Thursday, February 21, 2013


Anyone who reads this blog is familiar with the early 20th Century painter Ethelbert B. Crawford. Putting the work of EBC before the public has become part of my own work. I've shown him at MO David North, collected as many of his works as I can get my hands on and will continue (given the opportunity) to hang his paintings anywhere I can. Bert's story of unrequited love, an overbearing mother, a frustrated art "career" and eventual suicide made him an immediate kindred soul. The fact that he was a local sealed the deal. I was hooked on everything Ethelbert.
    So it was the other night, on the phone with Shewho, I looked at the name of a call coming through- "Peters" and didn't pick up. The only Peters I knew were the WSSP Satan love triangle neighbors of Shewho's on Midway Rd.. But about 15 mins. later Shewho called back. "You'll never guess the phone call I just got." Turned out it was from the same Peters who had called me. Relieved that it wasn't the crazy neighbors, this Peters had found both my and Shewo's phone numbers by googling Ethelbert B. Crawford. God bless the internet.

    Jeff Peters is a picker out in Hortonville, NY. He told Shewho he had a bunch of EBC paintings and wondered if we would be into buying them? Duh. A couple of days later Shewho, Chuck and I drove to Hortonville to check out the treasure. As we examined the canvases, Jeff told us where he came across them. "Do you know who Frederick Cook was?" We three dummies just stood there blank faced. "He was the first person to reach the North Pole, climb Mt McKinley, and invent the "pyramid scheme". Whatthe...? The name sounded familiar, but I had to admit I knew nothing of Cook. Jeff went on to tell us how he had purchased the pantings (and many others now dispersed) from the Cook estate. They weren't the best examples of Bert's work. They were slightly damaged, but were authentic- signed and dated 1909 and well worth grabbing. We made the deal and left with the work.

A week later I sit in my bathrobe, mac on my lap, googling Dr. Frederick Cook. DAMN! Born in Hortonville in 1865, his 1909 expedition to the North Pole made him a household name world wide, and was immediately followed by controversy. Fellow polar explorer Peary and the exploring community questioned the validity of Cook's account. The clash of egos fueled the controversy that would dog Cook for the rest of his life. The seemingly glaring contradiction of this, by all accounts, talented, educated, rugged individual and all the schemes and scams he's accused of throughout his life is fascinating. In the end he serves time in prison for stock fraud and receives a death bed pardon from FDR. The Sullivan County Historical Society has a collection of his papers and photographs. I know how I'm spending my day. Move over Ethelbert. Another local is about to be uncovered.    


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