Published: July 14, 2020
Review by W.A. Demers, Photos Courtesy Duane Merrill and Company
WILLISTON, VT. – When Merrill’s Auctions received the commission to sell the contents of an old Jericho, Vt., farmhouse, US Civil War letters descending in a Middleboro, Mass., family and pieces from a local US Civil War collector, the firm organized a two-day sale on July 2-3. Also seeding the event were pieces from a New York collector, including sporting rifles and shotguns, Arts and Crafts Mission oak furniture, Victorian oak furniture, sporting, hunting, fishing and country accessories, folk art, primitives, paintings and more.
The big guns won the day, as two early cannons brought top lot results. An Eighteenth Century bronze naval cannon fired off at $7,995 even as fireworks displays were on hold or muted over the Fourth of July weekend due to coronavirus restrictions. Seated on a cast iron carriage, the 30-inch-long cannon with 2-inch bore presented an overall good finish with multiple coats of paint on its base. The carriage measured 24 by 15 by 20 inches, and the military relic had descended in an old collection purchased in St Lawrence Valley in the 1950s and had remained in the collection from that time.
A Civil War-era cannon from General T.S. Peck sold for $3,450. The Nineteenth Century cast iron cannon sat on a Nineteenth Century paint-decorated wooden carriage. It had been purchased in the 1950s from the family of Theodore Safford Peck (1843-1918), a Vermont Civil War officer who received the Medal of Honor for gallantry at the Battle of Newport Barracks in 1864, and was brevetted major general. He was later named Adjutant General of the Vermont National Guard. This cannon accompanied General Peck to various G.A.R. gatherings, as well as other related fraternal events. The cannon was 26 inches long with a 1.5-inch bore, and the carriage measured 52 by 32 by 28 inches.
Also from the Civil War era and bringing the same price as the Civil War cannon, was a group of letters, 1862-64, from Jesse H. Holmes Sr., who was the quartermaster clerk for the 35th Regiment Massachusetts Volunteers, 1st Brigade, 7th Division, 9th Army Corps. Mostly letters home to his mother, the 36 pieces comprising the lot described a December 1 battle in Knoxville, Tenn., where the unit was surrounded by a rebel force of 40,000, along with details of other events, including a scene in which “young ladies of the town create a sensation waving at rebel prisoners, etc.”
John James Audubon’s (1785-1851) “Swallow-Tailed Hawk” flew to $3,998 in the sale. Plate 72 in the Birds Of North America, the hand colored aquatint and engraving from 1829, R. Havell, London, measured 25¼ by 27 inches and the J. Whatman Turkey Mills watermark was visible when backlit. The previous lot, also by Audubon, “Little Owl,” finished at $2,460.
Fetching $3,075 was a rare group of vintage Japanese currency that included World War II-era Japanese military banknotes as well as an 1864 Confederate banknote. The final price was clearly a surprise since the currency had been estimated just $100/150.
A furniture highlight was a Gustav Stickley oak sideboard that was bid to $2,530. With original paper label under its center drawer, along with a burnt clamp mark on the side of the drawer, the piece featured an original leather-lined tableware drawer, original hardware and what appeared to be original surface. It measured 56 by 49 by 22 inches.
Vintage watch hounds went after a Rolex Oysterdate men’s stainless steel manual wind wristwatch, a presentation watch, that was bid to $2,337. Presented by Anheuser-Busch, with advertising logo on face and engraved on back “Better Methods Award W.L. Howett September 21, 1970,” the timepiece, running but untested, came with 9-inch strap, original case and box.
On April 21, 1865, a train carrying the coffin of assassinated President Abraham Lincoln left Washington, DC, on its way to Springfield, Ill., where he would be buried on May 4. The train carrying Lincoln’s body traveled through 180 cities and seven states on its way to Lincoln’s home state of Illinois. Scheduled stops for the special funeral train were published in newspapers.
At each stop, Lincoln’s coffin was taken off the train, placed on an elaborately decorated horse-drawn hearse and led by solemn processions to a public building for viewing. In cities large and small, thousands of mourners flocked to pay tribute to the slain president. A poignant bit of ephemera from this tragic period in America’s history was offered in the form of an 1865 funeral train timetable that realized $2,214, far above its $150/250 estimate. The Buffalo & Erie Railroad Special Time Table had pages separated, creases as issued, each sheet measuring 8 by 5¼ inches, and was possibly a period reprint.
There was American decorated stoneware in the sale. Commanding $1,998 was a stoneware churn, J.P. Smith, Alexandria, Va., making more than ten times its high estimate. With exuberant floral cobalt decoration, the 17½-inch-tall 5-gallon churn featured slip-trail blue decoration and was attributed to Benedict C. Milburn of Alexandria. It was signed J.P. Smith (merchant’s mark), and although it had a long crack from base to rim, it was held together by a heavy wire band.
Cyanotypes, a photographic printing process that produces a cyan-blue print, has a market among photography collectors. That was clearly evident in a group of early Twentieth Century cyanotypes of Southwestern United States that jumped their $100/150 estimate to bring $1,725. Included in the views were mission ruins, some hand colored photos of a 1900 trip to California, including at Col. Head’s Ranch and Watrous, N.M. Like the Civil War-era letters, they had descended in the Jesse H. Holmes Jr family of St Louis, Mo., and Boulder, Colo. From the same consignment was a circa 1900 Southwestern United States and Mexico photo album and photos, including St Xavier Mission, Tucson, signed Waite photos, Santa Fe and two prints of Taos Pueblo with large format negative. These went out at $1,265.
Among firearms and edged weapons offered in the sale there were a couple of notable highlights. The first was a US Springfield Model 1922 M2 training rifle that hit $1,353. The second was an unusual US Model 1898 Krag “Bowie” bayonet stamped US and 1900 on the ricasso and with a 9-inch blade that changed hands for $1,230. Approximately 2,800 of these were produced around the Spanish-American war for fighting in tropical climates. About 2,000 were sent to the Philippines and 600 to Cuba. The tool was found to have durability issues and most broke or were destroyed.
Prices given include the buyer’s premium as stated by the auction house.
For information, 802-878-2625 or www.merrillsauction.com.
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