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Antiques dealer who weathered changes

Morris Finkel, 88, of East Mount Airy, an antiques dealer who rose to national prominence during six decades of business on Philadelphia's Antiques Row, died Thursday, Dec. 22, from complications of pneumonia at the Visiting Nurses Association hospice in East Falls.

Morris Finkel, 88, of East Mount Airy, an antiques dealer who rose to national prominence during six decades of business on Philadelphia's Antiques Row, died Thursday, Dec. 22, from complications of pneumonia at the Visiting Nurses Association hospice in East Falls.

Since 1947, Mr. Finkel had been a constant presence in his corner store at 10th and Pine Streets. He worked with private clients, major museums, and historical societies and helped form important collections.

Known first as M. Finkel Antiques, the shop originally featured American furniture and period accessories from the 18th and 19th centuries. In 1975, Mr. Finkel's daughter, Amy, joined him and they renamed the business M. Finkel & Daughter.

Father and daughter expanded the business to include a selection of antique samplers, needlework, quilts, and silk embroideries.

"I was extremely fortunate to have had my dad as both my mentor in business and my father in life," said Amy Finkel, who is recognized as a scholar on samplers and other textile antiques. "He taught me a great deal with his daily, hands-on instruction on each object that came through our business."

For a story in The Inquirer in 1982 about fathers and daughters working together, Mr. Finkel said his daughter was definitely more aggressive than he. "It's obvious from the way our business has grown," he said. "The customers not only like her but trust her judgment. So do I." Amy Finkel told The Inquirer, "He'll give me a lot of rope - and watch to see if I hang myself."

Over the years, Mr. Finkel and his daughter exhibited at major antiques shows around the country and collaborated on important transactions. Amy Finkel recalled their sealed-bid purchase in 1987 of three significant late 18th-century samplers by Mary Cooper of the Camden Coopers. After M. Finkel & Daughter acquired the samplers, two were bought by the Winterthur Museum.

"It was considered one of the most important needlework acquisitions at Winterthur, and it was thanks to Morris and Amy," said Linda Eaton, senior curator of textiles at Winterthur.

In 2006, The Inquirer interviewed Mr. Finkel about changes on Antiques Row. The district on Pine Street that runs roughly from Ninth to 13th Streets was at a turning point, with antiques giving way to boutiques and restaurants.

He told The Inquirer he remembered when trucks picking up and delivering antiques lined the blocks. Times had changed though, he said, and a lot of M. Finkel & Daughter's business was online and through its catalog. Most of the walk-in trade were established customers.

"Although it's still called Antiques Row, it's no longer an antiques district," he said. "We have to be realistic.

Mr. Finkel turned over operation of the store to his daughter five years ago but continued to consult in the business.

He was a founding member of the Antiques Dealers' Association of American.

Born in 1923, Mr. Finkel was part of a family that counts three generations of antiques dealers on Pine Street. His parents, Sigmund and Judith Finkel, operated Judith Finkel Antiques and specialized in antique iron, cooper, and brass while raising two sons in West Philadelphia and Wynnefield. A graduate of Overbrook High School, Mr. Finkel graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 1943.

He served as a lieutenant in the U.S. Navy in World War II and was stationed on the Southerland, among the earliest Allied ships to enter Tokyo Bay after the Japanese surrender.

After his discharge, Mr. Finkel started his own antique-furniture business a few blocks from his parents' storefront. He soon met his future wife, Miriam Lippman, on a blind date in Atlantic City. They married in 1949 and raised a family in East Mount Airy.

"Dad knew every neighborhood of the city from experience, and he knew where the treasures were," said Kenneth Finkel, a historian and author of several books on Philadelphia. "He understood Philadelphia in terms of its grit and promise, and he believed that everyday things and places were like books to be read, learned from, and shared."

Mr. Finkel enjoyed worldwide travel and was a longtime subscriber to the Philadelphia Orchestra, with recordings of his favorite classical music and beloved operas always playing in his home.

With a knowledge of birds and plants that began when he was a Boy Scout, he was a volunteer guide at the Morris Arboretum in Chestnut Hill from 2001 to 2004.

An expert gardener, he filled his yard with varieties of hydrangeas, climbing roses, exotic hostas, and Asiatic lilies.

Mr. Finkel was a lifelong member of Keneseth Israel Reform Congregation in Elkins Park, serving on the board and as chairman of the religious school. In the 1960s, he was instrumental in founding the synagogue's museum, contributing a ketubah, an 18th-century Jewish marriage certificate, to its collection.

In addition to his wife, daughter, and son, Mr. Finkel is survived by another son, Ned; a brother; and seven grandchildren.

A memorial service was scheduled for 11:30 a.m., Monday, Dec. 26, at Keneseth Israel Reform Congregation, 8339 Old York Rd., Elkins Park, Pa. 19027.

Donations may be made to the acquisitions fund at the Temple Judea Museum of Keneseth Israel Reform Congregation.