I did a little more looking into the National Antiques Show this evening. It appears the show lasted into the 1980s. I thought occured to me the Pier show might have replaced it, but then I found both existed for at least two years, putting an end to that idea. Anyway, the more I read about the National Antiques Show the stranger it became.
“The mainstay of the show is its wide audience,” one article puts it. “Unfettered by the chains that bind the purist collector and not particularly choosy about such fine points as ‘periods’ or authenticity of antiques.” I can think of several modern-day shows (and they are wildely popular) that fall into this category.
The show also included room recreations and even museums had booths. An entire Venetian room with modern vinyl floor covering was available for purchase. “Tremendous amounts of European reproductions are represented,” the article continues and “decorative things are legion, and these include a large variety of trade signs.”
Then there’s another article that shows a grand piano case hollowed out and turned upright with a bar built into it. The caption reads “Henry Ward, father of the decorator (Robert H. Ward), rubbing the finish on the bar made from an eighteenth century piano forte. A photo nearby shows carved dining room table legs transformed into lamp bases. I Googled Robert H. Ward but didn’t find much, unless he became a dog breeder.
In any case, it seems the National Antique Shows was as much for decorators, and especially for an excitable general public, as it was for collectors. I’d also venture that it was a long-standing gateway drug for serious collectors. A Sunday magazine spread of photos from the 1955 show might say it best. “Exactly what constitutes and antique is a matter of dispute between semanticists, on one hand, and the antiquaries on the other. Most Americans think of them simply as lovely, old and sometimes expensive things to fill up rooms and enhance reputations for good or rare taste.”