Hey Doug: I enjoyed your column today. I have an old painting that has been in my family for over 100 years. It’s a landscape by an artist named F.S. Perkins. I think this stands for Frank Stanton Perkins (1833-1899). He was born in New York state and lived most of his life in Wisconsin. My great-grandfather bought this painting in the late 1800s from the artist. I’d be happy to keep the painting, but I could use some money also. If it has a value over $1,000, I’d probably be interested in selling it. I saw a still life by F.S. Perkins sold for $7,000 a couple years ago. My luck, that was the only good painting he ever did! I know this may be a lot to ask, but if you could lead me in any direction at all, it would be better than what I’ve come up with on my own. Here is a photo of the painting.
Hey Ray: Are you sure you want me to lead you in just any direction? Well, you better hang onto this roller coaster. Are you kidding me? An original F.S. Perkins? The few examples of his work that I have seen normally sell in galleries for between $5,000 and $10,000!
Frederick Stanton Perkins was more than just a painter. Moving to Burlington, Wis., with his parents at the age of 5 in 1837, his father’s house, the first frame building erected in that community, was one of the stations on the Underground Railroad.
In 1849, his father went to California to seek his fortune during the Gold Rush and was murdered for his money during the return trip. At about the age of 16, Frederick was sent to New York City to study painting under landscape artist Jasper F. Cropsey. While there, he became personally acquainted with the leaders of the abolition movement — men such as William Lloyd Garrison, Theodore Parker, Wendell Phillips, Henry Ward Beecher and Horace Greeley.
About 1860, he took up portrait painting and returned a few years later to Milwaukee, where he was quite successful painting the portraits of local notables of his day.
Beginning about 1865, he devoted much time to the work of collecting and preserving the stone and copper antiquities found in Wisconsin. He was actually the first to make a great collection of them and accumulated about 1,300 copper implements and 34,000 local stone specimens. His research, identification and donations have enriched the collections of the American Museum of Natural History, the Smithsonian Institution, the Milwaukee City Museum, the State Historical Society of Wisconsin and many others.
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Mr. Perkins continued his painting and traveled to Europe in 1876, spending three months painting in Florence and 10 years in Paris. Yes, his paintings are quite valuable because his talents as an artist were exceptional to say the least.
Now, let me tell you about another man named F.S. Perkins — a landscape artist out of Colorado. Well, he was not so hot. An example of his work recently sold to one lone bidder on eBay for $24.99, plus shipping. Guess which one you’ve got? Sorry ’bout that Ray. I told you upfront that this was a roller-coaster ride.
Contact Doug Smith with your collectibles questions by e-mailing him at DougsQCCollecting@hotmail.com or send a note to Quad-City Times, Attn.: features editor, P.O. Box 3828, Davenport, IA, 52808. Please send a photograph, if available, either by e-mail or letter.