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The Collection of Clarke E. Hess

Clarke Hess lived his lifetime in celebration of his community's cultural heritage. He was a historian and collector with a one-track focus on the history of Southeastern Pennsylvania.

Clarke had limitless enthusiasm for Lancaster County history, for his Mennonite heritage, and for Pennsylvania German regional culture. Beginning at age twelve, his primary passion was researching and finding historic objects and arts associated with his people.

Local family history was never quite the same, after Clarke focused his attention on that subject. His encyclopedic memory for historic family facts often startled his friends and amazed his colleagues. And he was automatically quick to share his research with anyone who was interested.

Clarke loved and studied all things Pennsylvania Dutch: the people, the architecture, the antiques, the folk art, the farming, the foodways, and all of it. He had a deep and abiding appreciation for the Plain People, because many in his family had also once been plain.

Clarke restored the Hess Homestead near Lititz and turned it into a historic house museum. He opened the Homestead doors to anyone who wished to visit. And he instructed that the Homestead and this collection should eventually be offered at auction to the next owners.

Clarke authored the book Mennonite Arts, about the antiques and regional culture of his people. He was on the board of directors of the Lancaster Mennonite Historical Society for decades. Clarke recently donated an important collection of objects to that organization, although the vast majority of his collection remained, and is being sold here at Horst Auction. Many local historical organizations will directly benefit from some of the proceeds of the auctions of his collection, as Clarke instructed. Clarke was also a member of the board of directors of the Historic Preservation Trust of Lancaster County, the Landis Valley Museum, the Historical Society of the Cocalico Valley, the Manheim Township Historical Society, and more. He served on committees at the Heritage Center Museum, the Hans Herr House, and the Lancaster Quilt Museum. He curated several museum exhibits on Mennonite antiques. In addition, he was an active member of the American Folk Art Society. Clarke received various awards for his contributions to historical research, including a lifetime-honor award as Fellow of

And a Thank You to the Volunteers: And finally, we wish to express enthusiastic thanks to the volunteers who helped prepare Clarke's collection for auction. We are grateful that you volunteered even without being asked. We certainly appreciate your many hours of work: typing Clarke's inventory descriptions, sorting the collection, and all the other assistance.

Lee J. Stoltzfus, and Sheryl Hess Quickel

Auctioneer's Note

We are privileged to have the opportunity to present Clarke’s collection for auction.  Clarke spent his life studying Pennsylvania German history and culture, and putting together the collection of Pennsylvania German furniture, art, & decorative accessories that will be auctioned.  As he did, he meticulously numbered and described every item he acquired, as well as recording the important provenance, family history, and description of how he bought each item.  He started at #1 in October 1966 and finished at #5560 in October 2018. We hope to preserve Clarke’s collection and all of the information associated with it in two ways:
  1. Auction Catalogs – The descriptions in this auction catalog are taken directly from Clarke’s inventory. We included as much of the text from the inventory as possible, as well as Clarke’s own drawings for many of the items.  Minor variations in spelling or terminology throughout the catalog represent changes and developments in Clarke’s understanding of the items as he assembled his collection.  At the end of each description is Clarke’s inventory number in brackets.
  2. Clarkes Inventory Website – Clarke’s entire inventory list (except for items donated or sold before his passing), the drawings included in his list, and the auction photographs will remain available on our website.  This list will be arranged in numeric order by Clarke’s inventory number (1-5560).  It is our hope that items from his collection will be easily cross referenced between the auction catalog and the website.

We hope you enjoy the auction and the opportunity to continue the history of the items in this fantastic collection.

Clarke E. Hess Collection Inventory