Clarke Hess was an Anabaptist historian of exceptional repute. His knowledge of Pennsylvania German and Mennonite culture, particularly with respect to the artifacts that reflect its emphasis on domestic craftsmanship, was superior.
Hess died in November after living several years with ALS, and he left behind a trove of cultural treasure — more than 5,000 pieces — that he had painstakingly curated throughout his lifetime. Horst Auction in Ephrata has been given the privilege of selling many items from Hess’ collection, and the first part of that auction will be held April 26 and 27. Online bidding is available through invaluable.com.
Hess, whose influence extended well beyond the bounds of Lancaster County, dedicated his life to the preservation of Anabaptist heritage and received lifetime honors from Historic Preservation Trust of Lancaster County and LancasterHistory.org. In 2001, he published “Mennonite Arts,” a definitive work that chronicles the significance — decorative and functional — of the types of items that found their way into his personal collection: quilts and linens, tools, woodwork, tinware, wrought iron, furniture, fraktur art and more.
Some of the items are vanishingly rare, like the tin nursing bottle. Such a simple item could easily fetch several hundred dollars.
Horst Auction will sell Hess’ magnificent 4-acre Lititz homestead, with its 18th-century 2 1/2-story log home, tenant house and various outbuildings, on May 23. The property is at 27 Lititz Run Road in Warwick Township.
The second part of the sale of his collection is slated for June 7 and 8. For more information, visit horstauction.com.