Celebrating Hanukkah with Treasured Judaica

“Baruch ata Ado-nai, Elo-heinu Melech ha’olam, Asher kid’shanu b’mitzvosav v’tzivanu l’hadlik ner shel Chanukah.” Translated to English, this means: Blessed are You, Hashem our G-d, King of the universe, Who has sanctified us with His commandments, and has commanded us to Kindle the Chanukah light.”

The above blessing (Bracho) is one of three that are recited during the lighting of Hanukkah (traditionally spelled Chanukah) candles during the eight-day Jewish celebration. This year, Hanukkah began at nightfall on December 12 and will conclude at nightfall on Dec. 20. In recognition of this celebration, also referred to as the “festival of lights,” let’s explore Hanukkah – and other Jewish holidays – and view some of the cherished artifacts associated with the Jewish faith.

Hanukkah

Hanukkah commemorates the rededication of the Jewish temple in Jerusalem early in the second century B.C. The Jewish people faced persecution when Antiochus IV Epiphanes, the, Hellenistic Greek king, took control of the region during the end of the first century B.C. During his reign, he outlawed Judaism and defiled the Holy Temple by erecting an altar for the worship of Greek god Zeus. A group of Jewish citizens known as the Maccabees, led by priest Mattiyahu (Matthias), rose up in defiance to the rule of Ephiphanes. They were successful and regained control of the temple and the right to practice their religion.

Once they had rid their region of oppressors, they set to work cleansing and purifying the temple so it could be rededicated as a holy place. They sought olive oil to use as fuel for the lighting of the menorah (candelabrum) within the temple. Although there was only enough oil to fuel the light of the menorah for one day, the oil ended up lasting eight days as the people celebrated the freedom to practice their beliefs in the temple. Hence, this miracle of sustainable light serves as the inspiration for the eight days of Hanukkah.

Stylized chrome menorah with nine removable arms and bobeches, circa 1966, signed ‘Agam 31/90,’ entered in J. Greenstein & Co. Inc.’s Dec. 21, 2017 auction. ($4,000-$6,000). J. Greenstein & Co. Inc. and LiveAuctioneers image.

Among the most notable objects associated with Hanukkah is the menorah, a sacred candelabrum or lamp that has either seven or nine branches for holding candles. In the nine-branched version, one of the branches is taller than the rest, and its role is to hold the Shamash – the candle that is used to light each of other candles during Hanukkah.

Menorah Note: Various sources point to the seven-branch menorah as a symbol of enlightenment. It is also a symbol of the menorah that resided in the Holy Temple in Jerusalem. A nine-branch menorah, or “hanukkiyah,” is used exclusively during Hanukkah. Menorahs have been constructed of brass, silver, pewter, copper, stone, glass and porcelain.

In addition to menorahs, other objects commonly seen during the Hanukkah celebration and popular with children are gelt and dreidels.

Silver and brass dreidel, Michael Ende, Israel, circa 1985, mounted on a marble stone, signed, number 3 of 180, 7 1/3 inches tall, sold for $1,200 during a December 2016 auction. J. Greenstein & Co. Inc. and LiveAuctioneers image.

Gelt is a gift of money or possibly sweets packaged to look like money. A dreidel is a plaything that served an important, and possibly life-saving, purpose when the Holy Land was under Greek-Syrian reign, before the Maccabean rebellion. In Yiddish, “dreidel” means “spinning top.” Traditionally made of wood, later examples of dreidels have been made of plastic. In addition, there are fine silver dreidels, but they are for display rather than play.

Each of the four sides of a dreidel bears a different Hebrew letter, and together the four letters are an acronym of the Jewish phrase “Nes gadol hayah sham,” which translates into “a great miracle happened there.” This refers to the Maccabean revolt. During the time of Greek-Syrian rule, studying the Torah or practicing any form of Judaism was forbidden, and the punishment was death. To avoid attracting attention from their captors, Jewish children would convene in caves along hillsides to conduct their religious study. In the event a Greek soldier would come upon them, the children would quickly take out their tops and begin to play a game. In the traditional dreidel game, each person is given an equal number of tokens (in some instances children use their gelt) and they must place a token in the “pot/kitty” before spinning the dreidel. After their spin, the player must take an action related to the letter on which the dreidel lands. These actions are related to the tokens that have accumulated in the pot/kitty.

In addition to these items of the Hanukkah celebration, several objects associated with other Jewish holidays are highly sought after by those with an interest in Judaica. The following are examples representing the holidays:

Yom Kippur

Considered a High Holiday of the Jewish faith, Yom Kippur is the holiest day of the year. This “Day of Atonement” involves fasting, reflection and prayers of forgiveness during a period of less than 26 hours during September. This holiday derives from the return of Moses following his ascension of Mount Sinai, where he sought God’s forgiveness on behalf of the transgressions of the people of Israel. His return from the top of the mountain was known from then on as the Day of Atonement – Yom Kippur. An object often associated with Yom Kippur and the other High Holiday (Rosh Hashanah) is a shofar, a ram’s horn that is blown after Yom Kippur services.

Antique silver-mounted shofar, circa 1880, traditional in shape, with three sections of applied silver, engraved in Hebrew with Yom Kippur related epithets, 11 inches long, sold for $2,250 on April 26, 2015. J. Greenstein & Co. Inc. and LiveAuctioneers image.

Passover

Another eight-day (seven days in Israel) festival of the Jewish faith, Passover (Pesach) marks the Jewish peoples’ deliverance from slavery in ancient Egypt. This came about following God’s imposement of 10 plagues on Egypt after the pharaoh repeatedly ignored God’s message – sent via Moses – to free the Israelites. The final plague was death to all firstborn children of the Egyptians, but it “passed over” Jewish households. This final plague convinced the pharoah to chase the Israelites, led by Moses, out of Egypt.

During the observation of Passover, which takes place during spring – late March to early April – the first two and last two days of the celebration are considered holidays during which no work is to be done, vehicles must not be driven, and devices must not be operated. Also, no leavened grain, pasta or beverage with wheat, barley, rye or oats should be consumed during Passover, honoring how the Jewish people ate only unleavened bread following their escape from Egypt. The central event of Passover is the seder, which takes place during the first two evenings. It is a feast with traditions, rituals and special dishes. Among the objects present during seder are ornate silver goblets and plates.

Massive sterling silver Passover compendium by Carmel Shabi, Jerusalem, with gilded removable dishes for the insertion of Passover foods, 16 inches wide, entered in J. Greenstein & Co.’s Dec. 21, 2017 auction. J. Greenstein & Co. Inc. and LiveAuctioneers image.

Rosh Hashanah

Rosh Hashanah represents the “first of the year,” or the Jewish New Year. Like Yom Kippur, Rosh Hashanah takes place in September. During Rosh Hashanah, Jewish people reflect on the past year and resolve to improve themselves in the the new year. Objects of Judaica present during Rosh Hashanah’s traditional practices are the shofar and a machzor (unique prayer book), among others.

Shabbat

Shabbat (the Sabbath) is a year-round, weekly occurrence steeped in rest, reflection and celebration of faith. It begins every Friday at sunset and concludes just after nightfall on Saturday. In the Jewish faith, the observance of Shabbat is one of the 10 Commandments God gave to Moses during his time on Mount Sinai. Shabat includes a feast, storytelling and singing related to lessons found in the Torah. Among the objects used during Shabat are candlesticks, kiddush cups, and sacred trays for serving the meal.

Rare and important silver binding, Italy, early 19th century, chased with crown, oval, and a family crest with a Magen David, containing original Machzor, 7 inches tall by 4½ inches wide, sold for $16,000 on March 12, 2014. J. Greenstein & Co. Inc. and LiveAuctioneers image.

As the time-honored traditions of Jewish celebrations demonstrate, followers of the faith place high importance on self-reflection and self-improvement. Objects associated with Jewish holidays are symbolic of the religion’s principles, which explains why there is so much appreciation for Judaica, especially treasured pieces handed down through subsequent generations of a family.

How To Start A Postcard Collection

Before the world turned to texting and Tweeting as a form of quick communication, there were postcards. Of course, the U.S. mail service of the 19th century – when postcards first came on the scene – cannot compare to 21st-century electronic methods, but there was an appeal to sending personal messages on paper that doubled as a keepsake. That’s evident from the number of antique and vintage postcards regularly offered in online auctions and at postcard shows.

10-piece group comprising seven postcards and two greeting cards handwritten by the late actress Carrie Fisher, addressed to her then-brother-in-law Ed Simon and his wife, Rose. Estimate: $3,500-$6,500. Charleston Estate Auctions, LiveAuctioneers image

Postcard collecting, like so many other things in the world, continues to evolve, said Lew Baer, of the San Francisco Bay Area Post Card Club.

“Just like the rest of the world we knew a quarter-century ago, postcard collecting has changed dramatically with the introduction of the Internet. Collecting used to be mostly through mail exchanges and mail-in auctions. Shows, often week-long events that would take over entire floors of hotels in major cities, were great events for postcard collectors,” explained Baer, editor of the SFBAPCC’s website (www.postcard.org) and newsletter. “That social and friendly interaction has been eclipsed (both sadly and happily) by eBay and other online auction sites. Avid collectors used to drive hundreds of miles and spend hundreds of dollars to go to the great shows of the 20th century. Now, we have the entire world at our fingertips and can find the rarest of cards while surfing in our PJs.”

One of two postcards exchanged by Princess Sonia Orbeliani (1875-1915), a maid-of-honor to, and close friend of, Empress Alexandra, wife of Nicholas II, the last ruler of the Russian Empire. Estimate: $200-$500. John Atzbach Antiques, LiveAuctioneers image

When publishing companies such as Curt Teich & Co., Raphael Tuck & Sons, Dexter Press, E.C. Kropp Co., and Detroit Publishing Co., were producing postcards for the masses in the early 20th century, variety was the name of the game. The option to select a postcard with a particular theme, sentiment or image was a way to personalize the communication, in addition to the message that would be handwritten later on by the sender. In a way, it can be compared to adding emoticons, gifs, and colored backgrounds to online posts and texts today. Except that postcard were more collectible than ephemeral.

Postcard Fact: The act of studying and collecting postcards is called deltiology. It comes from the Greek term for a writing tablet or letter.

A beginning “deltiologist” can personalize a collection by narrowing its focus. There are many ways in which to specialize. For example, collect by:

    Era

    Topic of interest

    Geography (states, natural vistas, countries)

    Themes (wartime/military, holidays, world leaders, expositions/world’s fairs)

    Real-photo postcards

    Noted postcard artists (Ellen Clapsaddle, Alphonse Mucha, Frances Brundage, etc.)

    Material composition (Many novelty postcards incorporated silk or fabrics, wood, copper, and cork, among other materials. Still others – articulated postcards – have movable parts such as wheels.)

Postcard Fact: In the heyday of postcard popularity, around 1913, the total number of postcards mailed through the United States Post Office topped 968 million, according to information obtained from Postcardy.com.

The terminology used to describe the different eras of postcards varies, but knowing the terms and the era may help with authenticating postcards and determining age. According to information found at www.postcardvalues.com, the earliest period in U.S. postcard history (1873-1898) was the Pioneer Era. This is followed by the Private Mailing Card Era (1898-1901). It was during this time that U.S. publishers were able to print and sell postcards with proper marking and a one-cent stamp. A unique feature of these small works of art is that the address of the recipient was on the back and there was space for a personal message on the front.

Used Harry Houdini New Year’s greeting postcard, New York, 1923, includes halftone headshot of Houdini (Ehrich Weisz), addressed to Joseph J. Kolar with the message “Here are my wishes for a happy and prosperous New Year/ Houdini.” Estimate: $250-$350. Potter & Potter Auctions, LiveAuctioneers image

Next is the Undivided-Back Era (1901-1907), at which time private printers could create postcards as long as the term “Post Card” appeared on the back. The first magazine devoted to postcards, Real Photo Postcards, began during this time. The U.S. arrived a bit late to the party when it came to allowing use of divided-back postcards. England approved it in 1902, followed by France and Germany, then the U.S., in 1907.

The Divided Back Era between 1907 and 1914 is what some call the golden age of postcards. As the name implies, this was the era when postcards featured a division on the back with space for a message and space for the recipient’s address.

A move by printers to save on the cost of ink resulted in the next period in postcard history: the White Border Era, from 1915 to 1930. Most of these postcards were produced by U.S. publishers, and included a bit more detail in terms of descriptions about the image on the front. Scenic views became a leading subject for White Border-era postcards.

Advancements in technology ushered in the next segment of postcard history, the Linen Era (1930-1944). Publishers turned to a new type of paper to create postcards with the look of linen. Often these cards appear to have a texture to them. Linen postcards are less common than those of standard “card.” There were fewer in circulation because interest in postcards, in general, was starting to wane around the time linen postcards were introduced.

Finally, there is the Photochrome Era, which began in 1945 and is the period of the present. Photochrome postcards came into widespread use after 1945, but according to www.postcardvalues.com, the earliest generation of Photochrome postcards was in the selection offered by Union Oil Company at their Western-states service stations, as early as 1939.

Postcard Fact: Standard and Continental postcards refer to the two primary sizes of postcards. Prior to the 1970s, postcards measured 3-1/2 x 5-1/2 inches. During the mid-20th century, the size changed to 4 x 6 inches. However, there are still standard-size postcards available.

Even armed with an extensive knowledge of postcard history, finding antique and vintage postcards in quality condition can be challenging. But it’s not impossible.

“Postcards used to be everywhere; now they can be tough to find. The easiest place to find them is on racks in tourist shops, bookstores and stationers. Yes, NEW cards can be eminently collectible if they depict your chosen interest, topic or place,” said Baer. “To find vintage cards, try antique shops, yard sales, flea markets, used book shops and stamp shops.”

“There are also postcard shows—sales, actually. Look for their ads in free newspapers and flyers at antique and secondhand shops. They might read ‘antique paper sale,’ or something similar without specifically mentioning postcards. There are local postcard clubs that welcome newcomers, and there is one postcard-collecting magazine: Barr’s Postcard News, www.collectorsjournal.com/barrspcn/. It has an online version as well. Google reveals lots of leads.” Additionally, it is hard to beat LiveAuctioneers.com, with its thousands of auction-house customers, as a source

Real-photo postcard of the 1915 Boston Red Sox Major League Baseball team including a rookie Babe Ruth. Text at the bottom edge of the team image suggests production prior to the team’s World Championship win, reading, “The Boston Red Sox –American League Champions—Season 1915.” Sold for $34,000 during a February 20, 2016 auction at Heritage Auctions. Heritage Auctions, LiveAuctioneers image

Real-photo postcard of the 1915 Boston Red Sox Major League Baseball team including a rookie Babe Ruth. Text at the bottom edge of the team image suggests production prior to the team’s World Championship win, reading, “The Boston Red Sox –American League Champions—Season 1915.” Sold for $34,000 during a February 20, 2016 auction at Heritage Auctions. Heritage Auctions, LiveAuctioneers image

Whether collecting postcards by era, interest, theme, publisher or artist, physical condition is a contributing factor to their potential value. Discoloration, foxing (browning of postcards largely due to humidity and moisture over time), tears or other forms of damage can certainly impact the value of a card, even a rare one. Also, a premium is paid for specialty postcards that have retained such original embellishments as flocking, glitter or gilding. Conversely, their value drops when these decorative additions are compromised or missing.

Finally, Baer adds this parting bit of advice to anyone considering postcard collecting:

“Look a lot and learn a bit before you buy. Postcards can be overwhelming in their attractiveness and interest. It’s hard not to like every one.”

In The Pink With Rose Gold

Just as rosé wine is becoming a popular alternative to traditional reds and whites, so, too, is rose gold making rapid inroads into the jewelry market. An increasing number of brides – primarily “millennials” – are opting for something different in their engagement rings and choosing rose gold over conventional white or yellow gold. But what is rose gold, and is it something new?

14K rose gold and diamond hoop earrings. Image: LiveAuctioneers and Clars

Actually, production of the alloy rose gold, also known as “pink gold” or “red gold,” dates back to early 19th-century Russia. But earlier Greco-Roman texts indicate that, in ancient times, it was noted that impurities in the smelting process sometimes resulted in a gold product that had a reddish color – or “red gold.”

Cartier 18K rose gold Tankissime bracelet watch with diamonds. Image: LiveAuctioneers and Fellows

The difference in hues seen in the colored-gold spectrum is dependent on the amount of copper and/or silver the alloy contains. The higher the copper content, the stronger the red coloration. Here’s a breakdown of the metallic composition found in pink and red golds:

• 18K red gold: 75% gold, 25% copper
• 18K rose gold: 75% gold, 22.25% copper, 2.75% silver
• 18K pink gold: 75% gold, 20% copper, 5% silver
• 12K red gold: 50% gold, 50% copper

18K rose gold and fancy purple-pink diamond ring. Image: LiveAuctioneers and Leslie Hindman Auctioneers

If zinc is added during the smelting process, it can result in reddish yellow or dark yellow-colored gold. There are other colors, too. Green gold, or “electrum,” for example, was known to the Lydians of Anatolia (modern-day Turkey) as long ago as 860 BC. In spite of its name, the naturally occurring alloy of silver and gold actually looks more greenish-yellow than it does green.

Cartier 18K rose gold ladies cuff bracelet. Image: LiveAuctioneers and Longfellow Auctions

Over the past several years, rose gold has been embraced by many top jewelers, including Tiffany’s; and fashion-forward designers, like Kate Spade. It has even made its way into pop culture, initially with Samsung’s rose-gold-toned Galaxy Note 3. Apple kicked it up a notch with a $10,000+ rose gold Apple Watch Edition and a rose-gold option for its 2015-release iPhone 6. According to Wired Magazine’s David Pierce, “Apple couldn’t make rose gold iPhones fast enough.”

18K rose gold necklace set with oval-shape amethysts. LiveAuctioneers and Heritage Auctions

Nowadays there’s no end to the tech gadgets you can buy in quietly stylish rose-gold hues. Apple leads the pack with its iPad, MacBook and Beats headphones in “rose gold.” The look is uber cool, but no electronic accessory can match the feeling of luxury that comes from wearing a necklace, bracelet or ring of genuine rose gold.

Buccellati: Milan’s Family Jewelers

Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines timeless as “not restricted to a particular time or date.” It seems an appropriate word to describe the Buccellati company, makers of fine jewelry and silver. The firm’s elegant innovations span nearly a century, and although Gangsu Gangtai Group acquired a majority share of the company in August of 2017, the Buccellati family remains at the helm of the evolution of the brand’s design and meaning, appealing both to consumers with traditional tastes and younger buyers with a more adventurous spirit.

Pair of Buccellati sterling silver cufflinks in the form of a flower, inset with turquoise. Auctioned by Jasper52 for $380 in September 2016. Jasper52 and LiveAuctioneers image

This two-pronged approach in which old and new are blended, goes back to 1919, when founder Mario Buccellati launched his first jewelry store in Milan, Italy. He took the skills he learned as a young apprentice and fused conventional techniques with his revolutionary approach to designing jewelry and decorative objects.

Mario Buccellati 18K yellow gold and diamond bracelet, snowflake design. Auctioned by Jasper52 for $12,000 on Nov. 21, 2017. Jasper52 and LiveAuctioneers image

Inspired by Nature: The company’s Animalier Collection features 28 brooches shaped as animals and set with baroque pearls. The menagerie includes monkeys, scorpions, camels and rabbits, among other creatures.

Flash forward 95-plus years, and Buccellati family members, including Mario’s great-granddaughter Lucrezia – the company’s first female jewelry designer – are hard at work creating Buccellati’s trendy contemporary lines. They include iPhone cases – their diamond-studded gold model retails at around $208,000 – and the firm’s “Timeless Blue” project, which brings together impressionist artworks and modern jewelry designs.

Many of the same tried and trusted techniques, attention to detail and appreciation for beauty in many facets are woven into the fabric of this familial firm of luxury design.

 

Buccellati 18K yellow/white gold and diamond bracelet, wide bangle shape with a filigree design and mounted with 12 bezel-set round brilliant-cut diamonds, approximate total weight of 3 carats, with 72 round brilliant-cut diamonds with an approximate weight of 1.6 carats, a total weight of 54 grams. Auctioned by New Orleans Auction Galleries for $36,000 in March of 2016. New Orleans Auction Galleries and LiveAuctioneers image.

Innovation in every generation

Although Mario’s uncommon and exquisite creations brought global attention and acclaim in the first quarter of the 20th century, he was not the first Buccellati in the trade. In the mid-18th century, Contardo Buccellati was a goldsmith in Milan. Incidentally, the street where his business was located is now known as Via Orefici, or Goldsmith’s Street.

The “Buccellati style,” as it is known, harkens back to Mario’s development of an engraving technique that renders an unmistakable textured appearance. Today, Buccellati artisans use those same techniques, as well as many of the same types of tools, including a steel chisel for engraving, a bowl of wax for making a mold, and a wood, steel and string device to drill holes. The legendary engraving methods are said to give the appearance of materials such as linen, silk and tulle.

Those early traditions and techniques found eager students in four of Mario’s five sons, Frederico, Gianmaria, Luca, and Lorenzo. In various published articles, Gianmaria recalled working as an apprentice with his father at the age of 15 and having an interest in the jewelry trade since early childhood.

The Buccellati brothers inherited the company following the death of their father in 1965. Together they operated the business until the mid-1970s, at which point they divided the company. Brothers Gianmaria and the late Luca worked together to develop the Buccellati operation in the United States, and Gianmaria owned the Buccellati production and laboratories, according to an article in Departures magazine. The Buccellati name is used by operations owned by Gianmaria, while those operated by other Buccellati brothers employ variations of the family name.

Suite of diamond and sapphire jewelry by Buccellati comprising a brooch and pair of earclips in the realistic design of a bunch of grapes, the vine leaves pave-set with brilliant-cut diamonds from which cascade “grapes” composed of sapphire beads. Auctioned by Phillips for £19,000 ($22,410) in 2011. Phillips and LiveAuctioneers image.

Buccellati Locations: The firm has five boutiques within the U.S. (New York, Beverly Hills, Calif.; Chicago, Bal Harbor, Florida; and Aspen, Colorado), six in Italy, and one each in London, Paris, and Moscow. Plus, there are countless retailers, corner shops, and shops within shops, around the world.

Gianmaria’s children joined him in business, his son Andrea and daughter Maria Cristina in jewelry design, and Gino as overseer of the Buccellati silver factory. As mentioned earlier, the Buccellati legacy continues, with Andrea’s daughter Lucrezia joining the firm in 2014, around the same time that Gianmaria retired.

Lucrezia Buccellati’s vision and impact are represented in the company’s innovative Opera line of jewelry, each piece displaying a flower motif. Speaking about the Opera line, Ms. Buccellati told the New York Times, “Opera is a first step to show the new Buccellati for a younger generation who wants things light and more affordable that they can wear every day.”

Buccellati ring featuring an oval-cut citrine at center, claw set within a textured feathered surround to a border of circular-cut rubies, circa 1970s, signed Buccellati, stamped 750. Image courtesy of Dreweatts Donnington Priory and LiveAuctioneers

With the “Timeless Blue” jewelry range, Buccellati drew influence from masterpieces of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist art. A percentage of the sales from this line of jewelry generated during the week of its debut in March of 2015 was donated to Save Venice, a project to underwrite the cost of restoring art and monuments in Venice. The artists and works represented in the line include: Claude Monet (Storm on the Coast of Belle-lle, 1886), Pierre Bonnard (Two Vases of Flowers, 1930), Homer Winslow (Light Blue Sea at Prout’s Neck, circa 1890s), Mikhail Larionov (The Spider’s Web – a double-sided painting, circa 1900-1910), and Odilon Redon (The Fall of Phaeton, circa 1900).

The Romanza collection of bridal rings feature seven designs inspired by women in literary tales. They include: Beatrice Portinari, the beloved of Dante Alighieri; Titania from Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and Bradamante, a female Christian knight appearing in Ariosto’s Orlando furioso.

While Buccellati may have started as a local Milan jewelry studio, its gilt-edged name is now recognized as one of the world’s most prestigious brands. It continues to embrace the new while respecting the traditions of generations past.

The Beginning of Time

From sundials to atomic clocks, the presentation of timekeeping instruments may have changed over the centuries, but the basic premise remains the same.

For generations, people have monitored and visualized time using a variety of sources, including the sun, water, a burning candle, the transfer of sand particles from one section of a container to another, and ultimately through the mechanical marvels known as clocks. The process of measuring moments has long been a necessary practice, and with the advent of clocks, it embraced an element of efficiency and design.

While the origin of the first formal clock is a bit of a mystery, many reports point to the advent of early clocks within European monasteries in the 14th century. That is a plausible concept, as the development of devices to regularly indicate time would aid monks in planning their prayers. Lending credence to this belief is historical documentation of two early examples of clocks built for churches that remain in service to this day. One is the oldest known functional clock, which is said to have been constructed around 1386. It is located in London’s Salisbury Cathedral.

Medieval clock in Salisbury Cathedral, operating a bell in the tower. Dates to circa 1386; restored in 1956. Image by Rwendland, licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

Potential Word Origin of Clock: Clokke (Middle English), Clocca (medieval Latin), Cloc (Celtic and Old Irish), and Glocka (Old High German)

According to the Salisbury Cathedral site, the hand-wrought iron clock at Salisbury has no face and only chimes on the hour. The mechanics of the clock include falling weights and a device that is wound daily, allowing the clock to run for just over 24 hours at a time. An hour wheel, also known as a “great wheel,” makes one revolution per hour and is designed to strike a pin at exactly the top of the hour. This contact activates an extensive mechanical process, which ultimately results in the striking of a bell, thus producing a chime.   

Tramp art pendulum clock, circa 1890s, porcelain face, glass panels on sides featuring a layered pyramid design. Auctioned for $1,500 in February 2017. Jasper52 and LiveAuctioneers image.

Another early model is the Wells Cathedral clock. It is said to be the creation of 14th century monk Peter Lightfoot. Although the clock appears to have some similar attributes and mechanical elements to that of the Salisbury clock, it also reveals added ingenuity. Among the clock’s unique qualities is its dial, which showcases an image of the universe, including the view of the sun and moon surrounding Earth. Above the face of the dial resides the figure of a character named Jack Blandifers, whose job it is to strike the bells every hour on the hour with the use of a hammer and the heels of his shoes. He appears with two knight figures who are responsible for striking the bell at 15-minute intervals. Up until 2010, the Wells Cathedral clock had been wound by hand three times a week, for more than 630 years. Since 1919, the winding had been the responsibility of a member of the Fisher family, according to an article in the Daily Mail. This tenure of service came to an end in 2010 when the final Fisher family member retired and an electric motor replaced the clock’s winding mechanism.

Rare Chinese animated bracket clock featuring porcelain dial with Roman hour numerals, quality triple-fusee movement with engraved brass plates and a filigree border signed Cheong Smag and bearing six-character Chinese mark for Hao Sheng Xiang of the Guangdong Province. Auctioned for $1.05 million in May 2016. Fontaine’s Auction Gallery and LiveAuctioneers image.

Although churches were not the only places one would find a clock in the 14th through 18th centuries, they were not an item regularly seen in homes. Exceptions to this were royal and upper class residences, where clocks were often part of the decor. Although, the first domestic tabletop clock was constructed in the early 16th century, clocks were still a luxury. With many churches and some town centers showcasing a clock in a bell tower, these types of community clocks seemed to meet citizens’ needs.

 

Early 19th-century Federal inlaid mahogany tall-case clock by Simon Willard. Interior door retains original Isaiah Thomas, Jr paper label for Simon Willard Clock Manufactory. Arched and painted dial with seconds hand and date aperture, gilt decorations on dial, painted brass moon phase disc with naval scene and landscape. Auctioned for $50,000 in May 2015. Brunk Auctions and LiveAuctioneers image.

As is most often the case, advancements in clock technology came about as a result of necessity. Here are a few:

  • 1577 marked the invention of the minute hand by Jost Burgi, to meet the needs of an astronomer looking for increased time-keeping abilities during stargazing.
  • Galieo’s discovery of the elements of a pendulum in 1581 was another advancement in clockmaking.
  • 1656 saw the development of the pendulum block, by physicist Christian Huygens, to improve accuracy in timekeeping.
  • Clockmaker Alexander Bain created the first electric clock in 1840.
  • In 1876, Seth E. Thomas filed and received the patent for a mechanical alarm clock that was wound by hand.
  • Frank Hope-Jones created a modern electrical clock in 1895 that would become the inspiration behind those in use today.
  • Between 1927 and 1929, Warren Marrison completed the research and development leading to the first quartz clock. The engineer turned to quartz crystals to create more reliable frequency standards in timekeeping.
  • 1949 saw the unveiling of the first atomic clock by what is now the National Institute of Standards and Technology in Gaithersburg, Maryland.

Opportunities to View Clock Collections: American Clock & Watch Museum, located in Bristol, Connecticut; National Watch & Clock Museum, in Columbia, Pennsylvania; and The Clockmakers’ Museum, located in The Science Museum, London. Also, the NAWCC has an online collection.

 

Atmos du Millenaire limited-edition mantel clock, Jaeger LeCoultre, month calendar in French with the moonphase, 10¾ inches high. Estimate: £3,000-£4,000. Fellows and LiveAuctioneers image.

In the digital age, reports place the patent for the first digital alarm clock in the hands of American inventor D.E. Protzman, in 1956. However, a more primitive model was introduced during the St. Louis World’s Fair of 1904. There, the Ansonia Clock Company unveiled its Plato clock – a spring-wound system with digital cards featuring numbers that flipped.

Many moments have passed since monks and scientists first created mechanisms and enhancements for keeping and displaying time. Centuries later, our society today lives by the minutes and moments these devices keep.

Figural Cast-Iron Doorstops: 5 Brands To Know

Charles Dickens once wrote, “A very little key will open a very heavy door.” And a small cast-iron doorstop can keep it ajar while also being stylish and collectible.

According to the Encyclopedia Britannica, the advent of modern cast-iron doorstops came about in the mid-18th century, when a type of hinge was added to doors to allow for automatic closure. A door that closed by itself was undoubtedly a helpful innovation, however, there were times when an open door was necessary and desired. Enter the doorstop.

Doorstops of brass or other metals were commonplace in the early part of the 18th century, but it was the use of cast iron in the production of doorstops that changed the trajectory of stops, also known as chucks, wedges and blocks, among other things.

The first doorstops were not fanciful in design, but it didn’t take too long before figural images became standard in doorstop production. As was the case with more than a few objects of the past, being utilitarian didn’t mean visual appeal had to be sacrificed. They could blend harmoniously.

Sought-after hand painted casting of a young girl stepping over flowers, strong retention of paint, one of many variations of this doorstop created by Littco Productions (est. $1,800-$2,500). Lot #112 in Bertoia Auctions’ Nov. 11 sale. Bertoia Auctions and LiveAuctioneers image

The versatility of figural doorstop design also lends to its appeal among collectors of other types of objects. A perfect example of crossover collectibles, figural doorstops boast designs related to everything from Americana, nautical and floral themes to entertainment characters, folk art, animals and nature.

COLLECTING TIP – Many vintage models of original doorstops have a smoother casting, as opposed to a rougher surface that is sometimes seen in reproductions.

Several companies have produced doorstops over the past two centuries, and in many instances, doorstops were a secondary, albeit successful, sideline. Among the most prolific producers were Bradley & Hubbard, Hubley, Littco, and Judd Co. Also, one of the revered designers of doorstops was Anne Fish. Here we’ll look at the contributions each made to doorstop history.

Bradley & Hubbard Mgf. Co.

When Nathaniel and William L. Bradley, Walter Hubbard, and Orson and Chitten Hatch formed a partnership in 1852, the focus of their output was clocks. Just two years later, the Hatch brothers stepped away, leaving the Bradley brothers and Hubbard to move forward as Bradley and Hubbard. While production of clocks remained the company’s top priority, they expanded operations to manufacture call bells and sewing machines. The company also made flags, hoopskirts and match safes, all within the first few years of operation. In the years that followed, the company became a leader in the production of kerosene lamps and architectural elements, including grilles, railings, fences, doorstops, and lighting fixtures. The company was sold to Charles Parker Company in 1940. Although it’s hard to determine precisely when the Bradley and Hubbard division of the Parker Company ceased to operate, but by 1950 there was no longer any mention of the division in the company’s product catalogs.

Huckleberry Finn-type whistling boy figure cast-iron doorstop, detailed casting, both rubber knobs intact, good retention of paint, from the Jeanne Bertoia Collection, sold for $22,420 during a March 2016 auction at Bertoia Auctions. Bertoia Auctions and LiveAuctioneers image

Hubley

Located in a region known for iron mining during the 19th century, it’s no wonder that in 1894 the Hubley Manufacturing Company in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, would become involved in cast iron production. Hubley was an early manufacturer of cast iron toys. Hubley cast iron toy vehicles were popular when they were new, and are even more so today as collectors’ items. Applying some of the techniques and processes used to produce cast-iron toys proved profitable for Hubley when it ventured into doorstops. Molds were used in the mass production of doorstops, but each was painted by hand. Many subjects were depicted in Hubley’s doorstops, and they were especially well known for their dogs. There were few canine breeds overlooked by Hubley, and in each case, great attention was paid to the small details. Other motifs of Hubley doorstops popular with collectors are flower baskets, nautical themes, and other types of animals.

Hubley doorstop featuring two quail perched on a branch surrounded by tall grass, realistic details, marked Everett 34 on the front, created by revered doorstop designer Fred Everett, (est. $400-$600). Lot #181 in Bertoia Auctions’ Nov. 11 sale. Bertoia Auctions and LiveAuctioneers image

COLLECTING TIP – Original doorstops were put together using slotted screws, not the more modern types of screws.

Littco: Beginning as Littlestown Hardware and Foundry Company, Inc., in 1916, the unit known as Littco Productions was responsible for producing decorative cast iron doorstops and bookends, hammers, and fireplace accessories, among other items. The creation of decorative cast-iron objects, including doorstops, was a big part of the firm’s business until the early 1940s. World War II, changed the company’s focus, as it did for many manufacturers. Much of the company’s output would now support the war effort. The company did iron casting until 1990, when its operation turned to aluminum casting, as it remains today.

One of only four known original Halloween girl cast-iron doorstops made by Littco Products, provenance: the Jeanne Bertoia Collection, sold for $29,500 during a March 2016 auction at Bertoia Auctions. Bertoia Auctions and LiveAuctioneers image

Judd Manufacturing Company: Doorstops made by this Connecticut-based company often bear a maker’s mark of “cjo,” and carry with them a rich history of casting in iron, brass, and bronze. The company established itself in 1933 as a harness manufacturer. Ownership and production lines changed as the 19th century progressed. In 1910, the company began manufacturing bookends, book racks and doorstops, among other objects. These production lines continued until the late 1930s.

Heavy cast-iron doorstop manufactured by Judd Co., depicting a boy in lederhosen holding two large baskets of flowers (est. $200-$300). Lot #118 in Bertoia Auctions’ Nov. 11 sale. Bertoia Auctions and LiveAuctioneers image

COLLECTING TIP – View as many collections and presentations of doorstops as possible, to become familiar with the look and style of various manufacturers. A great place to view a significant number of doorstops is http://www.BertoiaAuctions.com. Jeanne Bertoia, owner of Bertoia Auctions, amassed one of the most admired of all doorstop collections, and she is considered one of the top experts in the field. Bertoia Auctions continues to bring premier doorstop collections to auction. For example, more than 55 of the more than 1,300 lots in Bertoia Auctions’ Nov. 11-12 Signature Sale are doorstops.

Anne Fish: With her considerable talents as a cartoonist and illustrator, British artist Anne Harriet Fish expanded her artistic repertoire by working with both the Fulper pottery works and the Hubley company. Her application of Art Deco style can be seen in various examples of Hubley cast-iron works, including doorstops. Fish-designed doorstops are among the most sought after by today’s collectors.

Even in the age of central air conditioning, vintage doorstops still have a place in the home, whether the objective is to prop open a door, to add a decorative touch to a room – or both.

Extremely scarce Bathing Beauties cast-iron doorstop issued by Hubley, created by Anne Fish and signed Fish 250, Art Deco design, sold for $10,350 in 2011 through Bertoia Auctions. Bertoia Auctions and LiveAuctioneers image

Teapots: Steeped in History and Culture

As is often the case with antiquities, the objects themselves tell a story of the past and reflect their influence on the present. The teapot is one such storyteller.
Centuries before teapots were in use, people were drinking tea, but differently. In third-century China, the earliest method did not involve steeping the tea leaves, but rather, roasting them, forming them into a paste, then molding the paste into a cake which was boiled into a finished product that resembled soup. With that being the case, there didn’t seem to be a need for a teapot.
The process of preparing tea evolved into pounding tea leaves into a powder, placing the powder into a cup and pouring boiling water over it. The tradition of the tea service was an outgrowth of this change.

Early Rookwood lidded teapot with Limoges-style decoration of two bunnies on one side and flying bats on the other, most likely the work of Maria Longworth Nicholas, circa 1881. To be auctioned Nov. 3 by Humler & Nolan. Estimate: $2,000-$2,500). Image courtesy of LiveAuctioneers.com and Humler & Nolan

Arguably the first teapot was created in the Jiangsu province of China in 1500. Early teapots from this region were “Yixing” teapots. In Chinese, this translates to “purple sand pot,” a reference to the distinctive purple sand clay that was plentiful in that area and used in earthenware vessels. It wasn’t surprising that the earliest recorded teapots would come from this part of the world, as the Jiangsu province was prolific in the production of porcelain vessels in the 16th century and into the early Qing Dynasty (1644-1911).

The evolution of tea preparation led to a substantially successful period for makers of Yixing teapots. The mineral composition of the “zisha” (purple sand) clay of the region was considered the finest of all types for use in tea-brewing vessels. Zisha clay is very porous and allows for significant absorption and retention of the tea’s flavor.

Tea Legend: Because of the porous nature of the clay used to make Yixing teapots, it is said that after preparing tea in the same pot several times, one can simply add water to boil in the pot without tea leaves, as the flavor retained by the pot during past brewings will render a quality cup of tea.

As awareness of the Yixing pot spread throughout Asia, there was an increased demand for not only the pots, but also knowledge of how the earthen pots were made. This awareness led to new influences being incorporated into the manufacturing process, resulting in a more elegant design. It also marked the period in history when Europe became familiar with Chinese porcelain, including teapots.

Veilleuse teapot in a rich brown color featuring medallions with intricate design, set atop a globular stand of the same color and three floriated feet. Acquired in Rome and presently on display within the Trenton Teapot Collection. Image courtesy City of Trenton, Tennessee

In the 17th century, the East India Company brought its profitable imports to Europe. However, European manufactories were not familiar with the techniques that produced zisha pots. The oft-accepted process of making porcelain in Europe involved mixing glass-like materials with clay. Unfortunately, “soft-paste” porcelain teapots were known to crack and explode when boiling water was poured into them.

Things changed dramatically in 1705 when an “imprisoned” young alchemist and an experienced scientist were brought together with the purpose of developing a formula and technique for creating “hard paste” porcelain. This opened the door to European production of a much-sought-after commodity. At the time, 18-year-old Johann Friedrich Bottger was under house arrest, not for what he had done as an alchemist, but for what he might be up to regarding the development of gold. At the same time, Ehrenfried Walter von Tschirnhaus, a scientist, was two decades into an effort to learn how porcelain was made. At Tschirnhaus’ suggestion, Bottger was escorted by a guard to the scientist’s lab, where the two began collaborating on a porcelain project. They worked together until 1708, when Tschirnhaus died from dysentery. That same year, production of European porcelain, using the formula the two had developed, began in Meissen, Germany. The public’s first opportunity to purchase pieces took place at the Leipzig Easter Fair in 1710.

In short order, regions across Europe began delving into the production of teapots as well as other porcelain objects, and the industry began to flourish. In part, the popularity of the quality European porcelain grew through its availability, not only in quantity but also in affordability. Tea and teapots may not have bridged the gap between the upper and middle socio-economic classes within Europe, but it did allow for people of varying backgrounds to enjoy one common pleasure: tea served from a teapot.

Georgian George III sterling silver teapot in classic oval cann-shape form, on simple oval stand, circa 1784, England. Auctioned for $3,200 on April 2, 2017. Jasper52 image

With the porcelain formula now widely known, production moved at a steady clip, and the public was embracing tea and teapots with unmatched fervor. Creativity in design and new efficiencies in production were seen. This is visible in the forms of the teapots, the glazes, and novel designs, including Swinton Pottery’s iconic Brown Betty teapot. Like the famous Yixing teapots, the Brown Betty came from red clay, which also provides for substantial retention of heat. The Brown Betty was simple in design but a model of efficiency in producing a good cup of tea.
“Have tea and teapot, will travel,” may not have been the motto of the British colonists heading to what would eventually become America to start a new life, but the taste for tea and appreciation for teapots was not something they would leave behind. Of course, colonists would soon discover what Native Americans had known for centuries, that clay (an essential resource in porcelain and pottery-making) was both abundant and varied in composition within the “New World.” Additionally, North America had the natural resources for fuel, in the form of wood from its vast forests. By 1850, in New England alone, there were more than 500 potters actively working.

Pair of Meissen decorative teapots, late 19th/early 20th century, hand-painted with hinged, chained handle arching over the teapots, finished with gold trim, Meissen marks on bottom. Auctioned for $300 in October 2015. Image courtesy LiveAuctioneers.com Archive and Akiba Auctions

It wasn’t just in the East that American pottery production was booming. As people began to travel west and settle, potteries were established and teapots continued to be created. Again, the evolution of brewing and serving tea led to changes in teapot production. The development of the teabag in the first quarter of the 20th century simplified tea-brewing, as it eliminated the need for some accessories, such as strainers.
As time has gone on, teapots have evolved from functional wares to collectibles. One of the most impressive collections of teapots may be viewed in a small community in western Tennessee. The collection, amassed by Trenton’s native son, the late Dr. Frederick Freed, showcases porcelain veilleuses-théières, meaning night- or side-light teapots. This style of the teapot is unique in that the warming stand upon which the teapot sits is not the sleek and short style commonly seen, but instead, one that can measure more twice the height of the teapot, which on average would hold two to three cups of a beverage. The veilleuse came about as a means of providing warm beverages during the night, for patients and youngsters. A dish of oil was placed in the stand, and when lit, it would serve as a warming device for the porcelain pot.

The Trenton teapot collection includes 650 examples, all made between 1750 and 1860 and acquired by Dr. Freed during his travels to France and Germany. The collection is valued at $8 million.

Veilleuse teapot in a rich brown color featuring medallions with intricate design, set atop a globular stand of the same color and three floriated feet. Acquired in Rome and presently on display within the Trenton Teapot Collection. Image courtesy City of Trenton, Tennessee

Beginning in 1955 and over the course of several years, Dr. Freed donated his collection of teapots to the City of Trenton. All these years later Dr. Freed’s gift of conservatorship of his collection continues to draw visitors and tourism dollars to the Tennessee community. An estimated 3,000 people are said travel to Trenton each year just to view the rare pots.

Trenton Teapot Collection: The Trenton Teapot Collection is located at Trenton City Hall in Trenton, Tennessee. The museum is open weekly from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m., and admission is free. The community of Trenton will hold its 38th Annual Trenton Teapot Festival in April of 2018.
Whether they are ancient Chinese Yixing vessels, early Meissen designs, or decorative mid-20th-century productions, teapots perpetuate the fascinating story of how an Eastern invention became a staple of Western life.

Jaeger-LeCoultre: Always On Time

While some people dread the onset of winter, it’s this season that gave rise to what would become Jaeger-LeCoultre, a pioneer in the production of fine timepieces.

In the 18th century in a Swiss valley community, Abraham-Joseph LeCoultre built a forge that, many years later, would evolve into the workshop and headquarters for a world-famous company established by his son, Antoine. In addition to his work as a blacksmith, the elder LeCoultre was also a farmer and a beekeeper, which influenced his understanding of both mechanical operations and natural design. At the forge, LeCoultre and his neighbors spent many a winter’s evening creating movement blanks, dials and pinions for watches. They were also well known for their expertise in lapidary, which aided their ability to create watches of great precision.

Jaeger-LeCoultre Atmos 561 by Marc Newson clock, a one-of-a-kind timepiece created for the ‘Jony and Marc’s (RED) Auction’ of 2013, benefitting the (RED) organization, through Sotheby’s. The clock is made of Cristal de Baccarat with rhodium-plated feet, and sold for $425,000, surpassing an estimate of $20,000-$30,000. Image courtesy Sotheby’s

In 1833, Antoine took the knowledge he had amassed from 30 years of working with his father and founded LeCoultre Manufacture. Innovation was at the company’s core. Antoine invented at least two revolutionary items within the first 15 years in operation: the Millionometre and a crown-winding operation. The first invention allowed for accurate measurement to a thousandth of a millimeter. This development ultimately led to widespread adoption of the metric system by the Swiss watchmaking industry. The other innovation, a crown-winding system, superseded the key-wind approach previously used to set time. A variation of this system is still in use in modern-made mechanical watches.

Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Perpetual watch, manual-wind movement, skeleton dial, gold hands, watch case and butterfly clasp of 18K rose gold, original brown leather strap, circa 2008, auctioned in 2014 for $35,377. Image courtesy LiveAuctioneers Archive and Auctionata Paddle 8 AG

Award-Winning Moment: Displaying in 1851 at The Great Exhibition in London, Antoine LeCoultre received a gold medal for a gold chronometer. The recognition was the first of many accolades the company would receive for precision mechanics in timekeeping.

At the turn of the 20th century, the company’s management passed into the hands of a new generation. Renowned watchmaker Jacques-David LeCoultre assumed the helm following his grandfather Antoine’s passing. Until his own demise in 1948, Jacques-David was instrumental in developing and expanding the company.

Significant to its growth, LeCoultre & Cie started creating movements for other premier watchmakers, including Vacheron Constantin, Audemars Piguet, and the firm’s first client, Patek Philippe.

Royal Wearers: Queen Elizabeth II is said to have worn one of LeCoultre & Cie’s revolutionary timepieces known as the Duoplan Calibre during her coronation in 1953. With 74 parts, the Calibre weighed in at only one gram.

Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Ultra-Thin wristwatch featuring a stainless steel case, signed manual-wind caliber 839, silvered dial with baton hour markers and quarterly Arabic numerals, and a brown caiman strap. Entered in Fellows’ Oct. 31, 2017 auction. Estimate: $1,400-$2,100. Image courtesy Fellows and LiveAuctioneers

As the 20th century ticked forward, another watchmaker, Edmond Jaeger, was implementing new timekeeping methods of his own and, not unlike LeCoultre & Cie., was supplying other prestigious makers – in Jaeger’s case, Cartier.

Over time, the competitors would collaborate to design the first watches for use by civilian and military pilots during World War I. The two companies formally merged as a single operation in 1937.

Jaeger-LeCoultre’s timepiece innovations include: A durable timepiece with a clever face-flipping mechanism used to protect the crystal (it’s said this model – the Reverso – was created in response to a polo team’s problem with watch faces incurring damage while on the playing field); the first 100% automatic watch without a winding-crown; the water-resistant Geophysic chronometer, which is impervious to magnetic fields and shock; a timepiece with a built-in alarm (Memovox) that sounds like the ring of a vintage telephone; and development of the world’s first diver’s watch with a built-in alarm (Deep Sea) to remind a diver when it was time to surface. The company also participated in the creation of the first quartz wristwatch in 1967.

Vintage Jaeger-LeCoultre 25.0-carat round, brilliant and baguette-cut diamond and platinum bracelet watch, auctioned for $20,000 in April 2017. Image courtesy LiveAuctioneers Archive and Kodner Galleries, Inc.

Jaeger-LeCoultre’s Famous Fans: Silent film icon Charlie Chaplin, superhero and leading man Robert Downey Jr., Mad Men television actress January Jones, Academy Award-winning actor, screenwriter and producer Matt Damon; Game of Thrones star Kit Harrington, actress and model Diane Krueger, comedian and actor Steve Carrell, music mogul Jay-Z, and singer and songwriter Kelly Clarkson, among others.

In fact, Charlie Chaplin’s appreciation for Jaeger-LeCoulter timepieces is a showpiece of the museum Chaplin’s World, which opened in Switzerland in 2016. According to a report by Forbes, the watch, a Jaeger-LeCoultre Memovox, was presented to Chaplin in 1953. The back is inscribed: Hommage du gouvernement Vaudois à Charlie Chaplin – 6 octobre 1953. The watch was discovered by crews during renovation of the house in which Chaplin and his family resided. The house is now the museum.

Enjoy this video about Chaplin’s storied watch:

A Jaeger-LeCoultre watch purchased new today costs a minimum of around $5,000 up to $2.5 million. On the secondary market, the most paid for a Jaeger-LeCoultre was $425,000. The custom Atmos 561 features uncommon red accents and sold during a Sotheby’s auction in 2013. The watch was one of two Jaeger-LeCoultre models sold to benefit musician Bono’s charity (RED).

From humble beginnings in a small Swiss village to appearing on the wrists of Hollywood heavyweights, Jaeger-LeCoultre timepieces not only keep time, they’ve set the pace in precision mechanics for nearly 185 years.

Schoenhut: From Tiny Pianos To Legendary Toys

German immigrant Albert Schoenhut not only lived the American dream, but he made childhood much more fun for generations of children in his adopted homeland.
Born into a family of toymakers, Schoenhut’s lot in life emerged early on. Even as a child, Albert was already picking up the skills to make toy pianos in the family home located in Göppingen, Germany. As a third-generation toymaker, Schoenhut learned the craft of making wooden dolls, circus figures, complete playsets and games from his father and grandfather. At the age of 17, he had narrowed his focus to toy pianos. His talent resulted in a job offer from America and Schoenhut’s solo immigration to Philadelphia, where he worked for Wanamaker’s department store. His work consisted of repairing German toy pianos imported to the United States, beginning in the 1860s.

Lot featuring all three sizes of jointed-wood Felix the Cat dolls manufactured by Schoenhut, auctioned for $850 in October 2009. LiveAuctioneers and Dan Morphy Auctions image

History Highlight: Composer John Cage put Schoenhut Toy Co.’s toy pianos in the spotlight on the concert stage in 1948 with his Suite for Toy Piano. Enjoy a performance of this special composition:

In 1897, Schoenhut went off on his own, forming A. Schoenhut Company, Manufacturer of Toys and Novelties. He wasn’t alone. It’s reported in the 1900 Census that at least 500 toy manufacturers were operating within the United States. As the 20th century got under way, Albert Schoenhut’s $100 acquisition of a toy clown patent set the course for what would become one of his company’s most prolific toy lines. Schoenhut’s Humpty Dumpty Circus, with its various jointed animal and clown figures, and other circus accessories, opened the door to playset popularity.

Schoenhut Humpty Dumpty Circus playset from the turn of the 20th century, featuring a circus tent, circus ring, original flags, 12 figures: dancer, clowns, animal trainers; and 18 animal figures, sold for 8,000 Euro ($9,425). Provenance: Rothenburg Doll and Toy Museum, Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Germany

History Highlight: The German community where the Schoenhut family of toymakers produced playthings was no stranger to timeless toy production, as toymaking firm Märklin also operated in Göppingen, Germany.

The Humpty Dumpty Circus was a hit with children, parents and teachers alike. The ability to create scenes inspired by the real-life big-top circuses of the day captured the attention of all ages. The retail availability of various figures, which could be purchased individually, created an affordable way for parents to provide their children with toys for creative play.
The Humpty Dumpty Circus toy line was in production from 1903 through 1935. Various museums include or have featured displays/figures of Humpty Dumpty Circus playsets in exhibitions, including:
• The Strong National Museum of Play www.museumofplay.org
• NC Museum of Dolls, Toys & Miniatures www.spencerdollandtoymuseum.com
• New-York Historical Society Museum & Library www.nyhistory.org
• Philadelphia History Museum www.philadelphiahistory.org

Rare, circa 1906 painted-wood toy boat, Schoenhut Co., with cardboard cloth covered canopy and composition figures seated in the bow, keywind mechanism, accompanied by original box, entered in Bertoia’s Nov. 11, 2017 auction. LiveAuctioneers and Bertoia Auctions image

Tip: The Schoenhut Collectors Club is an active organization supporting the practice of collecting, preserving, and researching toys, dolls, and games created by the A. Schoenhut Co., and successor companies. The club hosts an annual fall convention. http://www.schoenhutcollectorsclub.org

Another evolution of the A. Schoenhut Company’s toy production was the “All Wood Perfection Art Doll.” The first model, marketed in 1911, featured steel spring hinges for joints and a basswood head designed by a revered Italian sculptor of the day. The Wood Perfection Art Doll became a top seller during the 1910s, even with the impact of World War I. Before his death in 1912, Albert Schoenhut saw his company progress into various new avenues of toy production and reach its 40th anniversary.
However, the company succumbed to the same fate as many other American businesses impacted by the Great Depression. In 1934, the company entered bankruptcy. Although many of the company’s buildings were sold during liquidating auctions, a few did not sell. In 1935, Albert Schoenhut’s youngest son and one of his grandsons formed the O. Schoenhut Company (after the son, Otto). The company produced Pinn Family Dolls in Philadelphia until the 1970s. In 1984 the company was purchased by Frank Trinca. This iteration of the Schoenhut company was also a family operation, and taking it full circle, brothers Frank and Len Trinca shifted the focus right back to where it began: toy pianos. Now doing business as the Schoenhut Piano Company, the company is revered for the quality of musical instruments it produces.
As they say, everything old is new again.

Roy Lichtenstein: Pop Art with a Comic Book Twist

Oct. 27 marks the 94th anniversary of Roy Fox Lichtenstein’s birth. The pop art trailblazer was born in 1923 and lived to age 73, leaving an immense body of compelling, in-your-face art that appeals to anyone who loves comic-book-style graphics – and isn’t that just about everyone?

Immense, in this instance, means more than 5,000 pieces created over a period of three decades. Often regaled for his prints, Lichtenstein’s creations also included paintings, drawings, murals, and sculptures, among other types of art.

Roy Lichtenstein, Brushstroke Nude, 1993, painted cast aluminum, sold by Phillips in a May 10, 2012 auction for $4.8 million. Image courtesy of LiveAuctioneers.com Archive and Phillips

His appreciation for artistic expression formed early in his childhood in New York. His mother, Beatrice, was a homemaker with training as a pianist, and it is said that she made it a priority to expose her children – Roy and younger sister Rénee – to as much artistic culture as the city could offer. This inspired Lichtenstein during his undergraduate studies at Ohio State University, an education he would complete in two parts: before and after his military service during World War II. Even during his time in Europe, he continued to hone his artistic skills. He had hoped to study at the Sorbonne in Paris but ended up returning to the United States in the mid-1940s upon receiving news of his father’s illness.

After his father’s passing, Lichtenstein remained stateside and resumed his studies at Ohio State. Upon completing his studies, Lichtenstein become a member of the university’s faculty. Academia would become a hallmark of Lichtenstein’s early professional life. In addition to OSU, he taught at the State University of New York at Oswego and Douglass College in New Jersey. Prior to focusing his efforts full time on creating art, his work history included modern interior design, furniture design, and even window dressing.

Roy Lichtenstein, Sweet Dreams, Baby!, silkscreen printed in colors, 1965, 160/200, sold by Bloomsbury auctions on Dec. 6, 2011 for $99,000. Image courtesy of LiveAuctioneers.com Archive and Bloomsbury Auctions

Artist’s Trademark: By including Benday dots, a symbol of mechanical patterns often used in industrial engraving, Lichtenstein incorporated a unique form of texture within his artwork. The dots became synonymous with the artist and a pop-art staple.

The familiarity and popularity of Roy Lichtenstein’s work is due in part to his printmaking. These pieces are considered original art although they are prints of an original surface. Different from commercial prints, fine-art prints are limited in number and often signed by the artist. The printing technique most often used by Lichtenstein during his career was screenprinting (also referred to as silkscreen printing). This technique found a fan in pop-art master Andy Warhol, who used it to develop his own distinctive style. It also influenced the work of Lichtenstein and others active in the early pop-art movement. In the simplest terms, screenprinting involves applying a stencil to a screen through which ink passes, rendering an image on the blank space.

A Lichtenstein print never before offered at auction is among the works featured in Sotheby’s Postwar and Contemporary Evening Sale, Nov. 16, 2017. The print Female Head was created by Lichtenstein in 1977 and carries an auction estimate of $10 million to $15 million.

Roy Lichtenstein, Female Head, 1977, estimate $10M-$15M in Sotheby’s Nov. 16, 2017 auction. Copyright Estate of Roy Lichtenstein. Image courtesy of Sotheby’s

Lichtenstein was very obviously influenced by cartoon and comic art. Like some early comic books, the themes explored and subjects presented in his artwork were not always tranquil. They defined pop art through parody, often in a tongue-in-cheek manner.

Roy Lichtenstein, Nurse, oil and magna on canvas painting, circa 1964, signed and dated rf Lichtenstein ‘64 on verso, realized $95,365,000 in 2015, the most ever paid for a Lichtenstein at auction. Christie’s image

As prolific as he was in creating cartoon-influenced pop art during the second and third quarters of the 20th century, Lichtenstein didn’t shy away from exploring other genres and movements, including cubism, surrealism, and expressionism; as well as other media, such as sculptures and murals. In the late 20th century, he created five murals and significant sculptures in six cities around the world.

The artist continued to work into his 70s, until succumbing unexpectedly to complications of pneumonia in 1997. Although he has been gone for two decades, Lichtenstein’s work continues to captivate and attract new fans, often with “Biff!,” “Pow!” or “Wham!”