On October 3rd at 7 pm the Massanutten Regional Library Main Branch presents the first of its four weekly Deyerle lectures. The theme of this year’s series is art and artisans of the Shenandoah Valley. This is a fitting topic for us to recognize Dr. Henry P. Deyerle. His interest in and acquisition of 18th and 19th century Americana domestic artifacts made in the eastern United States was well known. His passion also raised awareness of the work of Shenandoah Valley artisans during these centuries.
The Deyerle family settled in the area in 1909 when Dr. James H. Deyerle moved to Harrisonburg. His ancestors - the Hites and the Byrds – were among the original settlers in the Shenandoah Valley. Dr. James H. Deyerly was a well-regarded surgeon and an outstanding citizen of Harrisonburg. By the time of his death in November 1946, Dr. James H. Deyerle had acquired extensive property along Route 11 north of Harrisonburg and to the east and south of the city - in areas poised to expand during the post-war development. At his death the property was divided between his daughter Evelyn Byrd Deyerle and his son Henry P. Deyerle.
Henry Price Deyerle was born in 1917 and graduated from the University of Virginia. Like his father, he was regarded as an outstanding local surgeon and citizen. In 1955, Henry and his wife, Mary Elizabeth, began their collecting ventures during a trip through Pennsylvania and Ohio. On this trip they acquired “Gaudy Dutch” spatter ware and fraktur. While growing-up the three children often went with the father in pursuit of a rarity and their patience and good behavior were rewarded with ice cream. Henry Deyerle’s sister, Evelyn Byrd, joined her brother in the pursuit of Americana.
|"Gaudy Dutch" spatter ware|
Their interests expanded from “Gaudy Dutch” spatter ware to Irish, Scottish and German artifacts found in the Shenandoah Valley and elsewhere. In Deyerle’s later years, he acquired high-style furniture from New York and Massachusetts. However, as Philadelphia was a hub in the great valley migrations, many high-style pieces also found their way into the Shenandoah Valley during settlement and into Deyerle’s collection. Henry Deyerle’s acquisitions were carefully documented as to provenance and item description and significance. The collection of Henry P. Deyerle raised two Shenandoah Valley artisan’s profiles: one was the German-American Johannes Spitler, a turn of the 19th century painted-furniture decorator of exceptional chests and clocks who lived in Shenandoah County; the other artist was a mid-19th century artist, Edward Beyer, who painted landscapes through-out the United States, but who during his most productive period painted Virginia scenes including the Shenandoah Valley.
Upon Evelyn Bryd Deyerle’s death in 1983, her collection went to her brother. Henry Price Deyerle died in October 1994, six months after the death of his wife. In May 1995, Sotheby’s of New York auctioned at the Boars Head Inn in Charlottesville the Deyerle collection of more than 800 items. The significance of the collection can be measured by the media attention given to the event. The auctioned items brought $4.6 million. A Johannes Spitler decorated dower chest brought $343,000, which at the time set a record for Spitler’s work. The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation purchased the chest. An Edward Beyer painting of Salem Virginia in 1855 was purchased for $118,000 for the Virginia Historical Society. It is not known how many items from this collection remained in the area. The Sotheby’s Catalogue for the auction is available at the Massanutten Regional Library.
|Spitler decorated dower chest|
In the biographic sketch of Henry P. Deyerle in the Sotheby’s auction catalogue, Wendell Garrett described Henry Price Deyerle as
“remarkable for his modesty and selflessness. As a surgeon he united keen intelligence, serene authority, seasoned with wisdom, deep and unflagging concern for his patients, rare consideration for others, sensitive delight in American art and antiques, and absolute integrity. He was a cultivated Virginia gentleman, a good citizen, a warm and wise human being; he inspired admiration, loyalty, and deep affection among his family and friends.”
Henry Deyerle’s close friend and antique broker, Robert Crawford, said [Deyerle] “never got the round of applause he deserved for his collection.”
This year is the 13th annual Deyerle lecture series sponsored by the children of Henry P. Deyerle. The lecture topics are:
October 3: “A History of Art in the Valley” by Dr. Scott Suter a noted student of Shenandoah Valley culture and art;
October 10: “Heritage Quilts” by Meegan Carr, Executive Director of VQM;
October 17: “American Salt Glazed Ware” by Rudy Tucker, local potter and artisan; and
October 24: “Muzzleloading Rifles in the 18th and 19th Century” by Mark Thomas, artisan and expert in Muzzleloading Rifles.
Come join us at the Main Branch of Massanutten Regional Library in Harrisonburg on Thursday nights at 7:00 during the month of October to help celebrate the culture of the Shenandoah Valley.