When Patrick Bell and Edwin Hild established Olde Hope Antiques in New Hope, Pennsylvania, on July 4, 1976, they had one of those lucky breaks that confirmed they had done the right thing. At a local auction Edwin bought a box lot of frames for $3. In the box was a small oil on panel; he sold the frames and kept the painting. Research revealed that it was a painting of abolitionist Benjamin Lay commissioned by Benjamin Franklin and painted by William Williams, one of America’s first portrait painters. As Patrick explains, “the discovery was published in Antiques, we got a call from the National Portrait Gallery, and sold it for enough money to jump-start our business.”
After several years of dealing, the partners began to focus on American painted furniture and folk art and today are recognized as one of the leading sources in the field. In 2001, they moved the business to “Peaceable Farm,” just a few minutes outside New Hope, and are now open only by appointment as well as being a regular presence at such shows as the Winter Antiques Show and the Philadelphia Antiques show.
Over thirty years in the business has not diminished Edwin or Patrick’s enthusiasm, who list museums, movie stars, and serious collectors among their clients. Says Patrick, “We have benefited from great friendships — from people who supported us early on such as show promoters Sandy Smith and Jim Burke, to fellow dealers and of course our clients. We have had the pleasure of meeting so many people from every strata and walk of life. There are not too many jobs where that is possible.”