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Historic Barnum & Bailey Circus Relic Headlines Strong Heritage Americana Auction

Heritage Auctions Historical Spring Americana & Political Auction – Ends May 14, 2016Twenty-eight feet in length and weighing some 13,000 pounds, Barnum & Bailey’s “Two Hemispheres” Circus Wagon once required a team of 40 horses when it debuted in the grand parade welcoming the Greatest Show on Earth home from a triumphant five year world tour. On Saturday, May 14, 2016, it took a winning bid of $250,000 for the famed relic to find a new home after it crossed the block in Heritage Auctions’ spring Americana & Political Auction in Dallas.

“This was simply the biggest, grandest, and most famous of all circus wagons,” said Tom Slater, Director of Americana Auctions at Heritage, “and it is only fitting that its selling price far eclipsed what any other circus wagon has ever fetched at auction.” The wagon is lavishly decorated with relief carving from the workshop of famed carver Samuel Robb, best known as one of the premier makers of 19th century cigar store Indians.

“The buyer prefers to remain anonymous until he formally announces his plans for the “Two Hemispheres”, said Slater, “but we can disclose that he flew to Dallas from his home in Canada just to bid on the bandwagon, and went home a very happy collector.”

Other noteworthy results include $12,500 for an example of James Montgomery Flagg’s immortal Uncle Sam “I Want You” World War I Recruitment Poster;  $11,250 for a small swatch of Fabric from the Wright Brothers’ Plane which made the first manned flight at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, and $56,250 for a Tiffany Silver Cigarette Box – with the Presidential Seal – owned by John F. Kennedy.

“Personally owned JFK items always draw considerable interest,” Slater said, “however, in this case the unexpectedly high selling price was probably inspired by the excellent documentation, which established that the box had been used in the Oval Office while Kennedy was president; It was among the items discreetly removed from the office after the president was assassinated.”

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Items belonging to a Republican president drew similar interest, as a group of nine gold objects belonging to Dwight and Mamie Eisenhower, including a Gold Cigarette Case Honoring ‘Ike’ on V-E Day (May 7th, 1945, when the War in Europe ended), brought a combined total of $50,375.

Political campaign items, always a staple of Heritage Americana auctions, were well represented. Among the more intriguing lots was an 1840 William Henry Harrison Campaign Bandanna, bearing the one of the most famous American political campaign slogans, “Tippecanoe and Tyler  too,”  which sold for $15,000. Harrison had first come to national prominence after his 1811 victory over Tecumseh at the Battle of Tippecanoe, and his political nickname was “Old Tippecanoe.” Tyler was of course John Tyler, who succeeded Harrison as president after his untimely death just a month after his inauguration.  “To our knowledge this bandanna, believed the only known example, is the only 1840 campaign textile which carried that immortal slogan,” Slater said. “It was in fact the title of a wildly popular campaign song which was copyrighted, and this may have accounted for its limited use on other campaign items,” Slater notes.

Among the most unique items in the auction was a well-preserved Early 19th Century Cotton Gin, which sold for $8,125. Eli Whitney’s invention revolutionized cotton harvesting and transformed the South’s economy in a matter of decades. Tens of thousands were in use in the years leading up to the Civil War, yet only a tiny handful of these historic machines have survived intact.

A Lock of Thomas Jefferson’s Hair – snipped by his personal physician at the time of his death on July 4, 1826 – made history at the sale when it became the first time a lock of hair from the third U.S. President of the United States was ever offered at public auction. Just 14 strands of hair sold for $6,875 – roughly $491 per strand.

Additional highlights include, but are not limited to:

  • A Real Photo Jugate of the first President of the State of Israel, Chaim Weizmann, and U.S. President Harry Truman: Realized: $11,250.

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