Published: June 1, 2021
Review by Madelia Hickman Ring, Catalog Photos Courtesy Pook & Pook
DOWNINGTOWN, PENN. – The first 16 lots in Pook & Pook’s May 21 Americana & International Auction were deaccessioned from a New Jersey Educational Institution and set the bar high, achieving not only the top price in the sale but exceeding expectations and realizing $150,634 against an aggregate low/high estimate of $59,500/99,800. The rest of the sale followed in similarly strong fashion, with more than 96 percent of lots selling for a total of $1.2 million. When we caught up with James Pook, he was in the middle of getting his next auction prepped.
“I thought it did very well. We did over the high estimate again, which has been a theme we’ve seen continue for the last year and a half. We’re still seeing a few new buyers, which is always nice to see, including a few younger faces. We were able to open our salesroom back up and people who were vaccinated could take their masks off. Everyone seemed very pleased to be able to do that.”
The deaccessioned lots were chosen because they no longer fit in with the institution’s mission and featured a few fireman’s parade hats and early firefighting memorabilia, two pocket watches, some stoneware, a Victorian sleigh, a full scale fire pump wagon and a coastal scene by Edward Henry Potthast, but it was the cigar store Indian that started the sale that turned up the heat to $63,000. Made by New York City carver Thomas Brooks (1828-1895), the figure had a feathered headdress and retained not only its original plinth marked “Tobacco,” but had a very early dry crackled surface. Brooks, who is considered by many to be one of the most important New York carvers of the Nineteenth Century, trained with ship and figure carver, John Cromwell. His shop on South Street opened in 1848, where prolific carver Samuel Robb apprenticed. The figure was supposedly made in 1882 for the tobacco shop of George Tucker, which was on Kaighn Avenue in Camden, N.J.
All of the five parade hats topped their high estimates, but an example made for the United States Hose Company and embellished with an oval vignette of Liberty seated made $25,200, more than five times its low estimate. It was followed by another Philadelphia example made for the Taylor Hose Company, which depicted a portrait medallion of President Zachary Taylor; it finished at $22,680.
It is not often one sees a full-scale fire pump wagon come to auction. It was attributed to Patrick Lyon in Philadelphia, where it was used until the mid-Nineteenth Century, when it was given to Pavonia Hose Company #3 in Stockton, Penn. After a final tenure at the William Penn Fire Company #1, it entered the institution’s collection as a donation in 1925. Estimated at $5/8,000, it sold to an online buyer for $8,820.
Two lots in the sale had, at one time, been in the collection of folk art collector, Barbara Gordon, and published in A Shared Legacy: Folk Art in America, the 2014 catalog that accompanied a touring exhibition of works from her collection. One of these was a miniature portrait of a boy in a red dress by Mrs Moses B. Russell that brought $40,320 from a private collector outside of Pennsylvania. It was the second highest price in the sale.
The other work with provenance to Gordon – and also illustrated in Shared Legacy – was a 4-inch-tall carved squirrel by Cumberland County, Penn., carver Wilhelm Schimmel. It retained its vibrant red surface and sold to a trade buyer for $12,600. The other work in the sale by Schimmel was a carved and painted rooster that retained its original painted surface and was in a rare large size at 8½ inches tall. It brought $16,380 from a private collector in New Jersey.
In 2018, Pook & Pook sold a view of Daniel B. Lorah’s farm by Charles Hofmann (American, 1821-1882) for $43,920. Another view of the same farm was offered in this sale and sold for $12,600; we asked Pook to explain the difference in prices. “It was all about condition. This one was very nice, but it had some pretty extensive craquelure someone had filled in.”
Pook & Pook will offer the single owner Americana collection of Joyce Collis June 24-25.
Prices quoted include the buyer’s premium as reported by the auction house.
For information, 610-269-4040 or www.pookandpook.com.
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