Elvgren’s ‘Thinking of You’ brings $209,000 at Heritage

Gil Elvgren (American, 1914-1980), ‘Thinking of You (Retirement Plan),’ Brown & Bigelow calendar illustration, 1962. Price realized: $209,000. Heritage Auctions image.
Gil Elvgren (American, 1914-1980), ‘Thinking of You (Retirement Plan),’ Brown & Bigelow calendar illustration, 1962. Price realized: $209,000. Heritage Auctions image.
Gil Elvgren (American, 1914-1980), ‘Thinking of You (Retirement Plan),’ Brown & Bigelow calendar illustration, 1962. Price realized: $209,000. Heritage Auctions image.

DALLAS – Gil Elvgren’s sultry but sweet portrait titled Thinking of You (Retirement Plan) sold for $209,000 to lead a record setting selection of pin-up art in Heritage Auctions’ May 7 Illustration Art Signature® Auction in Beverly Hills, Calif. The $2.1 million auction set multiple artists records including a new high for contemporary artist Patrick Nagel, as two works sold for $161,000 each.

“Pin-up art was strong across the board,” said Todd Hignite, vice president of Heritage Auctions. “Illustration art in general remains extremely popular with collectors but the interest in Gil Elvgren’s work – and that of other giants – is simply outpacing all expectations.”

Collector interest for Nagel’s work has placed him squarely in the pantheon of the 20th centuries most popular illustration artists as (Untitled) Her Look, 1983, and Untitled (Woman with Horse), 1983, each sold for $161,000, surpassing the artist’s previous record, also set by Heritage. Paintings by Nagel secured four of the auctions’ top 10 most valuable lots with Profiles of a Man and Woman, 1983, brought $56,250 and Partial Nude, The Playboy Forum illustration, May 1984, ended at $31,250.

The remaining top lots were dominated by Elvgren’s classic pin-up paintings produced for Brown & Bigelow, including A Real Stopper (Now I’ll do the Whistling), which sold for $68,750, and Captivating, which hammered for $53,125. A Refreshing Lift, painted in the 1970s, sold for $46,875, and Worth Cultivating (A Nice Crop), sold for $37,500.

Pulp and paperback art also generated strong results as Doll of Death, the Spicy Mystery pulp cover from August 1938 by Hugh Joseph Ward sold for $37,500. Margaret Brundage’s shocking The Blue Woman, the September 1935 cover of Weird Tales, sold for $20,625 and Lizards from Hell, Will Hulsey’s outrageous February 1957 cover for True Men Stories, brought more than eight times its estimate to end at $17,500. The April 1940 cover painting to Fantastic Adventures magazine, titled The Blue Tropics and painted by Frank R. Paul, sold for $15,000. A strong selection of paperback cover art was led by the fantastical Dark of the Woods, 1970, by Jeffrey Jones, which hammered for $20,000.

Original ad art performed well as Gil Elvgren’s A Cool Beverage, a preliminary beer advertisement, blasted its $8,000 estimate out of the water to end at $22,500, while George Petty’s Art Deco infused original They All Say Yes, a likely Atlas beer advertisement, sold for $5,937.

Additional highlights include:

– Beauty in a White Dress with Rose, Brown & Bigelow calendar illustration by Al Buell. Price realized: $22,500.

– Flat Tire, The Saturday Evening Post cover, Nov. 24, 1962, by Jan. B. Balet. Price realized: $18,750.

– Hi-Heel Beauties, EYEFUL magazine cover, February 1947, by Peter Driben. Price realized:$17,500.

– Weyr Search, Analog Science Fiction and Fact magazine cover, October 1967, by John Schoenherr. Price realized: $15,000.


ADDITIONAL IMAGES OF NOTE


Gil Elvgren (American, 1914-1980), ‘Thinking of You (Retirement Plan),’ Brown & Bigelow calendar illustration, 1962. Price realized: $209,000. Heritage Auctions image.
Gil Elvgren (American, 1914-1980), ‘Thinking of You (Retirement Plan),’ Brown & Bigelow calendar illustration, 1962. Price realized: $209,000. Heritage Auctions image.
Patrick Nagel (American, 1945-1984), ‘Untitled (Her Look),’ 1983. Price realized: $161,000. Heritage Auctions image.
Patrick Nagel (American, 1945-1984), ‘Untitled (Her Look),’ 1983. Price realized: $161,000. Heritage Auctions image.
Patrick Nagel (American, 1945-1984), Untitled (Woman with Horse), 1983. Price realized: $161,000. Heritage Auctions image.
Patrick Nagel (American, 1945-1984), Untitled (Woman with Horse), 1983. Price realized: $161,000. Heritage Auctions image.
Gil Elvgren (American, 1914-1980), ‘A Real Stopper (Now I’ll do the Whistling),’ 1949. Price realized: $68,750. Heritage Auctions image.
Gil Elvgren (American, 1914-1980), ‘A Real Stopper (Now I’ll do the Whistling),’ 1949. Price realized: $68,750. Heritage Auctions image.
Will Hulsey (American, 20th century), ‘Lizards From Hell,’ ‘True Men Stories’ pulp magazine cover, February 1957. Price realized: $17,500. Heritage Auctions image.
Will Hulsey (American, 20th century), ‘Lizards From Hell,’ ‘True Men Stories’ pulp magazine cover, February 1957. Price realized: $17,500. Heritage Auctions image.
Jeffrey Jones (American, 1944-2011), 'Dark of the Woods,' paperback cover, 1970, mixed media on paper. Price realized: $20,000. Heritage Auctions image.
Jeffrey Jones (American, 1944-2011), ‘Dark of the Woods,’ paperback cover, 1970, mixed media on paper. Price realized: $20,000. Heritage Auctions image.

 

PBA Galleries to offer fine Asian and graphic art, rare books June 5

Signed, illustrated edition of ‘Moby Dick.’ Estimate: $7,000-$10,000. PBA Galleries image.
Signed, illustrated edition of ‘Moby Dick.’ Estimate: $7,000-$10,000. PBA Galleries image.

Signed, illustrated edition of ‘Moby Dick.’ Estimate: $7,000-$10,000. PBA Galleries image.

SAN FRANCISCO – PBA Galleries will present Sale 534 – Fine and Rare Books – Asian and Graphic Art – Japanese Maps on Thursday, June 5. Highlights of the auction include a scarce 1611 first edition of the folio King James “He” Bible (estimate $100,000-$150,000), a large collection of Japanese ukiyo-e prints, numerous Japanese woodblock maps, plus etchings and lithographs from important modern masters such as Renoir, Picasso and Chagall, and rare books in all fields.

LiveAuctioneers.com will provide Internet live bidding.

Among the rare books offered is a 1532 first Florence edition of Machiavelli’s Historie Fiorentine (estimate $10,000-$15,000), the 1556 first edition of Agricola’s De Re Metallica (estimate $8,000-$12,000), the authoritative text on mining and smelting metals for nearly 200 years, and a variety of 14th to 17th century European and Persian illuminated manuscripts. Also on the block are numerous works with illustrations by Rockwell Kent, including a signed illustrated edition of Moby Dick (estimate $7,000-$10,000), plus an additional 10 lots of proof illustrations from the production of that work, each signed by Kent.

A highlight of the fine art section of the sale is an original oil painting of still life of flowers by American artist Alice Brown Chittenden (1859-1944). Chittenden was renowned for her flower still lifes and this is a shining example of her work (estimate $3,000-$5,000). Several other original paintings will be sold from American artists Will Sparks and Charles Damrow and international artists like Hermina Arriola (Mexico), Kenneth Jack (Australia), Van de Boose (Netherlands), and Lin You Zhi (China).

From the collection of the late historian Doyce B. Nunis Jr. will be more than 60 lots of ukiyo-e prints, including three first printings from Hiroshige’s series Eight Views of the Suburbs of Edo, and a collection of 38 prints from a mid-19th century edition of his Famous Views of The Sixty-odd Provinces. Over 80 lots in total of Asian art will be offered from the Nunis collection, including skillfully painted hanging scrolls from Chinese and Japanese painters.

In addition, the Edward W. Allen collection of Japanese woodblock maps will be offered. In that collection is the circa 1860 Korean reprint of the circa 1674 map of the world by Ferdinand Verbiest, a Dutch Jesuit missionary, astronomer and cartographer (estimate $10,000-$15,000). Verbiest introduced cartography to China during the mid-17th century and produced the original for the Chinese emperor.

The sale will begin at 11 a.m. Pacific Time.

For more information, contact PBA Galleries at 415-989-2665 or pba@pbagalleries.com.

View the fully illustrated catalog and register to bid absentee or live via the Internet as the sale is taking place by logging on to www.LiveAuctioneers.com.


ADDITIONAL LOTS OF NOTE


Signed, illustrated edition of ‘Moby Dick.’ Estimate: $7,000-$10,000. PBA Galleries image.

Signed, illustrated edition of ‘Moby Dick.’ Estimate: $7,000-$10,000. PBA Galleries image.

First edition King James Holy Bible, 1611. Estimate: $100,000-$150,000. PBA Galleries image.

First edition King James Holy Bible, 1611. Estimate: $100,000-$150,000. PBA Galleries image.

Hirsohige ‘Evening Snow at Asuka-yama,’ 1837. Estimate: $3,000-$5,000. PBA Galleries image.

Hirsohige ‘Evening Snow at Asuka-yama,’ 1837. Estimate: $3,000-$5,000. PBA Galleries image.

Alice B. Chittenden still life of flowers. Estimate: $3,000-$5,000. PBA Galleries image.

Alice B. Chittenden still life of flowers. Estimate: $3,000-$5,000. PBA Galleries image.

First Florence edition of Machiavelli’s ‘Historie Fiorentine,’ 1532. Estimate: $10,000-$15,000. PBA Galleries image.

First Florence edition of Machiavelli’s ‘Historie Fiorentine,’ 1532. Estimate: $10,000-$15,000. PBA Galleries image.

Circa 1860 Korean reprint of the circa 1674 map of the world by Ferdinand Verbiest. Estimate: $10,000-$15,000. PBA Galleries image.

Circa 1860 Korean reprint of the circa 1674 map of the world by Ferdinand Verbiest. Estimate: $10,000-$15,000. PBA Galleries image.

London museum to present William Morris exhibition

William Morris by Frederick Hollyer, 1884. Copyright: National Portrait Gallery, London.
William Morris by Frederick Hollyer, 1884. Copyright: National Portrait Gallery, London.
William Morris by Frederick Hollyer, 1884. Copyright: National Portrait Gallery, London.

LONDON – The first exhibition devoted to William Morris and his influence on 20th-century life, will open at the National Portrait Gallery this autumn.

“Anarchy & Beauty: William Morris and His Legacy, 1860-1960” will run Oct.16 to Jan. 11. The exhibition will focus on Morris’ far-reaching politics, thought and design. With portraits, furniture, books, banners, textiles and jewelry, the exhibition will include many extraordinary loans that will be brought together in London for the first time.

Starting with late Victorian and Edwardian Britain, the exhibition and accompanying book will explore the “art for the people” movement initiated by William Morris and the artists of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. It then displays the work of Arts and Crafts practitioners inspired by Morris and “simple life” philosophers such as Edward Carpenter and Eric Gill, before showing how Morris’s radical ideals developed through to the Garden City movement and from the Festival of Britain onward to young postwar designers such as Terence Conran who took up Morris’ original campaign for making good design available to everyone.

Key exhibits include William Morris’ own handwritten Socialist Diary from the British Library, his gold-tooled handbound copy of Karl Marx’s Le Capital, lent from the Wormsley Library and Burne-Jones’s spectacular hand-painted Prioresses Tale wardrobe coming from the Ashmolean in Oxford.

C.R. Ashbee’s Peacock brooch from the Victoria & Albert will be joined by Eric Gill’s erotic garden roller, Adam and Eve, from Leeds City Art Gallery and Edward Carpenter’s sandals from Sheffield Archive – the sandals that began the sandal-wearing craze among the English left-wing intelligentsia.

“Now in the 21st century our art and design culture is widespread. But its global sophistication brings new anxieties,” said curator Fiona MacCarthy. “We find ourselves returning to many of Morris’ preoccupations with craft skills and the environment, with local sourcing, with vernacular traditions, with art as a vital force within society, binding together people of varying backgrounds and nationalities. This exhibition, as I see it, will not only explore what William Morris’s vision was but will suggest ways in which his radical thinking still affects the way we live our lives.”

Starting with the sometimes violent state of flux of late Victorian and Edwardian Britain as a group of brilliantly radical artists, craftsmen, architects, town planners, sexual and social reformers set out to remake their world, the exhibition introduces us to Morris, a craftsman and designer of extraordinary talent who MacCarthy believes still needs to be recognized as the truly revolutionary figure that he was.

The exhibition will show how the “art for the people” movement had its roots in the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood’s challenge to accepted attitudes to art and also in John Ruskin’s politically radical perception that every human being has inherent creative talent and that handwork was not inferior to brainwork.

On display will be work by the artists and craftsmen of Morris’ inner circle: his lifelong collaborator Edward Burne-Jones; the potter William De Morgan; the radical architect Philip Webb; the furniture makers Ernest Gimson and the Barnsley brothers. A number of important female artists and craftswomen will feature in the exhibition since this was a circle in which women were accepted as co-practitioners with men.

Arts and Crafts idealists who set up their own working communities, often in defiance of sexual norms, will be included, such as the openly homosexual Edward Carpenter at Millthorpe; C.R. Ashbee and his Guild of Handicraft in Chipping Campden and the controversial Catholic artist-craftsman Eric Gill in Ditchling.

“Anarchy & Beauty: William Morris and His Legacy, 1860-1960” highlights the element of anarchy within the “art for the people” movement which demanded a total overturning of accepted values. Showing how Morris was associated with the Russian anarchists Prince Peter Kropotkin and Sergey Stepniak, visitors will be able to see a strong link between “art for the people,” women’s education and the suffrage movement – one of Morris’ closest female associates was Eleanor Marx.

The exhibition extends beyond Morris’ own death in 1896 to show how his radical ideals developed through the Edwardian decade, highlighting Patrick Geddes, Raymond Unwin and the Garden City movement and the way in which “good design” became available to a wider market through such pioneering home furnishing shops as Ambrose Heal’s.

It explores the ruralist revival of the 1920s and 1930s when leading craft practitioners – the potters Bernard Leach and Michael Cardew, the weaver Ethel Mairet, the hand-blocked textile printers Phyllis Barron and Dorothy Larcher – evolved their own alternative ways of life and work in an increasingly materialistic age.

Morris’ visions of “art for the people” were realized in the early postwar period with the Festival of Britain and the government supported Council of Industrial Design. “Anarchy & Beauty: William Morris and His Legacy, 1860-1960” will show how the young designers at this time channeled Morris’ idealism into a concern to bring high standards of design within reach of everyone.

Fiona MacCarthy is a cultural historian, broadcaster and critic whose widely acclaimed biographies include studies of Eric Gill, William Morris (which won the Wolfson History Prize and the Writers’ Guild Non-Fiction Award), Stanley Spencer, Lord Byron and, most recently, Edward Burne-Jones. She is a Senior Fellow of the Royal College of Art and was awarded the OBE for services to literature in 2009.


ADDITIONAL IMAGES OF NOTE


William Morris by Frederick Hollyer, 1884. Copyright: National Portrait Gallery, London.
William Morris by Frederick Hollyer, 1884. Copyright: National Portrait Gallery, London.
Eleanor Marx by Grace Black, 1881. Copyright: National Portrait Gallery, London.
Eleanor Marx by Grace Black, 1881. Copyright: National Portrait Gallery, London.
'La Belle Iseult' by William Morris, 1858. Copyright: Tate 2014.
‘La Belle Iseult’ by William Morris, 1858. Copyright: Tate 2014.
Terence Conran and His Cone Chair by Ray Williams, 1950s. Copyright: Estate of Ray Williams.
Terence Conran and His Cone Chair by Ray Williams, 1950s. Copyright: Estate of Ray Williams.
Prioress's Tale wardrobe by Edward Burne-Jones, 1859. Copyright: The Ashmolean Museum, Oxford.
Prioress’s Tale wardrobe by Edward Burne-Jones, 1859. Copyright: The Ashmolean Museum, Oxford.

Russian art museum plans branch in Picasso’s hometown

View of Malaga from the harbor. Image by NationalMac. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Spain license.
View of Malaga from the harbor. Image by NationalMac. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Spain license.
View of Malaga from the harbor. Image by NationalMac. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Spain license.

MADRID (AFP) – Gold icons and expressionist paintings from one of Russia’s top art museums will go on permanent show in an old tobacco factory in Spain, officials said Wednesday.

The southern Spanish city of Malaga, home to thousands of Russian expats, has signed an agreement to host the first overseas branch of St. Petersburg’s State Russian Museum.

“Works displayed in Malaga will range from Byzantine-inspired icons to social realism of the Soviet era,” Malaga city hall said in a statement.

The new museum is scheduled to open in early 2015.

The State Russian Museum – not to be confused with Saint Petersburg’s State Hermitage Museum – will send about 100 works on permanent loan, including paintings by Kandinsky and Chagall.

It will also send about 60 works each year for temporary exhibitions under a 10-year preliminary agreement.

They will go on show in 2,300 square meters of exhibition space in La Tabacalera, a 1920s tobacco factory that already houses an automobile museum.

A Malaga city hall official told AFP on Wednesday it was too soon to say how much the new museum would cost.

A major tourist sunspot with half a million inhabitants on Spain’s Costa del Sol, Malaga has spent millions on developing its cultural scene over the past decade.

It was the painter Pablo Picasso’s native city and since 2003 has housed a major museum devoted to his work.

In November, Malaga city hall said France’s Pompidou Center, home to one of the world’s top collections of modern art, had agreed to open a branch there in 2015.

The city said at the time it would spend 5 million euros ($6.8 million) to renovate a venue for a permanent display of 70 works from the Pompidou.


ADDITIONAL IMAGE OF NOTE


View of Malaga from the harbor. Image by NationalMac. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Spain license.
View of Malaga from the harbor. Image by NationalMac. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Spain license.

Veterans’ hopes of saving USS Saratoga scuttled

The USS Saratoga (CV-60) underway with F-14 fighters on her bow during operations in the Mediterranean Sea in September 1985. Naval Historical Center image, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
The USS Saratoga (CV-60) underway with F-14 fighters on her bow during operations in the Mediterranean Sea in September 1985. Naval Historical Center image, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
The USS Saratoga (CV-60) underway with F-14 fighters on her bow during operations in the Mediterranean Sea in September 1985. Naval Historical Center image, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. (AP) – Former Navy sailors and New Yorkers with an attachment to the USS Saratoga say they’re saddened by the news that the mothballed aircraft carrier will be scrapped instead of converted into a floating museum.

The Navy announced earlier this month that the carrier would be sold to a Texas scrap company for a penny. The ship will be towed from its pier near Newport, R.I., to Texas, where it will be dismantled and sold for scrap.

Brad Senter is president of the USS Saratoga Association, the alumni group of those who served aboard the carrier between its launching in 1955 and decommissioning in 1994. He tells the Daily Gazette of Schenectady that former Saratoga sailors are saddened by the news, but they knew it was coming.

The carrier was named for the 1777 Revolutionary War battle.

Copyright 2014 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

AP-WF-05-27-14 1107GMT


ADDITIONAL IMAGE OF NOTE


The USS Saratoga (CV-60) underway with F-14 fighters on her bow during operations in the Mediterranean Sea in September 1985. Naval Historical Center image, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
The USS Saratoga (CV-60) underway with F-14 fighters on her bow during operations in the Mediterranean Sea in September 1985. Naval Historical Center image, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

WWI museum attendance expected to climb for centennial

The National World War I Museum and Liberty Memorial in Kansas City, Mo. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
The National World War I Museum and Liberty Memorial in Kansas City, Mo. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
The National World War I Museum and Liberty Memorial in Kansas City, Mo. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) – The site of the National World War I Museum has weathered a whiplash arc from prominence to decline and back to distinction. With the centenary of the start of World War I being marked this summer, the museum is working to highlight the story of a war that is often overshadowed in U.S. history by other conflicts.

The museum is located on the 26-acre site of the Liberty Memorial. The obelisk homage to soldiers of the First World War was completed in 1926 after Kansas City residents raised more than $2 million in two weeks to build it. At the memorial’s dedication, President Calvin Coolidge called the Egyptian Revival-style monument “one of the most elaborate and impressive memorials that adorn our country.”

Decades and a few major wars and monuments later, the towering 217-foot Liberty Memorial, neglected and deteriorating, was closed in 1994. But in 1998, Kansas City residents rallied once again, passing a tax aimed at restoring the structure. Plans then evolved to include a museum showcasing the site’s World War I-era collections.

The National World War I Museum at Liberty Memorial opened in 2006.

“This museum is a result of the action of the citizenry,” said Matthew Naylor, president and chief executive officer of the museum, which he called “the foremost museum in the U.S. in remembering and interpreting the Great War and its enduring impact.”

The museum, designated a national site by Congress in 2004, drew about 150,000 visitors in 2013, museum spokesman Mike Vietti said. It expects a boost in attention this year as the world marks 100 years since the Great War began. An assassination in Sarajevo, Bosnia, on June 28, 1914, led Austria to declare war on Serbia. The U.S. entered the war in 1917. Millions of soldiers, including some 120,000 Americans, died by the time the war ended Nov. 11, 1918.

The museum, located south of downtown and funded largely by private donations, admission fees and the city, has garnered considerable praise, including from Diane Lees, director general of the Imperial War Museums in England. Lees said the World War I Museum, which she visited in January, “punches well above its weight as a museum” and is a “must for anyone who wants to learn about the impact of the First World War.”

“Its narrative is international; the broad range of objects on display are compelling; and the personal stories they tell brings the people who lived, endured, served and died during the war a century ago, to life,” Lees said in an email.

While most of the visitors are from the U.S., many are from countries where the war was fought and appear to know more details about the war than Americans, Vietti said. The centennial may change that.

“What we would anticipate and hope to see is that the centennial commemoration during the next five plus years provides an opportunity not only for Americans, but really the entire world to review and examine World War I and how events that took place during the first global conflict in human history continue to affect everybody to this very day,” Vietti said.

Visitors may be disappointed if they expect a single, U.S.-based approach to the story of the war. “One of the criticisms of us is that we’re impartial,” Naylor said. “What we seek to do is report a complicated story that in a way encourages people to examine the issues.”

The museum, which also includes a research center, two theaters, exhibitions and artifacts such as a Renault FT-17 tank and a replica of no man’s land, is hosting a series of events, discussions and exhibits to highlight each year of the war, as well as the 1919 peace process. One event this year, “Taps at the Tower,” has buglers playing taps at dusk from June 22 to June 28, the 100-year anniversary of the shooting death of Archduke Franz Ferdinand. A current exhibit, “Over by Christmas: August-December 1914,” looks at the first five months of the war, which many thought would be far briefer than it was.

While the U.S. involvement in the First World War wasn’t as lengthy as that of the other nations’, Graydon Tunstall, history professor at the University of South Florida, said it’s vital to study and remember World War I.

“World War II gets the majority of attention,” said Tunstall, who has visited the museum on several occasions. “But if it weren’t for World War I you wouldn’t have World War II because what the war was fought about was not resolved in the treaty ending it.”

____

If You Go…

NATIONAL WORLD WAR I MUSEM AT LIBERTY MEMORIAL: 100 W. 26th St., Kansas City, Missouri; http://theworldwar.org or 816-888-8100. Open daily May 26- Sept. 1, 10 a.m.- 5 p.m.; other times of year open Tuesday-Sunday. Adults, $14; seniors and students, $12; youth 6-17, $8.

Copyright 2014 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

AP-WF-05-27-14 1325GMT


ADDITIONAL IMAGE OF NOTE


The National World War I Museum and Liberty Memorial in Kansas City, Mo. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
The National World War I Museum and Liberty Memorial in Kansas City, Mo. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Baton Rouge dig turns up bits of history at old sugar mill

Massachusetts artist May S. Clinedinst (1887-1960) painting of a Florida sugar cane mill. Image courtesy of LiveAuctioneers.com archive and Meyers' Antiques Auction Gallery.
Massachusetts artist May S. Clinedinst (1887-1960) painting of a Florida sugar cane mill. Image courtesy of LiveAuctioneers.com archive and Meyers' Antiques Auction Gallery.
Massachusetts artist May S. Clinedinst (1887-1960) painting of a Florida sugar cane mill. Image courtesy of LiveAuctioneers.com archive and Meyers’ Antiques Auction Gallery.

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) – Archaeologists got a glimpse into what life was like in Louisiana in centuries past through the recent excavation of the old sugar mill at the 575-acre Chatsworth Plantation in south Baton Rouge.

Searching through and around the base of the caved-in brick building that once housed a steam-powered sugar mill near Louisiana Highway 30 and Gardere Lane, the team found items such as a Gay-Ola Cola bottle from the early 1900s, a human tooth and more than 200 French gun flints believed to have been used by slaves and workers to build fires.

Now they are working to catalog the items for an exhibit at the LSU Rural Life Museum to paint a broad picture of the time period.

Dennis Jones, the LSU Rural Life Museum’s principal archaeological investigator for the excavation, detailed the finds and plans for a future exhibit in a recent presentation to the Baton Rouge Genealogical and Historical Society.

Jones said researchers hope to finish cataloging all the items they found – including ceramic marbles, porcelain dolls, brass boot heel plates, ginger beer bottles, different coins and items belonging to American Indian tribes who lived in the area until the 1780s – in the next few months.

Jones also said he will probably write a book at some point about the excavation and what they learned along the way.

Initial work began in 2010 by local business Coastal Environments after Pinnacle Entertainment, the parent company of L’Auberge Hotel and Casino, tried to acquire a permit to build on the Mississippi River levee, Jones said. The Army Corps of Engineers told the company they first had to make sure there were no historical sites on the property, he said.

In the first dig, more than 20,000 items, including broken farm equipment and pottery shards, were recovered and cataloged.

Archaeologists from the Rural Life Center began working in October 2012 to clear vegetation around the base of the sugar mill, even bringing in a backhoe to help. They finished in December 2013.

“Most folks think a backhoe has no place in archaeology, but I’m here to tell you it does, especially for this place,” Jones said.

Once they cleared away the vegetation and dead trees, researchers found tunnels running underneath the base of the mill, Jones said.

There were alcoves in the tunnels where workers would tighten the screws holding the mill’s grinder in place so the vibrations did not cause the grinder to shake free, Jones said.

“These whole plantations, you just don’t throw these things together. There’s an engineer’s design to this and this is just one of the features in that engineer’s design,” Jones said.

They also found areas where double-pen slave and worker cabins sat as well as privies and trash sites.

In his presentation, Jones explained how sugar was at one time one of the more sought after commodities in the world and industrial innovations made it easier, though still risky, to harvest the cash crop in southern Louisiana. Transporting the sugar cane via steamboat was also dangerous because of the dangers in riverboat travel.

Steam grinders had replaced the animal-powered grinders that had limited the amount of sugar cane farmers could harvest at one time, Jones said. Soon, more than 1,000 large mills popped up all over Louisiana, as plantation owners realized the windfall of a successful sugar cane crop.

The history of the Chatsworth Plantation goes back to Fergus Duplantier, son of Magnolia Mound owner Armand Duplantier, who bought about 2,000 acres near the Mississippi River around 1830 to plant sugar cane, Jones said. The first crop was harvested in 1844, the same year Fergus Duplantier died.

One of his adopted sons took over running the sugar cane operation and built the plantation in 1859, Jones said. The plantation went through several owners, including Francois Gardere, until the federal government ordered the by then dilapidated home torn down in 1930 to build new levees following the flood of 1927.

Years passed and the vegetation took over, growing back where sprawling sugar cane fields once sat and erasing most of the existence of the Chatsworth Plantation.

“By 1992, you would have never known anything was ever there,” Jones said.

___

Information from: The Advocate, http://theadvocate.com

Copyright 2014 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

AP-WF-05-24-14 1602GMT


ADDITIONAL IMAGE OF NOTE


Massachusetts artist May S. Clinedinst (1887-1960) painting of a Florida sugar cane mill. Image courtesy of LiveAuctioneers.com archive and Meyers' Antiques Auction Gallery.
Massachusetts artist May S. Clinedinst (1887-1960) painting of a Florida sugar cane mill. Image courtesy of LiveAuctioneers.com archive and Meyers’ Antiques Auction Gallery.