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Burton and Helaine Fendelman Papers

Identifier: A0022

Scope and Contents

The Burton and Helaine Fendelman Papers include research, photographs, correspondence, drafts, press, and other materials relating to Helaine Fendelman’s appraisal career, as well as the Fendelman’s folk art collection, lectures and courses Helaine Fendelman taught, television programs she hosted and was featured in, and conferences and auctions she took part in. This collection is particularly strong in relation to Helaine Fendelman’s scholarship on Tramp Art and highlights her research, exhibitions, and publications on the subject.


  • 1963 - 2017


Conditions Governing Access

The collection is open for research. Access to sensitive materials may be restricted at the discretion of the American Folk Art Museum.

Conditions Governing Use

The Burton and Helaine Fendelman Papers are owned by the American Folk Art Museum. The collection is subject to all copyright laws, and is dedicated to public use for research, study, and scholarship.

Biographical Note

Helaine Fendelman (born January 25, 1942 in Riverside, Illinois) is an antiques, fine arts, and collectibles appraiser; author; and instructor. She was guest curator of the 1975 exhibition Tramp Art at the American Folk Art Museum and author of the book Tramp Art: An Itinerant’s Folk Art (E. P. Dutton, 1975). The publication was one of the first to provide comprehensive documentation about tramp art, which consisted of notched woodcarving from cigar boxes, shipping crates, or other soft, readily available wood. The notched wood strips were applied in layers to create elaborate patterns adorning functional objects. Information about tramp art makers was scarce, and Fendelman conducted national research for her book, which sought to shed light on the origins, makers, and spread of the decorative art form. In 1999, she co-authored Tramp Art: A Folk Art Phenomenon with Jonathan Taylor.

Fendelman has also authored numerous articles on Tramp art, appraisal, and antique shopping, including the recurring columns, “What Is It? What Is It Worth?” in Country Living Magazine, and the syndicated column “Treasures In Your Attic,” which Fendelman co-authors for Scripps Howard Newspapers. Fendelman co-hosted the PBS television program “Treasures in Your Attic” with Joe Rosson and co-wrote a book by the same title. Fendelman taught several courses on folk art and the business of antiques at the Scarsdale Adult School between the late 1970s and 2000s

In the 1970s, Helaine and her husband Burton Fendelman ran an antiques business from their 1870s farmhouse in Scarsdale, New York. Their personal collection, the American Folk Art Collection of Burton and Helaine Fendelman, was sold by Sotheby’s in 1993.Helaine Fendelman and Associates Fine Art Appraisals currently operates out of New York City, New York.


9.00 linear feet (18 Standard document cases; 1 Oversize flat file )

1 reel(s) (magnetic audio tape)

Language of Materials



The Burton and Helaine Fendelman Papers are comprised of materials related to antique and folk art appraiser Helaine Fendelman’s career and scholarship, particularly on Tramp Art, including photos of antiques and art objects, research and educational materials, and press materials.


The Burton and Helaine Fendelman Papers are grouped by subject and arranged chronologically where possible.

Physical Characteristics and Technical Requirements

VHS tapes and DVDs have not been digitized and require a VHS / DVD player to view.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The collection was donated by Burton and Helaine Fendelman through multiple gifts in the 1990s, 2017, and 2021.

Related Materials

Tramp Art: An Itinerant's Folk Art [NK9712.F46 1975], Tramp Art: A Folk Art Phenomenon [NK9950.F46 1999]

Processing Information

This collection represents three separate accruals of materials given by Burton and Helaine Fendelman. Until 2023, this collection comprised just the first accrual (records related to Fendelman’s Tramp Art scholarship). After processing two more subsequent accruals (artwork photos; general collecting, appraisal, and research records) this collection now comprises three series; a series representing the materials for each accrual in the order in which they were received by the American Folk Art Museum.

A Guide to the Burton and Helaine Fendelman Papers
Emily Christensen, Revised by Julia Brzozka
July 2015, Revised November 2023
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Revision Statements

  • October 2021: The name of this collection was changed from the "Helaine Fendelman Papers" to the "Burton and Helaine Fendelman Papers" per request of the donors.
  • November 2023: This collection was rearranged at the series level to include two additional accurals to this collection. See processing note for additional information.

Repository Details

Part of the American Folk Art Museum Archives Repository

47-29 32nd Place
Long Island City New York 11101 United States
(212) 595-9533