Four watercolor sketches from the 1860s depicting scenes of the Siege of Suffolk and collectively valued at around $8,000 now adorn a wall in the fourth floor hallway of Riddick's Folly House Museum. The pieces will be highlighted during all future house tours.
The four scenes/vignettes are considered "soldier art" by experts. They were rendered by Acting Adjutant 2nd Lt. Frank N. Weaver of the 3rd New York Volunteers, an "artist" who was there during the actual siege and subsequent Yankee occupation of Suffolk from 1862-63,
"These are unpublished, never-seen-before, images, and that's a rarity in Civil War and history circles," said Marc Ramsey, a Civil War re-enactor, antiques appraiser and co-owner of the Richmond-based Owens & Ramsey Historical Booksellers. Ramsey facilitated the deal that brought the watercolors to Suffolk.
"When you view these you'll see something very few people have ever seen before. I did research on Weaver, confirmed his service, and he was a stickler for detail. These aren't just impressions but someone actually recording history."
According to museum curator Edward "Lee" King, the four "beautifully framed" pieces are sketches hued by watercolors now somewhat faded over time.
One watercolor, "South Quay Battery," depicts three Union soldiers standing in a gun encampment where the Lipton Tea factory now stands. Another features a ruined mill on White Marsh Road, then called Edenton Road. A third features an open field with a dam by Kilby Mill Pond.
And a fourth, the only one actually signed by Weaver, bears the title "Headquarters, 3rd New York Volunteers, Camp Arthur near Suffolk, Va., July, 1862."
The pieces were examined by O. Kermit Hobbs Jr., local historian and author of the book "Storm Over Suffolk." He gave all four a Civil thumbs-up.
"They're super, I have no doubt about their authenticity," he said without hesitation. "I'm tickled to death they're here. They're images from someone who was actually here during the war, that's significant."
The four framed treasures were donated to the museum by Frank Monahan, a retired antique dealer and expert on 18th-century American furniture. King said Monahan used to own Midas Touch Antiques on West Washington Street.
"He's always been a good friend and supporter of Riddick's Folly," King said. "Over the years he's given or loaned quite a few pieces to the museum. Frank's been an antique dealer in Suffolk since the '70s; he, his wife Joan, me and Bill Teele used to run a booth at our annual antiques appraisal show."
"Thank God for people like Frank, who was able to make this happen for Riddick's Folly," Ramsey added.
The works were owned by the late Dorothy Rouse-Bottom of Hampton who bequeathed them to her son Mark Whitney Gilkey of San Francisco. About three years ago, Ramsey appraised the estate of Rouse-Bottom, who was suffering from terminal cancer.
"She owned three large homes and a book publishing company," Ramsey said. "I came down and did a three-day appraisal with most of her historic book collection eventually donated to Christopher Newport University. But they weren't really interested in the watercolors so they went to her son. He held on to them until last Christmas and then contacted me asking what we can do with them. I had done research and knew about Riddick's Folly and their Civil War collection and connections. It hit me that it was the perfect place for them."
The four scenes now join the still visible graffiti penned by the occupying blue coats on Riddick's Folly's walls.
When the war broke out, Nathaniel Riddick, his wife Missouri Ann Jones Kilby and their four children fled to Petersburg, abandoning their beloved brick abode. During the city's Union occupation from 1862-63, the 1837 Greek revival home was commandeered as a federal headquarters for Maj. General John J. Peck and his staff.
The family returned to the home at war's end in 1865 only to find it looted and vandalized, including the still existing Yankee wall etchings. Family members resided in the house until 1967.
And now the war has returned to Suffolk.
"These are even better than photos," Ramsey said. "They're more lifelike, the viewer sees the essence of (Civil War) life in each particular image, images that have really never been seen before or been published."
"This is the place where they belong," Hobbs said. "They're home."
Eric Feber, 757-222-5203, eric.feber @pilotonline.com
Book Values – The Art of Successful Pricing For the Second-Hand Book Market
Content, Quantity, Condition.
There are also other factors, falling within these parameters, which can contribute to or detract from value. A key consideration is the dust jacket. If a book was originally issued with a paper cover, then the presence of the jacket today, and the better its condition, is a key determinate of value. The fact is that the older the book, the higher the percentage of its worth is determined by the presence of the dust jacket and the jacket’s condition. A book published in the early 1900’s for instance, can be worth two to three times as much with its original dust jacket than without. A more recent title almost always must have the dust jacket in fine condition in order to be sold at all on the second hand book market. Certain prime and rare reference books "may” be an exception to this rule.
First editions are another element that adds a premium to a book’s worth; of course determining a true first edition can be a challenge, and a risk. A bookseller who misidentifies the first edition of a certain title, but labels it as such, is likely to lose customers and credibility in short order. But if a true first edition of an important book in fine condition can be properly identified and offered for sale, it will likely sell quickly, and at a good price. Once again important reference works can be an exception, if they are offered in subsequent editions with expanded content. However, even here a hard core collector will be likely to prefer finding the first edition of this title for his library, especially if it is signed by the author (s). And on the subject of autographs, please be aware that a book that is signed, that is, just presenting the author’s signature, and maybe a date or simple greeting like "Best wishes” is far preferable to a book that is inscribed to a certain individual. If I am buying a book, especially if it is a gift, I don’t want to see a dedication to some former owner, unless it is someone famous, "This book is lovingly dedicated from the author to my best Gal, Signed Jefferson Davis, esq.” That would be okay, I think it’s safe to say.
So now we know what books have value, and why, but exactly how do we determine realistic pricing. In our world, we price conservatively, as we are in it for the long haul and strive for an active turnover of stock. Others are happy to shoot for the stratosphere, and set a price that will almost insure that the book will gather dust while awaiting that rare "Price is no Object” kind of customer. If you have gone to the internet and observed the wide range of prices for the same titles in like condition, you have seen what I mean. Our method is first based upon what we paid for it, and secondly, what we sold it for last time. There was a time that Civil war books, like real estate, appreciated in value every year at an almost predictable rate. No more. Except for the true rarity, a first edition signed by an author or veteran, or a general’s autobiography in pristine condition, prices are currently holding steady, and will probably remain so for some time. That is why the best price guide still on the market, in my opinion, is that by Tom Broadfoot, "Civil War Books, A Priced Checklist With Advice, Fifth Edition.” It is eleven years old at this writing, but it is a great place to start, and not too far off in most cases, in spite of the passage of time. It is also an excellent aid to identifying first editions, and determining whether a book originally had a dust jacket. Then, AbeBooks or Alibris on the internet should be consulted, at least to find out what certain known and reputable dealers are selling the same titles for, and how many copies might actually be available. Spending as much time as possible comparing prices at bookshops, Civil War shows, and antiquarian book fairs is also a good idea, and always a productive and enjoyable way for the bibliophile to deepen his knowledge, and maybe get lucky. My advice when pricing a book that you actually want to turn into currency of the realm is to find the average price for a particular title, and then price your copy somewhere below that. Finally, when in doubt, think about asking an expert, another bookseller, or maybe an appraiser. Many of us don’t really charge very much, and we always love to share our opinions. The bottom line is, price the books to sell, not to keep, and be happy with a modest markup.
Of course we have been discussing retail values, with an eye to selling to the general public. If, on the other hand, you think about selling to a book shop or book dealer, be prepared to negotiate a wholesale price, which can vary widely depending, once again, upon the content, quantity, and condition of the collection involved; what kind of books, how many, and what kind of shape they’re in, to say nothing of the predilections of the particular book buyer with whom you are hoping to do business.
Happy Hunting, and I hope this has been a help.