Every piece of furniture that antique dealer Aileen Minor displays shows amazing craftsmanship -- deep, ornate hand carving and polished veneers.
All of it is as perfect as anything on a showroom floor, and each piece has lasted a lifetime.
"They are all handmade, before the machine age," Minor said of a small chest, sofa and gentleman's chest, American classical pieces made between 1815 and 1825. "That period was the heyday of the importation of mahogany."
Minor is one of 35 dealers whose wares will be on display this weekend at the Annapolis Heritage Antiques Show, an annual fund-raiser for the London Town Foundation at the National Guard Armory on Hudson Street in Annapolis.
The foundation raises money for education programs at London Town, once a thriving tobacco port on the South River.
The show offers a chance to purchase 18th-century silverware with high price tags and old-fashioned pillow fluffers for wall art, but the wrought iron and hefty wood pieces have their tale to tell.
"It gives people a real introduction into what life was like a long time ago," said Boots Michalak, who chairs the foundation's antique show committee. "I think it's a good way for people to learn more about antiques and American history."
For example, Shaker furniture is valued for "the simplicity and design and ability to produce a meaningful and lasting piece of furniture," said Richard Vandall, a dealer who features early American wares and decorative arts in his booth.
The furniture remains a tribute to the old religious sect, he said.
Other household furniture provides a peek into history.
Nineteenth-century chests held basins for washing, and early desks had letter-writing compartments with space for ink bottles.
Old iron forks, which today are wall decorations, were once used to catch eels for dinner.
The foundation also will be offering separate programs, such as a preview party from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. today.
Tomorrow, the dealers offer appraisals from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. and classes on what to look for in antiques from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.
A treasures workshop, with demonstrations on silver, ceramics, Oriental rugs and tall case clocks is scheduled from from 9: 30 a.m. to 11 a.m. Saturday.
Costumed guides will take children on a tour of the show 4 p.m. to 5 p.m. that afternoon.
Reservations are encouraged for those programs, which generate about $20,000 a year for the foundation, Michalak said.
The preview party is $40. Appraisals are $10 each, limit two items. The young collectors evening is $20, with wine and light refreshments. The treasures workshop, $15, includes a continental breakfast. The children's tour is free for children and $10 for adults. All prices include show admission. Lunch is available daily. Reservations: 410-222-1919.
Pub Date: 1/21/99