foster-Lemmens Collection Northeast 8-6-10 Provenance

A seven-drawer Federal chest, cherry with inlay, Pennsylvania origin

p4A ItemID D9688789
Two Chippendale side chairs with carved shells, Boston area of Massachusetts

p4A ItemID D9688772
A Classical dropleaf sewing table with two drawers, rope-twist legs and carved pineapples in baskets, Massachusetts

p4A ItemID D9688770
A Pennsylvania Chippendale carved walnut lowboy

p4A ItemID F7998836

The Foster-Lemmens Collection

THREE GENERATIONS OF ANTIQUARIANS


Foster’s Antiques of Wexford, Pennsylvania, like so many American businesses, had a small grass roots beginning. Bud Foster returned from World War II and started the business with his wife Tommie in 1946 on Route 910 in Allegheny County. The timing could not have been more perfect. GFs were returning home, and with the help of government financing, were buying houses all of which needed to be furnished. Production of new furniture was not Beared up to meet the burgeoning demand but more importantly, the significance of Americanism was at an all-time high due to the sacrifices made to keep our great country free. The market for American antiques was high and Bud and Tommie Foster supplied the Pittsburgh area collectors. The steel industry was booming and Pittsburgh’s economy was thriving as a result. On weekends dozens of families would pile into their cars and head to Foster’s Antiques to buy antiques and accessories to furnish their new homes. The shop had something for everyone. Their clientele included not only the bustling middle class families but also the more affluent folk from the wealthy Pittsburgh suburbs. For these collectors a canopy bed was part of the American dream. The well to do folk would come in search of Queen Anne highboys and low-boys while the GI’s and their wives would buy Windsor chairs and candlestands. Clients would roam around the shop as Tommie and Bud would teach them how to identify American furniture and accessories. The Fosters would engage the children and in the process start many of them as collectors of toys, marbles, banks and dolls. When the boys were getting bored, Tommie would take them to the airplane hanger they had adjacent to the shop, where they could see whatever experimental plane Bud was building at the time. In the beginning Bud would keep his daytime job at American Bridge while he and Tommie, with her West
Texas Oil Wildcat work ethic, concentrated on building their business. In time, the growth of their business enabled Bud to quit his job and dedicate all his efforts to the shop.

I am sure Bud and Tommie never dreamed the business that had been started by his mother, a true picker selling out of her house, would stow to be such a thriving business. Bud and Tommie would scour the country in search of interesting pieces for the shop. New England had a plentiful supply of antiques and was a source for truckloads of stock. Frequent buying trips were taken to New England, often with Bud or Tommie arriving there piloting their plane. New England dealers were eager to supply the Fosters and twice a year the “big” truck would arrive at the shop for a scheduled unloading. The scene could be compared to the opening of the New Hampshire Antiques Dealers show opening.

Bud’s sister married a most interesting man, Willem Lemmens. After emigrating from Holland he became an actor and stunt man for silent movies; he was one of the chariot drivers in the 1925 version of Ben Hur. When talkies started he had to change his career due to his thick Dutch accent. He moved to the Pittsburgh area where he continued his interest as an artist. With his keen eye he became a worldwide buyer for department stores. While Willem and his wife traveled, their young son Willem (Wim) was practically adopted by Bud and Tommie. Wim became hooked on antiques and with his father’s artistic bent, soon started collecting pieces with that little extra detail and refinement. In 1966, after completing his studies at Boston University, he married Inger Agervig who had the same passion for those special decorative arts.

Wim was working as a teacher and Inger in a bank when they started their antiques business in Halifax, Massachusetts. They would typically work eighty to ninety hours a week in the early years. After putting in a full day at their respective jobs they would spend the evenings and weekends in the pursuit of antiques. They would travel from one auction to the next and go from shop to shop in search of the pieces they truly loved. Eventually they would quit their day jobs and devote all their time to their growing business. Over the years they befriended many dealers but most importantly George Considine of Dartmouth, Massachusetts. George constantly taught them about the refinement of better pieces and would invite them into his home which was a mini-museum. When George passed away in 1985, Wim and Inger were asked by the heirs to auction the collection. Wim and Inger worked day and night to make the sale the huge success it was. The catalog is on the shelves of many collectors and dealers as an important reference tool. Wim prematurely passed away in 1991 and Inger moved to Wexford to join forces with Tommie, who had been running the shop alone since Bud’s death in 1984. They continued to operate Foster’s Antiques together until an illness in 2000 confined Tommie to a nursing home for the remainder of her life. Inger continued to operate the shop until its closing in 2007.

This auction contains the favorite objects tucked away by the families for their own enjoyment. The set of six little wooden cigar store counter top figures was grandmother’s pride and joy. Bud and Tommie would pick special pieces from their New England tours and local Pennsylvania pieces to fill their home to the brim.
Inger brought the collection she and Wim had put together and squeezed things into every open space, the sheds and the basement. This auction contains 500 lots from the personal collections of three generations of the family. Just like in the shop, there is something for everyone; country furniture and accessories for the general collectors and some truly fine pieces for advanced collectors.

Courtesy of Northeast Auctions


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