CHICAGO – Potter & Potter Auctions‘ signature Circus, Sideshow, and Oddities event on April 30 was a thrill ride from start to finish, with antique carousel animals claiming several of the top lot slots.
A circa-1890 carousel zebra made by the G.A. Dentzel Company of Philadelphia realized $36,000. This outside row wooden standing zebra had a carved saddle and bridle and measured 55 by 12 by 58in. Only a select number of menagerie figures were ever carved by the Dentzel Company, and only by special request; as a result, very few are known to survive today.
A circa-1900 carousel rabbit, also by Dentzel, made $24,000. This carved wooden standing rabbit had a white body and a tan saddle, purple and green trappings, and an unusual pink bow. It measured 54 by 63 by 18in.
In addition, a circa-1925 carousel camel from Charles Looff of Long Beach, California, sold for $18,000. It was leaping, carved from wood, and featured its original stirrups and trappings, a brown saddle, a blue blanket, blue jewels and its bridle. It measured 47 by 56 by 18in.
Eye-catching posters and sideshow banners were a much-anticipated category, led by Snap Wyatt’s (American, 1905-1984) Palace of Wonders, which achieved $10,800. This mid-century canvas banner was made in Tampa by Snap Wyatt Productions and measures 82 by 238in. It was produced for Chicago’s Riverview Park and depicts a sword swallower, a magician, an armless woman and a fire-eater, with a central medallion of a two-faced woman.
Fred G. Johnson’s (American, 1892-1990) banner touting The Icelandic Giant tripled its low estimate to sell for $9,000. It was produced in Chicago by the O’Henry Tent & Awning Company in the 1930s and measured 180 by 114-½in. This signed, painted canvas example featured a tall, muscular man in Viking garb standing beside a woman in a red bathing suit.
Also, a trio of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus wagon parade banners, estimated at $250-$350, sold for $2,880. These 1960s-era wagon banners were decorated with mirrored sequins and hung from gold-painted wooden rollers.
Antique shooting gallery targets were another popular category, with a marked circa-1911 John T. Dickman Great Clown carnival shooting gallery target scoring $19,200. This iconic cast iron example took the form of a clown wearing a red hat and a white mask. The target was originally attached to a gas line that illuminated both eyes with flame; if one flame was shot out, the second would immediately light.
Entertainment-related antiques, props, ephemera and other rarities that defied conventional categories caught bidders’ attention. Lot #592, a circa-1890s Dr. Willarton phrenology bust, was estimated at $500-$700 and sold for the astonishing sum of $11,400. The life-size composition bust identified 35 sections of the skull, and on the reverse, the qualities present in each section.
Lastly, a size 35 sample leather shoe, created around 1937 and based on a pair made for Robert Wadlow, the tallest man in recorded history, delivered $5,280 against an estimate of $400-$800. The shoe was fashioned by the I.S. Co. to promote its wares and was accompanied by two photographs of Wadlow and a handwritten plaque explaining the origin of the shoe.
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