Frenzied bidding drove the return on a Hand-Carved American Tobacconist Cigar Store Indian to $150,000 to claim top-lot honors in Heritage Auctions’ Americana & Political Auction Dec. 3 in Dallas, Texas that realized a combined $1,783,252.
Created in the manner of cigar store Indians carved by Julius Melchers, and perhaps by Melchers himself, this 67-1/5-inch statue was in such high demand that the ultimate return was more than seven times the pre-auction estimate of $20,000. The figure is depicted wearing a bear claw necklace and medallion with a pelt over his right shoulder.
“A selling price in the mid-five figures range was expected,” Heritage Americana Auctions Director Tom Slater said, but furious bidding drove the price to $150,000.
“This was a very strong auction,” Slater observes. “We have found that auction items of the best quality – regardless of category – have tended to exceed expectations, and this auction certainly continues that trend.”
A red, white and blue Horace Greeley 1872 Presidential Campaign Banner with albumen photo and gold-leaf trim brought in $40,000. The founder and editor of the New York Tribune, among the great newspapers of that era, Greeley served as a senator from New York before running in a race for the presidency that ultimately was won by Ulysses S. Grant. The banner hangs from a wood dowel at the top and is displayed in a shadow box frame.
“This is one of the very best 19th-century political banners,” Slater said. “It has appeared three times in auctions over the last 15 years, selling for an average of a little over $20,000 each time, and never breaking the $25,000 barrier. In Saturday’s auction, it sold for $40,000.”
Among the most popular items were from a collection of coveted presidential memorabilia. Leading the way was a Silver Cigarette Box by Tiffany from the Oval Office during the John F. Kennedy presidency. The box, which has two cedar-lined interior compartments, came with a notarized statement on White House stationery from the previous owner and was removed with other personal belongings after Kennedy’s assassination in order to facilitate the transition to President Lyndon B. Johnson, beat its pre-auction estimate when it went for $45,000.
Another wildly popular item from the presidential memorabilia group was a pen used by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt to sign a 1940 Naval Buildup Bill that realized $37,500. The pen was enclosed in a framed shadow box along with a letter on White House Stationery that was sent to Captain Joseph M. Patterson in New York after FDR signed the bill, which was an effort to bolster the United States’ defense despite a promise not to send American troops into the European war.
A massive 1840 William Henry Harrison Campaign Pitcher also drew $37,500. Considered by many to be the premier ceramic political display item of the 19th century, it features four panels with portraits of the ninth American president, each of which sits below a log cabin and the words “The Ohio Farmer” and above a patriotic eagle. This lot drew dual interest, from collectors of political artifacts and enthusiasts of American-made pottery. The selling price is believed to be a record for this sought-after item.
One of the more curious lots in the entire auction was a lock of George Washington’s hair, which sold for $32,500, nearly twice as much as its pre-auction estimate. Held together with a blue thread, the lot comes with a detailed chain of provenance, showing that the hair has been in the possession of the families of Lewis Morris (1726-98) and Robert Hunter Morris (1700-64).
Among the top remaining non-political items was a Mormonism: Highly Important Circa 1863-64 Photo Album, which realized $35,000 – nearly doubling its pre-auction estimate. More than 60 of the images deal with Mormon leaders and Salt Lake City; the remaining 30 images are European in origin.
Four bulbs and a socket used in a Thomas Edison patent infringement case brought in $30,000. The provenance of the lot traces back to the consignor’s great aunt, Anna Knudsen, who was married to John C. Rowe, a patent attorney in the firm of Eaton, Lewis and Rowe, which represented Edison in various patent infringement cases.
A lever-action Henry Rifle drew $24,375. Once belonging to Lieutenant Ezra Rideout, the rifle was passed on to his brother, Jacob, likely when Jacob – a member of the clergy – decided in the 1870s to travel west and preach on the frontier, a trek that ultimately landed Rideout in Arizona Territory, where he apparently spent some time in the mining boomtown of Contention, near Tombstone.
A significant collection of Presidential memorabilia from the estate of Malcolm S. Forbes offered a fine Cox & Roosevelt Jugate from the St. Louis Button Co., which sold for $17,500, as well as a Bronze Bust of Woodrow Wilson, which ended at $10,000.