Welcome to Vantines.net, an on-line museum celebrating this long defunct importer of Asian goods. I have been an avid collector of Vantines' items for several years and I created this site as a repository of information. Please contact me if you have any comments, questions, or would like to contribute pictures or content. The story of Vantine's and pictures of Mr. Vantine and his wife below are taken from "The Biography of Ashley Abraham Van Tine" as hosted on rootsweb.ancestry.com. There is currently an active collectors market for Vantine's items on eBay and most of the photos of merchandise have been collected from there over the years.
Please note that nothing is for sale on this site. It's just a look back at this wonderful store and its' quality products.
Ashley Abraham Vantine, one of the most notable of the up-town merchants of this city, was born Oct. 12, 1821, in Chazy, N.Y., and died at his home, No. 153 West 57th street in this city, Jan. 25, 1890. He traced his family line back to old Holland stock, and his father, David Vantine, followed the occupation of a farmer. It was upon the farm that Ashley A. Vantine began life. He grew up rugged in health, practical and energetic, and, with a country school education, took the first step in the way of bettering his condition by becoming captain of a canal boat, while yet under age, graduating from this latter service to engage in teaching a school in Plattsburgh. This latter experience was useful to Mr. Vantine, and by constant study he became a well informed man. Early in life, the subject of this memoir joined the throng of residents of the Eastern States, who were pouring into California, drawn by the glowing tales of discoveries of gold. Being detained on the Isthmus of Panama, a hundred days, he followed a custom usual with him and not often followed, of making the most of every minute of time, and at once began to study the Spanish language, becoming so proficient that the Alcalde offered him great inducements to remain. But the glitter of California gold proved too tempting to the New Yorker, and he pressed onward to San Francisco. For a number of years he carried on a profitable trade in general merchandise in the cities of Marysville and San Francisco, during which period he experienced some of the hardships of life in a region in which the comforts of civilization had not yet been introduced, but steadily gained ground and made his way without serious interruption.
It was during his mercantile experience upon the Pacific coast, that Mr. Vantine became acquainted with the beauty of the ceramic and textile productions of the two great nations beyond the western ocean. About 1866, he came to New York City and with small capital began to import Chinese and Japanese goods, and to introduce the beautiful productions of Asiatic art to the attention of local buyers. He may thus be said to have become for the second time a pioneer, and, as before, in an almost unexplored field. Little was then known by the public at large concerning the variety and beauty of Chinese and Japanese goods, because scarcely anything of this nature had ever been received in New York up to that time beyond a few invoices of silk, porcelains and lacquered ware. Mr. Vantine entered upon his new enterprise with his accustomed good judgment and after prudent study of the markets.
A love of beautiful objects, formerly cherished by a few, had finally taken possession of the people of New York city and the American public at large, and the adornment of the home was leading to the purchase of every article, which would gratify a refined taste, including hangings, pictures, decorated pottery and elegant trifles of all kinds.
Mr. Vantine opened his store just at the right time and throngs of buyers rewarded his enterprise. His first day's sale amounted to $50 only. Although insignificant in itself, this result was a surety of success to his mind and he prosecuted his business with vigor and confidence. When he finally began to order hundreds and thousands of the various articles which composed his stocks, the Japanese merchants looked at him with amazement, while buyers in new York were captivated by the variety and extent of the goods he spread before them. In time, he finally added the importation of Turkish rugs to his business and rose to be the leading merchant in the field in New York city. His operations compelled him to maintain branches and representatives in every part of the United States and in many countries abroad. At one time, he had customers in every State of the Union.
In 1870, he admitted to partnership, under the name of A. A. Vantine & Co., James F. Sutton, who remained with him for twelve years and then retired. James I. Raymond was made a partner in 1875. Various other changes took place in the firm, and finally, in 1887, Mr. Vantine retired, after an honorable career of nearly fifty years in practical business. He was able to enjoy a few years of well earned rest before his death. His wife and two daughters survived him.
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