New Jersey Remembered: A Seventy-fifth Anniversary; Philadelphia Collection 75; October 2005
Schwarz Gallery - Catalog 75 - New Jersery Remembered: Seventy-fifth Anniversary Exhibition - Introduction

Antiques Bought: Anything OLD FASHIONED (Schwarz Window Sign, 1930s)
Schwarz Window Sign, 1930s
This exhibition designates the seventy-fifth anniversary of the founding of the Schwarz Gallery, which had it origins in New Jersey. Frank S. Schwarz, the gallery’s founder, graduated from the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania and completed two years at Penn Law. He had been interested in antiques and collected early New Jersey glass while attending college. Frank rented a farmhouse on Route 9 in southern New Jersey near the Seaview Country Club in June 1930 and opened Frank S. Schwarz American Antiques, an enterprise that his future wife Marie later characterized as a “glorified garage sale.” His stock mainly consisted of things that had been collected by his father Jacob Albert Schwarz, a wholesale manufacturer of costume jewelry. Frank decided not to return to law school in September and moved to Ventnor. During the Great Depression, Frank traveled around South Jersey searching for antiques. He relocated the business to Atlantic City in the early 1930s, first to the Ritz-Carlton Hotel and then to the Chalfonte Hotel, which were both situated on the famous boardwalk.

Frank’s shop was patronized by such notables as the tobacco heiress Mrs. Bowman Gray and U.S. Chief Justice Owen Roberts. One of Frank’s most memorable experiences in Atlantic City was receiving a visit from Evelyn Walsh McLean who wore the Hope diamond she had purchased in 1911 for $154,000. Although the heiress was reputedly disdainful of the legend that the diamond was cursed, she warned Frank that it might harm anyone who touched it. McLean, seated in her rolling chair in front of the door, proceeded to purchase his inventory of five rare “Jersey rose” paperweights along with assorted French ones.

The business thrived, and during the late 1930s Frank moved to the most prestigious block of the Atlantic City boardwalk in front of the Traymore Hotel. The store’s trademark was a large, carved wooden cigar store Indian. The firm specialized in selling early American furniture, grandfather clocks, music boxes, antique gold and silver, and paperweights. One of the most unusual objects Frank acquired was a lifesize mannequin of a Quaker woman, which was later purchased by the Atwater Kent Museum in Philadelphia. Frank stored a kayak under the boardwalk and often left his father or an assistant in charge of the shop and spent an afternoon fishing in the ocean. He married Marie Devlin in 1940, and within two years the couple had twin sons, named Robert and Richard, followed by a daughter, Frances, a few years later.

The decline in tourism that followed the outbreak of World War II made Atlantic City a less desirable location for an antique store. Soldiers stationed in the town held regular drills on the boardwalk, and the luxurious hotels were converted into military hospitals. Because of the nightly blackouts shops no longer remained open until midnight. The Schwarzes left Atlantic City in the fall of 1942 and decided to temporarily transfer the business to Philadelphia until the war was over. Frank opened a new store on Chestnut Street called Frank S. Schwarz American Antiques. From 1942 through 1961 he operated a profitable business, mostly selling wholesale to dealers. Frank, who had developed an impressive expertise in Americana, had the social contacts and politesse needed to purchase antiques from the old area families who were eager to sell the estates they inherited; his wife Marie recollected, “It seemed that the well would never run dry.” The Schwarzes decided to remain in Philadelphia and never returned to Atlantic City.


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