CHICAGO – Potter & Potter Auctions held its first Historic Memorabilia & Americana sale on November 17. It contained nearly 700 lots and posted a total of $340,000.
The top lot in this auction was a remarkable first-person account of the California gold rush: the handwritten manuscript diary of miner John Johnston. This 114-page record covered the period from January 1st to September 22nd, 1850 and featured descriptions of daily life in the Auburn region of California, including accounts of conflicts with Indigenous peoples, legal disputes, the first Auburn election, daily weather, fights between miners, Johnson’s Ranch and other matters. Estimated at $8,000-$12,000, it achieved $45,600.
Medals commemorating outstanding contributions to causes or conflicts were well-represented in this sale. Chief among them was a British hunger strike medal that had been estimated at $10,000-$15,000 and delivered $18,000. The one-inch diameter silver medal was made in London by Toye & Co. in 1914 and had suspension bars and a green, white and purple ribbon, and was housed in its original case. It was dedicated to suffragette Emma Power. These medals were presented by the Women’s Social and Political Union to women who engaged in hunger strikes during imprisonment and were bestowed at ceremonies held in the strikers’ honor following their release.
Another item in the sale that had a connection to the women’s suffrage movement was a Votes for Women sash that sold for $6,600 against an estimate of $1,200-$2,000. The circa-1913 tri-color sash with blue text measured 26 ½ by four inches. Similar sashes were worn by marchers at the Woman Suffrage Parade held March 3rd, 1913, the day before Woodrow Wilson was inaugurated as president.
Also performing well was a circa-1960s bronze medal depicting a profile view of Ho Chi Minh, estimated at $100-$200 and sold for $3,360. The medallion measured almost three inches in diameter and was housed in a red box. One of the most controversial figures of the 20th century, Ho Chi Minh was a Vietnamese revolutionary and statesman who served as president of North Vietnam from 1945 to 1965.
Lot #388, a trio of British World War I medals, carried an estimate of $150-$250 and traded hands for $1,320. They were issued to serviceman N. Hozier and included a British War Medal bearing the likeness of King George V, with an orange, white, black and blue ribbon; an Allied Victory Medal with a winged female figure in flowing robes representing Liberty, with a multi-colored ribbon; and a Star Medal with a crown and a red, white and blue ribbon. All were housed in a period black case.
Another standout was a Harmon Trophy medal awarded to Jeannette Piccard (1895-1981) in 1934, which was estimated at $300-$500 and soared to $2,880. The Art Deco copper medal featured the image of a man standing on a mountain holding an airplane aloft with an eagle at his side and the inscription “The International League of Aviators elects Jeannette Piccard as its world champion spherical balloon pilot for the year 1934” on the other. Piccard was a balloonist who in 1934 broke the women’s altitude record when she piloted her balloon 11 miles into the stratosphere, enough to earn her the title of the First Woman In Space at that time and making her the first pilot to fly through a layer of clouds.
Rounding out the auction was an Edison-type Electrical Industries New York Universal Ticker Machine that sold for $10,200 against an estimate of $1,000-$2,000. Its design elements included a lacquered brass mechanism, a black painted cast iron base over a wooden base, a later glass dome and double alphabetic and numeric rollers.
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