19th-Century Utah Faux-Painted Secretary
Appraised Value: $4,500
IMAGE: 1 of 2
Appraisal Video: (3:20)
GUEST: My great-grandfather lived in England and he was a convert to the LDS Church. He converted and immigrated to Utah...
GUEST: in 1848...
APPRAISER: '40s? Okay, yeah.
GUEST: and then moved to southern Utah as a Mormon pioneer...
GUEST: and in living there, had this desk made for himself.
APPRAISER: It's so wonderful that you know all that history. Now, it's Robert Nell?
APPRAISER: You're the-- he's your great-grandfather, right?
APPRAISER: Did you know about that diary?
GUEST: His diary that he kept?
GUEST: Yes. I have to tell you, I went online and found that diary.
APPRAISER: Oh. Great.
GUEST: Isn't that something?
APPRAISER: This is so neat. I read this; it says, "I drove a herd of about 400 sheep across the plains on foot and arrived in Salt Lake City the second of September, 1850." So there it is, you know.
GUEST: Oh, yeah.
APPRAISER: You know exactly the day your great-grandfather came here to Salt Lake City. And the neat thing is that Brigham Young was a cabinetmaker and a craftsman, and he taught craftsmen how to make great pieces and then sent them out to spread the word. It has this wonderful molded cornice, and I love these paneled doors and this open applied work. And the wonderful thing about it is this grain painting. Here, the craftsmen had to use soft woods-- they had to use pine-- but they would paint them expertly to imitate hardwoods. So although this looks like a striped maple desk… and let's come down and we've got these wonderful… would have been branches that have been cut from the board.
APPRAISER: So the whole thing is faux-painted because they didn't have those hard woods. They painted pieces to simulate the hard woods. Now, these knobs are replaced. You can see the line right about there.
APPRAISER: Do you see that?
APPRAISER: Where the other knob was. If we open it up, here, there's the new screw.
GUEST: Would they have been...
APPRAISER: They may have been milk glass and looked like this, but they also could have been wood. I love this interior and the drawers, all with bird's-eye painting on a local pine. If we look at the back side of that drawer, there's the pine. But on the front, of course, with bird's-eye painting…
APPRAISER: And look at the construction here. Wonderful pine; can you feel that? That nice hand planing going this way?
GUEST: Oh, yes.
APPRAISER: Original nails, typical of the 1870s or 1880s, those nails. And down here below, partitions where he would have kept the books and papers. I checked with some of the local experts, you know, in Mormon-made furniture and Mormon-made objects, who were very excited to see this piece, I have to tell you, just as I was, because lately there's been an incredible interest in Utah furniture and in Mormon-made furniture. So it's rare to find a piece in this condition that has such pizzazz. Now, the one thing that really adds to it is this stamp in here, and do you want to read what that says?
GUEST: Well, the part I can read is St. George Builder's Union.
APPRAISER: Right, the St. George Builder's Union, exactly. So this would have been a union to teach and to kind of band together craftsmen in southern Utah.
GUEST: St. George was down near, right down near Pinto, right?
APPRAISER: Yes. Where your great- grandfather lived. So here it is, a documented piece. We know it was made down there. We know it was used by your great-grandfather. This would be priced at about $4,500.
GUEST: That's nice. Thank you.
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