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Purchase Story

Pitchers, Hats, and Light Bulbs Grab Collectors' Interest

Susan Emerson Nutter | December 3rd, 2016

Heritage Auctions, Dallas, Texas

Photos courtesy Heritage Auctions

With a sale total of $1,777,834 and a sell-through rate of 93%, the December 3, 2016, Americana and political auction presented by Heritage Auctions’ historical department was a solid success. It comprised two catalogs: one for the Scott W. Dolson collection of political Americana, and one for the numerous consignments of Americana items, both political and historical.

The Dolson collection was of special interest for several reasons. According to Tom Slater, Heritage’s director of Americana auctions, Dolson’s collecting concentrated on several specific categories: three-dimensional pieces such as glass and china, pewter rims, campaign shell badges, photographic campaign items (ferrotypes, etc.), lapel studs, and campaign tokens and medals.

Unfortunately, Dolson’s token and medal collection, thought to be the most comprehensive ever assembled, and numerous lapel studs fell victim to a burglary last year. Slater said, “Heritage is honored to have been selected to bring the balance of this important collection to market.”

Often political pieces are buttons, ribbon, banners, or flags, but several of the most desirable items in the Dolson collection were none of these. The 11 3/8" high William Henry Harrison 1840 campaign pitcher is considered by many to be the best 19th-century ceramic political display item, and it was up for grabs.


This 11 3/8" high 1840 campaign pitcher with four panels, each decorated with the likeness of William Henry Harrison, sold for $37,500 (est. $24,000/36,000).

Political ceramics created for the American market of this time period were often made in England or France. This campaign pitcher, however, was more celebrated for having been manufactured by the American Pottery Company, Jersey City, New Jersey. Because of this, collectors of historical political items were all in, as were those who desire American-made pottery.

The four transfer portrait panels that decorated this pitcher were surrounded by two stalks of wheat with images of log cabins above and patriotic eagles below Harrison’s portrait. Additionally, the wording “The Ohio Farmer” was located above the portrait and “W.H. Harrison” below. One of perhaps five or six known, this example was estimated at $24,000/36,000 and sold for $37,500 (including buyer’s premium).

“There was a great deal of interest in this pitcher and the other political ceramics,” said Don Ackerman, Americana and political consignment director for Heritage Auctions. “The ceramic pieces were beautiful.”

An 11" high Thomas Jefferson Liverpool creamware pitcher was an impressive 10" diameter if one included the handle. One side of this vessel bore an image of a standing Thomas Jefferson with his name below, while the other side was decorated with a color image of a packet ship flying an American flag. Further decoration included a Federal eagle and the name “W & E. Elms” under the spout. Thought to be a special-order piece because of the name, the pitcher sold for $12,500 (est. $8000/12,000).


Said by Heritage Auctions to be one of the largest presidential Liverpool pitchers it has come across, this 11" high Thomas Jefferson creamware pitcher decorated with a standing Jefferson image on one side and a color image of a packet with an American flag on the other sold for $12,500 (est. $8000/12,000). Heritage photo. Heritage Auctions, Dallas, Texas, December 3, 2016.


This Paris porcelain demitasse cup with a stipple-engraved transfer portrait of James Monroe sold for $10,625 (est. $9600/14,400).

A Paris porcelain demitasse cup with a stipple-engraved transfer portrait of James Monroe was the first of its kind that Heritage has handled. About half a dozen blue-on-white “Munroe” cups are known, and these bear a generic portrait that many people question whether it is indeed of Monroe. The 2 3/8" high gold-leaf-embellished cup offered by Heritage clearly had Monroe’s portrait, and it sold for $10,625 (est. $9600/14,000).

Non-porcelain historical/political items from the Dolson collection also brought good money and included an excellent Abraham Lincoln piece: a 2½" x 2 1/16" George Clark 1860 campaign ambrotype of Lincoln featuring the “Cooper Union” portrait by Mathew Brady. (Ambrotypes are created by applying the photographic emulsion to the underside of a sheet of glass, rather than a tin surface as with tintypes.) Not only is this example rare and highly regarded as being one of the earliest 1860 photographic campaign items, if not the first, it was in excellent condition; the Heritage catalog stated that it was “…essentially as fresh as the day it was made.” Because most collectors of Lincoln items consider this to be the premier photographic piece from the 1860 election, it was no surprise that it sold for $20,000 (est. $16,000/24,000).


This Abraham Lincoln 1860 campaign ambrotype sold for $20,000 (est. $16,000/24,000). According to Heritage Auctions, it is “almost certainly the first 1860 photographic campaign item.”

An oddity but definitely a campaign item—a companion piece picturing opponent Zachary Taylor was also produced—a cast-iron stove from the 1848 presidential campaign featuring a 14" high-relief likeness of Lewis Cass on the front sold for $10,312.50 (est. $12,000/18,000). Above the likeness was a streamer stating “Gen.l Lewis * * * Cass * * * Born 1782.” The stove bore the logo of its maker, John Morrison of Troy, New York, and it had on the back “Patent Design 1848.”

The remainder of this December auction was composed of numerous historical and/or political items. Don Ackerman was especially pleased with the consignment from the estate of Malcom S. Forbes. “Forbes collected in many different areas including presidential campaign items, especially those of political interest to the Forbes family.”

The item of most interest from the Forbes estate came with a great story. Ackerman was given a bag of political buttons to value. “I was going through the buttons, turning them over to look at condition, and noticed a button whose front did not jibe with its back, which was paper and had the words ‘St. Louis Button Company.’ Upon further examination, I discovered that there was a button lodged inside another button. The one stuck inside was the Cox and Roosevelt photo button.”


Found hidden inside a lesser jugate campaign button, this Cox and Roosevelt St. Louis Button Company jugate sold for $17,500 (est. $16,000/24,000).

That button features the portraits of the 1920 Democratic nominees. With an eagle and shield above the portraits and an American flag below, all on a background of sun rays, the design is very well done. It was first introduced during the 1904 election, then used again for Roosevelt and Johnson in 1912, and then again for Cox and Roosevelt in 1920. The Heritage catalog stated, “As with all Cox & Roosevelt jugates, it rarely appears in the market.” Because of its St. Louis Button Company paper back and the bold printing on the front, collectors were way beyond interested. The 7/8" diameter Cox and Roosevelt jugate sold for $17,500 (est. $16,000/24,000).

Other highlights of the December auction included a 67½" tall American cigar-store Indian that sold for $150,000 (est. $16,000/24,000). Hand carved in the manner of Julius Melchers, the figure wears a bear-claw necklace and a polychrome-painted medallion. Further enhancements include a pelt thrown over the figure’s right shoulder and a block of tobacco in one hand.


This 67½" tall American cigar-store Indian, hand carved in the manner of Julius Melchers, sold for $150,000 (est. $16,000/24,000). Its special attributes include the bear-claw necklace, the polychrome-painted medallion, and the animal pelt over the figure’s right shoulder, all of which contributed to its appeal.


Included in this 1863-64 photo album were numerous carte-de-visite images of Mormon leaders and Salt Lake City as well as a CDV of Kit Carson and four CDVs of Ute Indians. However, the Mormon-related pieces were the main draw that helped the album sell for $35,000 (est. $16,000/24,000).

Heritage’s catalog entry identified some of the Mormon images, which included those of “Orson Pratt, Brigham Young, 1st Counsellor [sic] Heber C. Kimball, 2nd Counsellor [sic] Daniel Wells, Bishop Abraham Hoagland, Bishop Edward Hunter, Lorenzo D. Young, Porter Rockwell, George A. Smith, Willard Richards, Wilford Woodruff, Phineas Young, Lorenzo Snow, Erastus Snow, Orson Hyde, John Taylor, Franklin D. Richards, Ezra T. Benson, A.M. Lyman, Charles C. Rick, George L. Cannon, [and] H.B. Clawson (autographed).

“The identified women in the album are: Mrs. Vilale Kimball (wife of Heber C. Kimball), Mrs. Ezra Snow, Miss Alexander and Mrs. Adams. Eliza R. Snow was married to both Joseph Smith and Brigham Young. She was the second General President of the Relief Society, following Emma Smith.”

An 1863-64 photo album with a Mormon connection sold for $35,000 (est. $16,000/24,000). The 9" x 6½" embossed and gilt leather volume contained numerous cartes de visite, including 61 examples dealing with Mormon leaders and Salt Lake City.

A silver cigarette box by Tiffany used by John F. Kennedy in the Oval Office during his presidency and engraved with the Presidential Seal on the lid sold for $45,000 (est. $32,000/48,000), while a 33" x 23" William Henry Harrison 1840 campaign poster with graphics featuring a portrait of Harrison, two log cabins, and two rampant eagles, one of which holds a Harrison and Tyler streamer, sold for $32,500 (est. $1600/2400).


Several lots with connections to Thomas A. Edison were offered. This lot, which includes material related to the controversy and lawsuits of 1893 seeking to void Edison’s patent of 1880 using the “Goebel Defense,” sold for $23,750 (est. $3200/4800). Included, among other things, were one of Heinrich Goebel’s (1818-1893) light bulbs, a circa 1893 cabinet card showing Goebel’s storefront on Grand Street in Manhattan with family members posing with a telescope, and an 1882-dated four-page typed report titled “The Goebel Incandescent Light.

Heritage’s catalog listing goes into great detail about the lawsuit, where it was decided that Edison, not Goebel, invented the first practical incandescent light, though loads of evidence seemed to point to the opposite conclusion.


Pictured are exhibits from yet another court case for patent infringement, this one filed in the late 19th century by the Edison Electric Light Company. Comprising five different light bulbs and one light socket, the lot brought $30,000 (est. $8000/12,000).

As the catalog entry points out, “Although Edison is often credited with inventing the incandescent light, this was not the case. Other public demonstrations, experiments and patents preceded him, but he made various improvements which, taken as a whole, made the invention practical for commercial use. These improvements involved the carbon filament (along with secure means of attachment), a high vacuum achieved through the Sprengel pump, and an integrated system of electrical supply. He began his experiments in October 1878, conducted his first successful test a year later, and applied for a patent on November 4, 1879, which was granted on January 27, 1880, [and] assigned number 0.223.898. This was just one of 424 patents Edison received dealing with electric light and power generation.”

Items that once belonged to Thomas A. Edison were fun additions. A lot of five light bulbs and one socket used in patent infringement lawsuits filed by the Edison Electric Light Company in the late 19th century sold for $30,000 (est. $8000/12,000), while Edison’s personal hat sold for $10,937.50 (est. $1700/2400).

“We had hoped to appeal to a wide variety of collectors with this auction by including purely political pieces as well as some very interesting, historical items,” Ackerman said. “I would say we succeeded.”

For more information, see the website (www.ha.com) or call (214) 528-3500.


A favorite remembrance of a loved one was securing a lock of his or her hair. This hefty lock (3½" long) of George Washington’s light reddish-brown hair held together with blue thread sold for $32,500 (est. $16,000/24,000). It came with three pieces of period documentation:

A 2¼" x 2" folded packet inscribed on the front with “General Washington’s / hair. / H.F.P.C.” (Harriet Frances Putnam Carnochan [1859-1905], a great-granddaughter of Declaration of Independence signer Lewis Morris), and on the reverse with “I only send you one / hair because I only had / three. F.”

A 2½" x 1 5/8" folded packet inscribed “The President Genl. Geo. Washington’s / hair given by Eleanor Parke / Custis to Sarah Broome; by her / daughter Julia Livingston / and by her to Mrs. T. W. Ludlow— / Original date Feby. 10th 1789— / Given to Mrs. Ludlow at Grasmere / May 24th 1853.”

A 2½" x 4¾" envelope (not shown) with similar inscriptions but dated January 1875.


This 15" x 10¼" (sight size) Lincoln and Johnson 1864 jugate print by E.B. & E.C. Kellogg sold for $15,000 (est. $9600/14,400). There are two versions of this, one done by Currier Grand National Banners and this one, a framed Kellogg example.


The graphic and historic appeal of flags cannot be denied. This 33-star antebellum example made of hand-stitched cotton, 32" x 46", sold for $18,125 (est. $2400/3600). The stars appear on both sides of the canton and are arranged in the “Great Star” pattern, one used from February 14, 1859, to January 29, 1861.


Several important chapeaus sold at the December 3 Heritage event, including this pair, one owned by President Harry S. Truman and the other by his vice president, Alben W. Barkley. Truman’s signature topper, a gray felt fedora style hat (top), an Air-Vac by Mac Lachlan, was stamped on the leather sweatband “Made Expressly for Harry S. Truman.” Barkley’s hat, a brown felt homburg style by Lee of Fifth Avenue, was stamped on the leather sweatband “The Veep,” Barkley’s nickname. The lot sold for $18,750 (est. $2400/3600).


Originally published in the April 2017 issue of Maine Antique Digest. © 2017 Maine Antique Digest

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