Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Magdalena Briner Eby --- Hooked Rug --- Two Crows & Two Horses

After receiving lots of interest on my previous post about the eBay rug --- Inlaws Are Rodents, I thought you might enjoy the story behind the 100+ year journey of one of Magdalena Briner Eby’s hooked rugs --- Two Crows & Two above...

In Manchester, New Hampshire, on August 4, 2007, the vast collection of Dinah & Stephen Lefkowitz was auctioned at Northeast Auctions. Among the 254 items were approximately 30 hooked, sewn, appliqued & braided pieces, one being Two Crows & Two Horses. Here is an excerpt from the auction catalogue forward by Helaine Fendelman, an appraiser & authority in the arts, antiques, and collectibles: 

About 20 years ago Dinah & Stephen began their own collecting odyssey focusing on design, color and form. The couple fell in love with an 18th century house in Old Saybrook, CT. One day Dinah awakened and realized this new old house had 16 rooms which needed to be filled. And Stephen, as he looked out the window over the waterway in from of the house, knew that a well-designed knobby Windsor chair was the perfect addition to this room. A passionate love affair for the form and design of the chair culminated in the eventual acquisition of some 28 Windors! The original painted surfaces, red, brown or black and sometimes multiple colors, combined with the turnings and the shapes of the stately chairs, literally enveloped the collecting couple and charmed them.

Dinah & Stephen traveled to antiques shows, they literally fell in love with paint decorated furniture! As their passion increased, Stephen, ever the scholar, began to build a library and study Connecticut River Valley furniture. He learned form, condition and surface as can be seen in the intricately detailed bed and table covers with colorful outstanding images. The HOOKED RUGS, especially the brightly hued star, as well as the bed and table covers resemble paintings! Even though both Dinah & Stephen purport to be minimalists, they filled the house and their New York City home with pristine examples of paint decorated furniture including blanket chests, corner cupboards, tall chests, Windsor chairs, baskets and pieces of sculpture, the beautiful decorative objects seen in this catalogue.

Even though I never met Dinah & Stephen, I’ve met many couples just like them. Couples who have a love affair with each other, and for or because of their long adventure of collecting antiques. Helen & Steven Kellogg are another example, one day I’ll post their story - of just such a love affair and their collection of Magdalena hooked rugs. (Steven generously loaned me Magdalena rugs for the 2011 Rug Hooking Week at Sauder Village – Feature Exhibit: Magdalena Briner Eby & Evelyn Lawrence.)

On the cover of the Northeast Auction catalogue above, you can see some of the other Lefkowitz hooked, sewn, appliqued, and braided rugs. I thought you might enjoy seeing a few more:

Now, back to the focus of this post… The Two Crows & Two Horses rug has been on a 100+ year journey since it was hooked by Magdalena, most likely between 1849-1915. That journey has influenced and impacted both the maker and the hooked rug itself. Most of the time, we have absolutely no information on the journey of an antique, nor the maker. But luckily in this case - we do!

Sometime in the mid-1960s, after the death of Magdalena’s granddaughter Grace (McKeehan) Greaney, Grace’s descendants had an estate sale of her household goods and furniture, at the New Bloomfield House (photo below). At the time of the sale, the family also contacted and invited antique dealers. During my research interviews, dealers recalled that the house, attic, cellar, garage, and outbuildings were filled to the brim with amazing antiques such as wonderful old cupboards with original paint, beautiful quilts, countless hooked rugs, and much more. Since the hooked rugs were viewed by the family as utilitarian in nature, and/or because some were quite worn, a number of them ended up on the burn pile. Keep in mind, in the 1960s hooked rugs had not yet reached their 1970s peak in both value & collectability.

1970s peak... had much to do with Joel & Kate Kopp and their New York City shop America Hurrah (photo below), which was filled with wonderful examples of American antiques, quilts, & hooked rugs. As antique dealers, they shared their insight into the importance of Americana with their customers and collectors. They also wrote the book American Hooked & Sewn Rugs, with 3 printings & slightly different rugs (photo below). (If you’ve ever heard me speak, most likely you will have heard me praise & credit the Kopps for their contributions to recharging and re-establishing the interest, value, and collectability of American hooked rugs. See more Kopp info on page 7 of the Hutchinson book.) The Kopp book was encouraged by Lee Cogan, Curator, American Folk Art Museum, New York City, who both had an intrinsic interest & supported the textile art of hooked rugs. Lee invited the Kopps to curate & exhibit their hooked rug collection. The 1974 exhibit was titled: Hooked Rugs in the Folk Art Tradition at what is now called the Museum of American Folk Art.


Now, back to the antique dealers who purchased Magdalena hooked rugs at the estate sale. Some of those hooked rugs were sold at the Black Angus Auction in Adamstown, Pennsylvania. Much like the Brimfield, Massachusetts sales, Black Angus was known as a place to find and buy wonderful antiques. Two Crows & Two Horses was one of the Magdalena rugs that started its journey at Black Angus. From there, it traveled in and out of the hands of a number of antique dealers and collectors (which is listed in our book), until it reached Dinah & Stephen in about 2006. They didn’t own this rug for very long before they sold it at the Northeast auction in August, 2007. The buyer was Olde Hope Antiques who paid $37,120. (I think that they specifically bought it for a collector, who lives in Bucks County, Pennsylvania & has several hooked rugs, and possibly more Magdalena hooked rugs.) This was not the first time that Olde Hope had owned a Magdalena hooked rug, they have bought and sold Domestic Zoo a number of times - once to Johnson & Johnson heiress Barbara (Christina) Johnson. (Another wonderful collector, who deserves a future Blog post with photos & notes from my 2009 visit to her home & collection.) Around 2004, Domestic Zoo was purchased by Olde Hope Antiques at Northeast Auction for $74,000, in a later sale it sold for over $80,000.

 Domestic Zoo, attributed to Magdalena Briner Eby

Below is a photo of a hooked rug (currently) for sale by Olde Hope Antiques:

Below are hooked rug photos of Dog and Cats followed by Dog, Feathered Friends, and Turtle, which were documented in our book. You can see the similarities in the dog, bird, cat turtle motifs, as well as background styling and overall colors.

Below is another hooked rug from our book called Dogs, Cats, Birds, and Turtle. This one was once owned by antique dealer - Blanche Greenstein of Woodard & Greenstein. Blanche liked this rug so much, that it hung in her home for about 25 years, before she sold it. Again, note the similar cat, bird and turtle motifs.

Two Crows & Two Horses, as well as Domestic Zoo, have pedigree provenances due to their documentation and owners, plus their appearance in publications and exhibits. This establishes a premium value. So, while Magdalena’s hooked rugs may have "originally" sold for much less than $100 each, some have appreciated to the selling price of tens of thousands of dollars, or even $100,000 and up. A simply amazing journey!

With that said, this goes back to the “pricing/value” info, which was discussed in the eBay rug - Inlaws Are Rodents post… in which the best advice being “beware & be educated” before you take the plunge into buying and collecting antique or vintage hooked rugs. Look for the documentation and then research it as much as possible.

But let’s not forget Magdalena’s own personal journey. Primarily the rugs that she, a domestic housewife or homemaker, hooked were for utilitarian purposes, and to decorate the home. The fabrics used in her rugs were primarily cut up old clothing, along with left-over scraps of quilting fabric. In today’s terms, that’s known as the very trendy “recycle, repurpose, & upcycle” movement. But in Magdalena’s lifetime it was simply: Waste not, want not --- if you use a resource carefully and without extravagance you will never be in need. We have already discussed the 100+ year journey of her hooked rugs, but over the 106 years since her death, Magdalena has been elevated from a domestic woman to an American Folk Artist, and an innovative Recycling Upcycler! Quite a promotion!

Besides the ever-increasing value of her rugs, why is her personal elevation significant? In general, and historically, (domestic) women who create art are highly overlooked, greatly under-valued, and rarely documented. That was a common issue which brought my co-authors & I together - to tell the artists stories, document their work & acknowledge them. 

Then, for Magdalena, Evelyn & I couldn’t stop with just her book, it was our joy and privilege to go on to support the 1st Trail Rug (dedicated to Magdalena) on the National Quilt Trail at Tuscarora State Forest, and campaign, fund raise, and erect the 1st historic marker dedicated to rug hooker-Magdalena in time for Perry County, Pennsylvania’s 2020 Bicentennial celebration. It gives us great pleasure in seeing others appreciate and enjoy Magdalena’s work, & now it’s out there for generations to come, through her book, Trail Rug, historic marker, & the generous donation of the Great-Granddaughter's Hooked Rug to Perry County, Pennsylvania.

For more information on MBE, her hooked rugs & more:

MBE Book - Rug Hooking Traditions with Magdalena Briner Eby:

Map to MBE historic sites:

MBE & Evelyn Lawrence Exhibit at 2011 Rug Hooking Week at Sauder Village:

Perry County Historians & sites:  &

MBE Trail Rug:

MBE Historic Marker:

Great Granddaughter's MBE Rug:

Hooked rug offered by Olde Hope Antiques:

For more information on the Lefkowitz auction:

Antiques & the Arts 2 articles:

For old Auction Catalogues - Jeffrey Eger:

 I hope you found this post interesting & informative!


Thursday, January 7, 2021

eBay Hooked Rug - Is it a Hutchinson rug or not?

Inlaws Are Rodents In Human Guise
Who Eat Me Out Of Cake & Pies
 O'er Hill & Vale & River & Ruts
They Gather For Dinner 
I Hate Their Guts 

Recently, I've been asked about a hooked rug which contains the inscription above & was listed (a couple of times) on eBay. I have commented on several Facebook pages that posted questions about it's authenticity & so I'm posting more info here on our Blog.

(This info may also be useful as a general guideline for those interested in purchasing antique or vintage hooked rugs. Number One, as a buyer --- "beware & be educated"... before you take the plunge. This posting is not an acknowledgement for or against the authenticity of this particular eBay rug, as I would need much more info & the opportunity to see the rug in person, to ascertain a conclusion.)

Here is the photo of the hooked rug listed on eBay:

Below is a color photo of the documented hooked rug with that same inscription, which is attributed to James & Mercedes Hutchinson. This rug is in the collection of the Lightner Museum in St Augustine, Florida. It is often on display at the Lightner Museum (along with another Hutchinson rug titled: Man Works from Sun to Sun, Womans Work is Never Done), it's a great place to visit. The Lightner Museum was kind enough to loan both hooked rugs to me for the Rug Hooking Week 2016 - Feature Exhibit: James & Mercedes Hutchinson, at historic Sauder Village in Archbold, Ohio, where it hung along with many other documented Hutchinson rugs which were borrowed from museums & private collectors. Rug Hooking Week is celebrating it's 25th anniversary in 2021 with extensive exhibits, classes & vendors --- a fabulous event to develop skills & knowledge about rug hooking.

Below is the black & white photo of the same documented rug from the February 11-12, 1944 Parke-Bernet Galleries Auction Catalogue #529, where it originally sold for $150. This same black & white photo appeared in Hobbies Magazine in September, 1961. Otto Lightner, of the Lightner Museum, was the editor of that magazine.

So, take a close look at both rugs. The most obvious difference is on the platter in the forefront. In the documented rug, it looks more like a BIRD or CHICKEN, while the eBay rug looks more like a TURKEY. Then, there are a multitude of differences in the vine & flowers, lettering, people, colors, materials, etc. Over the many years of researching the Hutchinson & 
examining their rugs, I have discovered many distinctive characteristics, and so has my co-author Janet Conner, who both teaches Hutchinson techniques & restores rugs. 

While the Hutchinsons did produce some duplicate hooked rug themes & designs... much more research would need to be done on the eBay rug, before a conclusion could be reached. For example, I would need to see the rug & the fabrics, as well as research any provenance. 

While not a duplicate of the Inlaws are Rodents rug, below is a comparable Hutchinson rug with a very similar group of family or friends gathered around a table, filled with food. This time, "Inlaws" are not directly mentioned in the inscription, but instead inferred, along with a similar sentiment.

Themes... Yes, the Inlaws rug is humorous, as are many of the Hutchinson rugs. James & Mercedes are known for expressing the whims and quirks of human relationships. Their wry humor is reflected in the melodramatic expressions and actions of the leading characters, frequently firemen, sailors, and romantic couples. The Hutchinson designs provide universal insight into the "human condition" - all of which are expressed through the medium of textile art! As a dog lover, here's one of my favorites...

In the eBay listing there were a couple of cautions, one being, only one photo was provided. Typically, sellers/antique dealers/auction houses provide a number of photos of the front & back, plus up-close photos. They also list, in detail, the condition of the piece & info on any repairs/restoration. And finally, the eBay listing had a "no" return policy. 

As for pricing... Authenticated & non-authenticated Hutchinson rugs have sold for anywhere from $150 (Art Institute of Chicago recently sold Shine Out at auction) to $10,000 (Celebrity Dick Button recently sold his The Ice Is Thin at auction, after it was part of the ART OF FIGURE SKATING THROUGH THE AGES: 
 at the Fenimore Art Museum in Cooperstown, New York). But, most sell in the $1000-$4000 range, unless they have an outstanding & documented provenance, notable owner, have been well exhibited &/or published, or simply are an outstanding piece of Americana Folk Art---through design, color or overall appeal. So the asking price of $6000-7000 for the (unauthenticated) eBay rug was rather high.

Another "buyer beware" to consider before purchasing (unauthenticated) Hutchinson Hooked Rugs... A number of the Hutchinson rug designs were made into & sold as commercial rug hooking patterns, while others were simply copied & hooked from auction catalogues or publications (such as Hobbies Magazine, Joel & Kate Kopp's book - American Hooked & Sewn Rugs, The Rug Hooker News & Views-now called Rug Hooking Magazine, Hooked Rug Treasury by Jessie Turbayne, & Hooked Rugs by Leslie Linsley), mostly during 1930-1970s. While other Hutchinson designs are still available today as commercial patterns & are being hooked by contemporary rug hookers. For example... Joan Moshimer's hooked: Over The Bounding Wave, What Could Be More Delightful, To the Eyes Of A Lonely Sailor Man, Altho Thir Snares Are Spiteful, and published a photo of it in her 1970s book The Complete Book of Rug Hooking & offered the pattern in her Primitives pattern catalog. The Over The Bounding Wave design/pattern was very popular & still is. It is currently available through W Cushing & Co. as the Mermaids. So, there are many rugs out there in antique shops, auction houses & on the internet that were hooked by contemporary artists & are "not" attributed to the (documented) Hutchinson collection. Again "buyer beware & be educated".

Top left:  A contemporary version of Over The Bounding Wave appears on the cover of The Rug Hooker News & Views, May/June 1974. 
Top right:  In 1992, this photo appeared in Leslie Linsley's book Hooked Rugs. Over The Bounding Wave is hanging in the home of Barbara (Christina) Johnson, a notable hooked rug collector in Princeton, New Jersey.
Bottom: This version was sold at auction in 2019.
Were any of the above rugs the true Hutchinson rug? It is unknown. The Hutchinsons sold the original rug at the Parke-Bernet Galleries Auction on October 27, 1948. The Lot # 89 description did not give any information on the colors, only that it depicted two mermaids with mirror and comb, along with inscription & size. So it's still a mystery!

Questions... If you are thinking of purchasing a hooked rug attributed to the Hutchinsons, think you already own a Hutchinson hooked rug, or need it restored & would like more info, please contact us at We also provide presentations & workshops to groups, guilds & organizations.

Read more about it... from the interesting Hutchinson family, their famous Barnum, Bailey & Hutchinson Circus background, to the THOUSANDS of documented hooked rugs attributed to James & Mercedes.... many of which are uniquely HUMOROUS.... check out the book!

Hook a Rug... The book also offers a section on techniques & tips on how to design & hook your own Hutchinson-esque Rug, written by Janet Conner. Below is one of Janet's Hutchinson-esque hooked rugs....

I hope you found this post helpful & informative!

Kathy Wright


Wednesday, January 6, 2021

Winter Special 2021 --- Shipping to CANADA

 In response to our Canadian Friends... 
We are offering the WINTER SPECIAL with
Shipping to CANADA

❄❅❆   WINTER SPECIAL   ❄❅❆

$5.00 off each BOOK thru February 15, 2021


1. Email your Name, Mailing Address, Qty of each Book you would like to order to:  
2. We will email a shipping quote to you.
3. Pay the PayPal Invoice we send to you.
4. Books will be shipped to you.


UPDATE...As I have already received a number of emails, here is the shipping info for most Canadian addresses so far...

The very best (most economic & timely) shipping option is US Postal Priority Service (6-8 days) for: $26.90
Example: MBE Book $19.95 + shipping $26.90 = $46.85 US dollars….. or approx. $59.42 Canadian dollars (this depends on the day you make payment & the rate of exchange)
FYI..... However, the $26.90 shipping rate is good for up to 4 lbs., so it would be to your benefit if you or a friend (or group/guild member) order a total of 2 books. (The only exception is 2 Hutchinson books is over 4 lbs. So any other combo.) Taking that into account, the shipping fee of $26.90 US ÷ 2 books = $13.45 per book + you save a total of $10 off the 2 books.
Wishing You a Happy & Healthy New Year!