Whether the interest in American antiques had its origin at the time of the Philadelphia Centennial in 1876 or whether it was a manifestation of that same reappraisal of the past evident in England and France in the late-nineteenth century, which seems more likely, collections began to be formed shortly before 1900. The names of Eugene Bolles, Jacob Paxon Temple, Dwight Blaney and Richard A. Canfield are recalled among the early collectors, but it was not until the time of Francis P.Garvan, Louis Guerineau Myers, Mrs J.Insley Blair, Mrs Harry Horton Benkard and others who were assembling great collections in the 1920s that antiques began to receive general understanding and appreciation.
Books began to appear early in the century. Lockwood published his Colonial Furniture in 1903. The writings of Frances Clary Morse, Alice Morse Earl, Esther Singleton and Edwin Atlee Barber were pioneer works which today's collectors can read with profit. More specialised publications followed. In furniture there were books by Nutting (1926); Lyon (1924); Kettell (1929); Hornor (1935) and Miller (1937). Silver was introduced by the catalogue of the historic exhibition in Boston in 1906, followed by studies by Bigelow in 1917 and Miss Avery in 1930. Pewter was first covered in definitive form by Kerfoot in 1924; glass by Mrs Knittle in 1927; and textiles by Miss Morris in 1931. There have been important additions to the literature of all these fields, but not enough of them, and not enough revisions of early works to keep pace with discoveries. It is true that a number of monoraphs have appeared, among which books on silversmiths lead, while glass has had recent and excellent presentation by the McKearins, and pewter a monumental study by Dr. Laughlin. But it is often surprising and disappointing to new students and collectors to find how inadequate is the number of recent books on fundamental subjects. It is continually necessary to refer to periodicals, particularly the magazine Antiques, to Old-Time New England and the bulletins of museums, all of which present new material, while the broad survey of the field is difficult to find in many instances, particularly in regard to furniture, ceramics, silver and textiles. To answer the need for a new, comprehensive work on antiques the Concise Encyclopedia of American Antiques has been prepared. Its authors are members of the staffs of museums, libraries and historical societies, or authors of books in their particular fields. In general plan and format the Encyclopedia is related to the Concise Encyclopedia of Antiques of which four volumes have been published by Hawthorn Books, Inc. (1955, 1956, 1957, 1959). These four earlier volumes contain articles on American furniture, silver, glass and prints, but none of this material is reprinted in the present work.
It has not been possible to hold to the same period in regard to all subjects. The question of 'how old is an antique' can probably never be satisfactorily answered. Some of the objects discussed are of the mid- or late-nineteenth century, a few, such as mechanical toys and dime novels, are of the twentieth. However, it is well to remember . . .