Farrin’s Country Auctions, Randolph, Maine
A marble statue known as the Car of History by sculptor Carlo Franzoni (1789-1819) stands in the United States Capitol and depicts Clio, the ancient Greek muse of history, inside a chariot, or car. Beneath it is a marble clock face with works installed by Simon Willard (1753-1848), whom some consider to be early America’s greatest clockmaker. Historian David McCullough noted in a speech before a joint session of Congress in 1989, “I have decided that the digital watch is the perfect symbol of an imbalance in outlook in our day. It tells us only what time it is now, at this instant, as if that were all anyone would wish or need to know.... [Willard’s clock]...is also a clock with two hands and an old-fashioned face, the kind that shows what time it is now...what time it used to be...what time it will become.”
“Been in the same family since day one,” Farrin promised as he sold the Simon Willard tall clock, referring to the family of Hugh McCulloch (1808-1895), through which the clock passed. “He was the secretary of the treasury under Abraham Lincoln,” he added. McCulloch, who was born in Kennebunk, Maine, actually served two non-consecutive terms as secretary under three presidents, serving under Lincoln for only one month before Lincoln was assassinated. An early Willard label, possibly the original, was pasted inside the waist door. The clock led the sale at $21,275.
This hand-painted ice cream soda sign went for $1552.50. Fruit phosphates, or phosphate sodas, started becoming popular in the 1870s. They peaked in popularity around the turn of the 20th century before losing out to flavored ice cream sodas in the 1930s.
Here is a large multilayered felt pen wipe in the form of a Revolutionary War soldier, probably representing George Washington, with a hand-painted face topped by what appears to be human hair. The color of the hair reinforced the Washington connection, and it sold for $402.50.
Towering over Rusty Farrin’s October 13 and 14, 2018, auction in Randolph, Maine, was a tall clock by the same Simon Willard. One of its attractions was that it was custom built for an individual client, as recorded on the face with words reading “Warranted for [illegible] Cullock.” The brass ball finials have been replaced. They probably originally stood on reeded plinths. But the rest was very nearly intact, with matching fan inlays on the mahogany waist door and base, fluted quarter columns, a reeded full-column bonnet, and a base retaining its full length. Augusta, Maine, clock dealer Ed Rackliff studied it with me and pointed out, “It has a very nice stepped base to it.... The dial really is in nice, nice shape...wicked nice proportions...nice serpentine hands.... I’m going to say probably early 1800s...beautiful fan inlay...and it has the rocking ship, and French feet instead of bracket. She’s a beauty.” I had a gentleman’s bet with Ed about where the price would end. His guess proved a lot closer than mine, but we both shot too low. The final selling price was $21,275 (including buyer’s premium).
It seemed that horses of various forms and functions were everywhere one looked. A full-bodied running horse weathervane, one of three or four in the sale, in a whitish gold finish, pulled in $575. A hooked rug with a central figure of a riding horse, dated 1934, hit $287.50. And a red-enameled trade sign of the familiar Mobil Pegasus symbol took off to a big $3450.
All the king’s horses and all the king’s men were represented in a set of William Britain lead figures, circa 1935, in an original double-layered box containing about 80 pieces, including two carriages and two guard horses. They were manufactured in London, England. Their registry number was 459993, and their price was $862.50.
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The Pegasus flying horse of Greek legend has been associated with the gas and oil industry since 1931 when Socony (Standard Oil Company of New York) merged with Vacuum Oil. Later the company became MobilOil and MobilGas, and it is now known as ExxonMobil. This familiar red-enameled horse took flight for $3450.
A full-bodied weathervane in the form of a pointing spaniel, retaining perhaps 50% of the gilding, sold for $4025.
There was little doubt as to the creation date of this hooked rug portraying someone’s favorite riding horse. It went out for $287.50.
This large silk memorial of a mourning figure before a traditional weeping willow tree with two funerary urns commemorates the passing of Frances Stearns and Deidamia Wires, who died in 1825 and 1834. The smoky paint-decorated frame accounted for a portion of the price, and the memorial was successfully laid to rest at $460.
This matched pair of heavily gilded spread-winged eagles probably served as architectural embellishments on a public building somewhere. The pair flew off in tandem for $690.
This small sponge-decorated dome-top box with scalloped dark brown paint designs on a mustard background, yellow corner and edge trim, and brass studs on the lid corners brought $690.
Here’s one more horse, but this one is of cast iron. It is ponderously heavy, so it is hard to visualize what it was used for, but it sold for $517.50.
This plaster sculpture group by John Rogers (1829-1904) probably sold for about $15 when it was produced in the 1860s. As buyers prefer, it was painted only in the Rogers factory putty color. Titled “IS IT SO NOMINATED IN THE BOND?” it portrays Antonio, Bassanio, Portia, and Shylock, characters from Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice. It inflated to $115.
A watercolor by Percy Sanborn (1849-1929), measuring about 8" x 12", of the working harbor of Belfast, Maine, with a partly handwritten label on the back reading “Sanborn’s Studio / Belfast, Maine, Views / Subject No. 29 / Shore Fronting Bayview St.” sold for $115.
A spread-winged gilded eagle was poised to launch from a weathervane with two globe finials, one above the arrow and a smaller one below. It took off successfully for $1380.
Originally published in the January 2019 issue of Maine Antique Digest. © 2019 Maine Antique Digest