The Philip & Betsey Kahn Collection

Alex Cooper auctioneers is proud to present the Philip Jahn Jr. & Betsey Kahn Collection in the June 14th gallery auction. The Kahn collection, lots 1472 and 1534, is primarily comprised of monochromes in exquisite, vibrant colors in time-honored, traditional shapes, created in the prominent Ching-te-chen and Te-hua factories. The collection was later augmented with bronzes and Tou-ts’ai pieces.

Betsey and Phil Kahn Feb 1986

Philip and Betsey Kahn

Philip and Betsey are native Baltimoreans, both of whom had great pride in their city. Betsey started working at Hutzler’s. After marrying Phlip and having children, Betsey stayed at home raising the couple’s family. Once the children started their teens, Betsey started teaching English at several schools in the area. She followed her teaching career with a business career in purchasing. During this time, Betsey embarked on completing her education, earning three degrees at night from the Johns Hopkins University. Upon retirement, Betsey volunteered for many years, managing the office of a women’s crisis hotline. Betsey was an excellent seamstress and later enjoyed needlepoint, usually in Chinese blue-and-white themes, and knitting. Betsey found her passion in volunteering for many years at the Jewish Museum of Maryland, first as a docent and then at the front desk.

Phil was a World War II veteran who, upon returning from service, worked for 40 years at J. Schoeneman, a prominent manufacturer of men’s ready-to-wear clothing. In addition to his passion for collecting these lovely porcelains, Phil painted in both oils and watercolors; he liked nothing better than finding an old barn or boat to manifest his artistic expression. In retirement, Phil was able to explore more of his passions. He further studied about Chinese porcelains and assisted Louis Hecht with several appraisals for other collectors. Phil’s other passion was his hometown. Phil was a frequent guide who prepared and delivered bus tours for the Smithsonian Associates program. This great affinity for Baltimore and its history led him to an association with, and later Board Member for, the Baltimore Museum of Industry. There he began researching Baltimore’s mercantile history. In addition to creating city maps outlining changing street names and business locations, he authored two books: A Stitch in Time, The Four Seasons of Baltimore’s Needle Trades and Uncommon Threads: Threads that Wove the Fabric of Baltimore’s Jewish Life.

Nearly 60 years ago, Philip Kahn, Jr. and Betsey R. Kahn, purchased their first Asian antique, a Japanese Satsuma tea set, at Stuart-Kingston Galleries in Rehoboth Beach, DE. Its intricacies were fascinating, and the tea set took center stage on the fireplace mantle. However, these same design intricacies did not match the aesthetics of the Chinese Qing Dynasty (1644 – 1912) porcelains that the Kahns had seen in museums, particularly at the Walters Art Museum and the Freer and Sackler Galleries. Consulting with the Asian Collections department at the Walters, they met Dr. Chao-Ming Chen, a Chinese language and literature instructor at Johns Hopkins University, who migrated to the United States from China in 1920. Dr. Chen brought many antique art items with him. Interest in such items only grew after the Cultural Revolution which is about the time the Kahns started their collecting. Traveling brought opportunities to forge additional lasting relationships with galleries in Washington, DC, New York, Toronto, San Francisco, and London where the collection grew to over 70 pieces.


Lot 1476, Chinese Blanc De Chine Guanyin and lot 1479, Chinese Monochrome Liver Red Dish

Philip passed away in 1998. Betsey, together with her family and friends, have enjoyed this collection ever since. It is now time to showcase and share these beautiful objects with others through this Alex Cooper auction.


James Plumer
Specialist of Asian Arts