Monumental hand-painted advertising banner by artist John F. Harvey

Rolled up for over a century, this massive 10’ x 6.5’ banner has horse-racing buffs scratching their heads

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This remarkable canvas advertising banner by artist John F. Harvey has collectors asking questions. Who commissioned it and for what purpose? Why was Harvey the chosen artist? Why the immense size? Was it intended to be displayed at an agricultural fair or exhibition? At 10’ x 6.5’, it would have taken Harvey months to complete. With its first unveiling in over a century, collectors are puzzled.

John Frasier Harvey (1859-1933) was a New York based artist known for his exceptional portraits, historic scenes, and nature studies. He was a master with the brush and was renowned for his ability to paint both a simple greeting card and the occasional mural with proficiency.

This massive banner, hand-painted in Harvey’s preferred medium of watercolours, features a racehorse with its cart and driver in tow. The lower right corner of the canvas reads “Baden-Rodney and Houghton-Sulky, Greatest Money Winners, 1912”.

“The horse’s name is actually Baden,” says Harold Howe, a long-time harness racing journalist and former owner of The Harness Edge, a racing publication geared towards trainers, owners, and breeders. According to Howe, the general consensus is that Rodney is most likely the name of the driver; however, this is unsubstantiated.

Baden won at least 11 races in 1912, according to Mr. Howe. He presumes this banner was created to promote “Houghton-Sulky” horse racing carts as contributors to these victories. Houghton-Sulky was an Ohio-based carriage company, well-known within the racing industry at the time.

In his early days, artist John F. Harvey was a partner in a drugstore in Amsterdam, NY and worked for an apothecary which produced medicinal elixirs and mixed paints. He soon discovered his passion for painting and became affiliated with John A. McNaughton, a sign painter and interior decorator. Together, they founded McNaughton & Harvey, a sign-painting and interior decorating company. Later, when McNaughton retired, Harvey’s sons joined the firm and it was renamed John F. Harvey & Sons.

Although successful in his career, Harvey’s life was full of tribulation. During his first marriage, he lost two young children, followed by his 36-year-old wife Lizzie Smith. Harvey later married Alida Kline, with whom he had five more children. One of his sons, John Fred Harvey, died in an automobile accident at age 22. Young Harvey was driving the car, which collided with a milk truck after passing through a covered bridge.

During his time as an active artist, Harvey would host annual art shows to showcase his work. This tradition was revived in the year 2000 when historian Volkert Veeder mounted an exhibition of Harvey’s work at the Perthshire and Amsterdam City Hall.

Currently, there are about 10 of Harvey’s paintings on display in The Water Elwood Museum in Amsterdam.

Writer - Tess Monterroza

Item Estimate: $2000 - 3000

Lot Number: 280

Auction Details: Canadiana & Historic Objects - February 9, 2019. 10 am.

Live Auction Location: 59 Webster St. New Hamburg, Ontario. N3A 1W8

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