Pioneer Dealers

This section informs about and honors important Canton dealers who have died or are now retired. I have compiled information from obituaries, ads they placed and from personal knowledge.  If anyone would like to add to or correct these write-ups or suggest additional dealers, please do so.


Elizabeth Bradley

Elizabeth Bradley (Mrs. Robert) of Elizabeth Antiques in Milwaukee, WI announced her retirement in 2010 after 20+ years.  She principally sold Canton, Imari, Staffordshire figures, British brass and wood accessories.  Elizabeth’s advertisements over the years in MAD showed many rare Canton forms such as round and barrel canisters, marmites, chamber pots, condiment sets, a miniature footed compote, brush jars and others.


Mary (Lee) Burgess

Lee of Lee Burgess Antiques died June 2, 2012 in Florida.  She specialized in Canton and advertised in MAD and the Bee.  Her main base was in New London, NH and she did many shows in Manchester, NH (NHADA), the Southport-Westport Antiques Show as well as shows managed by Russell Carrell.  Lee retired to Florida with her husband Robert S. after he retired as a VP of the Lake Sunapee Bank in 2001. She did not continue the business thereafter.

A friend of Lee’s wrote:  “Her love of all things BLUE!  Canton, spongeware, quilts, cupboards and hydrangeas.”  Her ads featured rare items such as Canton cider jugs, dome-top teapots, pie plates, brush jars, baluster vases, ewers, candlesticks, and milk pitchers.


Florence (Florie) Corbin

Florie and Harold H. Corbin opened their Three Ravens Antiques shop first in Falls Village and then in Salisbury, CT in 1969.  They were general line shops but specialized in Canton among other things.  After Harold’s death on February 11, 1996, Three Ravens was closed and Florie moved to Kennebunk, Maine.  She died there on July 7, 2008 at age 91.  The Corbins not only sold from their home but exhibited in several antique shows.  Harold married Florie in 1940, a year after he graduated from Yale.  He headed the English Department at the Salisbury School and later became Head of Lake Forest Academy in Lake Forest, IL.  While at the Salisbury School, Harold started what is thought of as the first (1946) summer school of its kind holding English classes.

On a personal note, Nancy & I visited the Corbins in Salisbury and we ended up living in Lakeville a mile away, many years later.  We were welcomed to see the special Canton pieces the Corbins had in the inner sanctum of their home, a real treat for us.


James Galley

Jim Galley, whose real name was James Pillagalli, died of cancer on February 23, 2009 at age 64.  He was a specialist in Chinese export porcelain and sold from his home Rainbow Farm in Lederach, PA and at antiques shows.  He advertised in The Magazine Antiques and MAD.  Jim was a real porcelain lover and it was quite hard for him to sell a Canton piece from his collection.  A dealer commented in Jim’s MAD obituary that:  “He would always buy something very good, usually blue and white…he sold a lot of Canton.”   Beginning in 1984, we used to visit and buy quite regularly from Jim at his place in Collegeville, PA.  We would also receive phone calls or a Polaroid picture about a recent find of his.  Jim was a very nice guy who proudly enjoyed showing off his home and gardens.

I first saw in 1991 the largest Canton leaf dish I had ever seen:  7 7/8” wide x 9 7/8” long, a monster, at Jim’s home.  Jim’s estate auction was held on June 8, 2009 by William Bunch Auctions in Chadds Ford, PA.   We were there along with many other collectors and dealers. I was finally able to buy that large leaf dish at this auction, 18 years later.  Over the years, Jim helped me fill in my round, square and barrel canister sets of which I am particularly proud and other rare forms.


Marjorie W. Hardy

Marjorie Hardy (Mrs. Philip C.) of Providence, RI died June 11, 1992 at age 84.  Marjorie was one of the first Canton dealers I bought from in 1965.  My first punch bowl and wash basin came from her among other pieces.

Right after graduating from Mt. Holyoke in 1929 she began her career in antiques for another 62 years.  Her obituary said:  “The antiques world has lost a brilliant light, but those who knew her, did business with her, and loved her will always have their wonderful memories of this extraordinary lady and her exquisite collections”.


Avis M. Howells

Any serious Canton collector in the past, that toured Maine for Canton, would stop in Belfast and see the very friendly and charming Avis Howells (Mrs. William B.).  Avis was born in the 1854 Victorian house that her grandfather built.  This house doubled as her home and as her antique shop that always had Canton and Shaker items, her specialties.  Avis no longer sells Canton and no longer lives in the home.  Avis is in her 90s.

There was a very nice article on Avis in 1997 in MAD.  We learn that she started in the antique business in 1967 after becoming enamored with Shaker.  She began collecting and selling Canton after her mother gave her some Canton from a large service when Avis married her husband Bill in 1944.  Bill died in 1987 at age 65.   For many years Avis advertised in MAD and at one time did 18 antique shows a year, that is quite a pace!  The MAD article quoted her advice to customers:  “If you like it, buy it when you see it.  Don’t be swayed by high auction prices and think you cannot afford the item.  Dealers often do much better in price.”


Fred B. Nadler

Fred had a passion for decorating which turned to selling antiques to his customers.  His specialty became Chinese export porcelain and in the 1950s he had a shop in Freehold, NJ.  Moving to Bay Head and doing antique shows Fred Nadler was invited to sell at the Winter Antiques Show and the Philadelphia Antique show and all the other important charity shows.  Eventually Fred had a shop on East 64th Street by Madison Avenue and then returned to New Jersey with a place in Bernardsville.  Fred always had very expensive export especially Armorial and Fitzhugh patterns and also rare Canton such as garden seats.   Fred died on January 17, 2003 at age 71.


Herbert F. Schiffer

Herbert Schiffer was the first person to write a book that extensively covered the Canton pattern in pictures and writing about the many Canton forms as well as the Nanking, Fitzhugh and Rose Medallion patterns. The book jacket flap reads: “The Schiffers have been the world’s largest dealer in these later patterns for many years…than anyone else in the last 100 years since the trade was active”.  I had a small part in this first book as I photographed several pictures of my rare Canton forms for the book. The book, Chinese Export Porcelain, Standard Patterns and Forms 1780-1880 was published in 1975 by Schiffer Publishing Limited.  Co-authors were Herb’s son Peter and his daughter-in-law Nancy Nutt Schiffer.  The only extensive, published Canton sources before 1975 were two booklets by Jane Wilson in 1961 and 1966.  She published a third booklet in 1977.  The Schiffers went on to write and publish in 1980 another book, China for America, Export Porcelain of the 18th and 19th Centuries.  The second book did not have much specific information or pictures about Canton as the first book did; however, I highly recommend both books to all Canton Collectors.  Herb first advertised in The Magazine Antiques in February, 1956.  The first Canton display was in the August, 1957 issue and eventually in full page ads including some on the inside covers.  My favorite picture from the magazine was Herb sitting in a wing chair with his feet up on a garden seat reading China for America and behind him a pewter dresser filled with Canton.  The last Schiffer ad was in 2001 when his health failed and the antiques business was closed.

Herb was  very  kindly and  encouraged  my early  collecting  and  dealing in Canton.  My first purchase from Herb was 8 Canton items in 1966.  I saw him at the many shows he did and at the succession of shops he had in Pennsylvania.  His shops had absolute walls of Canton on display.  Herb and his wife, Margaret Berwind Schiffer, eventually moved their antiques operation to their farm in West Chester, PA.  Besides their house there were several out buildings that were used to display antiques and they eventually contained the book publishing business.  There was also a greenhouse where Herb proudly raised orchids.  Margie and Herb had their private collections which included Canton in the house and Nancy and I were invited to several Christmas parties there, what a treat!

What an eclectic person Herb was, he was a gentleman farmer, antique dealer, and orchid grower.  He went to the Avon School and graduated from Cornell with a degree in animal husbandry.  Margie was a scholar known for her books on Pennsylvania needlework and Chester County furniture.

One of the foremost pioneer dealers and promoter of Canton died on November 9, 2007 on his 90th birthday. He was closely followed by his son Peter who died December 19, 2008 at age 60.  Peter and his wife were instrumental in running and expanding Schiffer Publishing Ltd. which published thousands of antique and collectibles books and is still in operation today.


Elizabeth (Betty) K.  & Matthew E. Sharpe

The Sharps lived in Conshohocton, PA and had their business “Spring Mill Antiques” in their home for over 40 years.  Their specialty was American furniture, Chinese export porcelain, silver and brass items and English pottery.  The Sharps were high end dealers who sold to museums and major collectors.  They exhibited in the major antique shows on the East Coast.  I bought some minor pieces of Canton from them as early as 1966 and also later when I could afford rarer and more expensive forms in the late 1980s.

Matthew started as a painter and art teacher while Betty was a music teacher. Betty’s advice to her buyers was:  “Buy the best you can afford”.   Their shop was closed in 1993.  Matthew died April 28, 1994, age 91 and Betty died January 26, 2000, when she was 89.


Jane E. C. Wilson

Jane Wilson (Mrs. J. Gresham) of Old Saybrook, CT was one of the very first persons I bought Canton from in 1965.   Jane, in her day, was a leading authority of Canton porcelain. Her first two booklets were titled Canton China and the third booklet Canton for the Collector.  They were my introduction to and first source of written knowledge of Canton as I began collecting.  These three blue cover booklets were printed in 1961 (24 pages, stapled), 1966-“2nd Edition” (43 pages, white spiral binding) and 1977-“3rd Edition” (63 pages, glued binding).  All had black & white pictures with the 2nd edition having one color plate and the 3rd with 2 color plates and several examples of the Nanking pattern. All said on the inside of the back cover:  “Jane Wilson One of the largest selections of Canton China in the country.”  And she was right, with Herb Schiffer coming closest in her era.  My biggest purchase from her was in 1966,  the very rare pair of cachepots that are illustrated in the 1966 and 1977 booklets.

Jane was born in 1897 in Old Saybrook and was a descendant of one of the founding families of that town.  She died November 20, 1985 at the age of 88.  She was an exhibitor in several major shows, an inaugural participant in the Ellis Memorial in Boston, the Thrift Shop Antiques Show in Washington, D. C., and the University Hospital Antiques Show in Philadelphia.  Mr. Wilson who predeceased her, was a manager of antiques shows.  Jane had a full shop of Canton in the garage behind her house and a few special pieces of Canton in her home.

Jane Wilson should be credited as a leader in making Canton a popular collectible as opposed to people just filling in useful dinner sets that were handed down to them through the years or replacing the inevitable broken pieces.  She was one of the first people to advertise Canton in The Magazine Antiques, starting in 1962 and ending in 1975.  She also promoted the sale of her booklets there and at all the antique shows she participated in.

An interesting note is that Elinor and Horace W. Gordon also published similar booklets to Jane Wilson’s: 1959-2nd Edition (yellow stapled covers-32 pages) and 1963-3rd Edition (orange covers with black spiral bindings-52 pages). These were entitled: Oriental Lowestoft. On the inside of the back covers was “Elinor Gordon One of the finest selections of Oriental Lowestoft in the Country.”  I do not have a copy of the Gordons’s 1st booklet but it would seem Jane Wilson got the idea for her booklets from the Gordons as they must have been friends and were together at many shows.