Wendell D. Garrett, Decorative Arts Specialist, Remembered

  • November 20, 2012 21:46

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Wendell D. Garrett, 1929-2012

Wendell D. Garrett, well-known as an American decorative arts expert on the TV series "Antiques Roadshow" and as an editor of The Magazine Antiques, died in Williston, Vermont, on Nov. 14. He was 83.

A giant in the world of American antiques, renowned for his knowledge of history and material culture, Garrett was a fixture as an appraiser on the PBS series "Antiques Roadshow" from its inception in 1997. His most recent episodes taped last summer and will air beginning in January 2013. He was also known for his dark, bold signature on the pages of The Magazine Antiques where he served as an editor, publisher and, later, editor-at-large.

He had a longtime association with Sotheby's and was a senior vice president in the American decorative arts department until his retirement.

Garrett's specialty is evident by the titles of a few of the many books he published: “Classic America: The Federal Style & Beyond” (1992); “Monticello and the Legacy of Thomas Jefferson” (1994); and, with David Larkin and Michael Webb, “American Home: From Colonial Simplicity to the Modern Adventure” (2001).

He first garnered recognition as a scholar for “The Earliest Diary of John Adams,” a four-volume work that came about after he was combing the archives of the Vermont Historical Society in 1965.


Garrett received a bachelor's degree in American history from the University of California at Los Angeles and a master's in the Winterthur Program in early American culture from the University of Delaware. His graduate work in American history at Harvard University led to his joining the staff of the Adams Papers at the Massachusetts Historical Society where he became the assistant editor of The Diary and Autobiography of John Adams (4 volumes), and associate editor of the first two volumes of Adams's family correspondence.

Among his numerous memberships, Garrett served on the board of trustees of the Thomas Jefferson Memorial Foundation (Monticello) from 1987-1993. In October 1994, he received the Henry Francis du Pont Award for distinguished contribution to the American Arts, one of several awards achieved over decades of scholarship.

Garrett leaves scores of admirers for his writings and contributions to the field of American decorative arts.

He is survived by his first wife, Jane Nuckols, and his second wife, Elisabeth Garrett Widmer, along with their three children, their spouses, and four grandchildren.

Read more at Antiques & the Arts Weekly

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