COLOGNE, Germany – Auction Team Breker will sell the legendary office antiques collection of Tom Russo on Saturday, Oct. 12. Russo’s passion for antique technology is grounded in his long-standing career as founder of the Delaware Office Equipment Co. (DOE Technologies) and a former president of the National Office Machine Dealers Association. Bid absentee or live online through LiveAuctioneers.
An author and authority on his subject, Russo amassed a fine and representative museum of early office technology, from the written word to arithmetic and the dawn of telecommunications. He describes his exhibits and their inventors as national treasures.
Many of the artifacts are of particular interest for the insights they afford into late 19th century industrial production. Particularly strong is the offering of pioneering writing machines, including a beautifully restored example of the first commercially successful typewriter in America, the 1873 Sholes & Glidden (above), with its distinctive decoration aimed at a new female clientele.
Other milestones include an accurate working replica of Rasmus Malling-Hansen’s “Writing Ball,” the 1891 Fitch from London (below) and the 1895 Ford made in New York.
Calculators number several choice European adding machines, such as the French “Arithmomètre” in deluxe brass-banded ebony-veneered case, the German “Saxonia” with its rare roll top and the English Tate’s Patent Arithmometer for all four arithmetic functions, which was produced by C. & E. Layton of London (estimate: €1,800-€2,500/$2,000-$2,850).
Curiosities from the dawn of telecommunications remind a modern audience that the latest technology, rather than being considered a status symbol when new, was once viewed as ungainly and purely functional. Telephones in the late 19th century were aestheticized through decorative finishes such as the wood-grained transfers of the Norwegian wall telephone by the Elektrisk Bureau, Kristiana to harmonize with the well-appointed home.
Sometimes the device was hidden altogether. The Euphonia “Hide-a-Phone” achieved this feat in a remarkable way (below).
Auction Team Breker’s 152nd Specialty Auction: Classic Typewriters and Office Equipment will be held Saturday, Oct. 12, starting at 4 a.m. Eastern U.S. time.