by Dr. Lori Verderame
Frakturs are family documents that are hand-decorated with pen, ink, printing, and watercolors. American frakturs originated from Europe and the continent’s decorated manuscripts dating back to the Middle Ages.
Introduced to America in the late 1700s, these family heirlooms were first collected by the Pennsylvania Germans.
Most commonly, American frakturs were produced by the Germanic peoples who settled in Pennsylvania, New Jersely, Virginia, West Virginia, and Ohio. Early fraktur artists were often school teachers and their artistic and talented students.
The word fraktur comes from the Latin word meaning “broken”. Working with quill pens, American frakturs were drawn on paper with high rag content. Unlike small scale European frakturs which document religious verses, American frakturs highlight family data. American frakturs give information about births, baptisms, deaths and weddings using block-style lettering and decorative details. They are larger than their European counterparts measuring as large as 16 x 20 inches.
Quality workmanship and attractive elements of a hand-painted fracturs spark interest from many collectors. These traits remain extremely important to the typical fraktur collector. Color palette, variety of subjects (tulips, birds, angels, alphabet lettering), and provenance remain key to acquiring a valuable fraktur.
Frakturs by some of the most preeminent fraktur artists like schoolmaster Christopher Dock and others have brought sky high prices at auction and in private sales. Prices have soared into the $10,000 to $50,000 range.
Traditional frakturs from the early to mid 19th Century feature colorful inks and watercolor paintings of flowering trees, angels, birds, and flowers. These documents are enhanced by written information about family lineage. The workmanship and artistry of frakturs are, hands down, what attracts buyers to this area of the American folk art market.
Get an online appraisal of your fraktur from Dr. Lori.