COLOGNE, Germany – Auction Team Breker will hold a two-day sale on Friday, September 16 and Saturday, September 17, with the first day devoted to photographica and film and the second to the categories of science and technology, mechanical music and fairground pieces. Absentee and Internet live bidding will be available through LiveAuctioneers.
When the first Model T rolled off the production line on October 1, 1908, Henry Ford could confidently claim to be putting the world on wheels. The vehicle was revolutionary in many ways, not just for its design features – a steering wheel located on the left, a removable cylinder head for easy access and a body constructed in the lightweight alloy vanadium steel – but also for being the first mass-produced affordable automobile.
Just five years later, in 1913, Ford introduced an integrated moving assembly line to his Highland Park, Michigan plant, another first in automobile manufacture. Streamlined production eventually cut chassis assembly time from 12 1⁄2 to just 1 1⁄2 hours and allowed the Ford Motor Company to offer its successful new product for a starting price of $260 (about $7,800 in modern dollars).
There were other innovations too. The Ford Model T was supplied with a driver’s tool kit, a customized wind-screen and a crank-starter. Its adroit transmission made shifting gears easy at a time when there were fewer than 18,000 miles of paved roads in the United States. Although Ford’s statement that “any customer can have a car painted any color that he wants so long as it’s black” is now famous, the Model T was limited to this standardized color scheme for only eight years of its astounding 19-year production run.
Auction Team Breker’s autumn excursion into the realms of antique technology celebrates the appeal of the world’s most recognizable car and demonstrates that, for all its longevity, the Model T was anything but standard. On offer is a comprehensive collection of seven classic Model Ts as well as hard-to-find parts and memorabilia. Included are classics such as the 1909 Tourabout (white, est. €50,000-€75,000), the 1912 Town Car (burgundy, est. €50,000-€70,000), the 1913 Runabout (dark green, est. €42,000-€65,000), a 1914 panel truck with advertising boards (red, est. €28,000-€42,000) and a 1917 chemical fire truck (red, est. €30,000-€50,000).
Another technical milestone in the auction is a coveted example of the decorative and functional Sholes and Glidden Type Writer of 1874 by Remington & Sons of Ilion, New York. Just as Henry Ford steered a new market for middle-class motorists, Remington helped draft women into the workplace. Not only could the company draw on commercial experience with the sewing machine by customizing its product with a choice of colors and finishes aimed at a female clientele, it also established business schools to train young women in typing. Though not the first commercially-produced writing machine, the Sholes and Glidden can rightly lay claim to being one of the most successful as well as the most egalitarian of its time.
Also coming under the auctioneer’s hammer is a previously undocumented rapid development camera based on a design by Charles-Gustav Anthoni that was unveiled at the Great Exhibition in London in 1862 and patented in France, Britain and America. The compact structure opens in two sections for the transport and storage of chemicals and plates inside the camera, removing the need for the cumbersome portable laboratory that accompanied the Victorian photographer on his travels. A drop-flap serves as a working surface and allows the camera to function as its own darkroom. The mid-19th-century camera carries an estimate of €6,000-€12,000.
Travel and topography are the subject of a selection of antique scientific instruments that includes a 17th-century equinoctial ring dial by Jakobus Knittel of Prague, engraved with the latitudes of 20 European cities and estimated at €4,000-€5,000.
The busy world of popular entertainment is also represented by an ensemble of mechanical music instruments and pierside amusements, among them a circa-1930 red Mutoscope with reel, estimated at €2,000-€3,000.
The earliest piece in the sale is also the smallest, an exquisite gold pendant hiding a tiny musical movement with a pinned barillet and just six notes on a tuned steel comb. Its estimate is €800-€1,200.
From his laboratory at Menlo Park in New Jersey, Thomas Edison revolutionized recorded sound for the home with a range of affordable mass-produced cylinder phonographs, from the popular Home and Fireside models to the deluxe Opera models. Among the Edison machines in the mid-September sale is a circa-1905 Fireside Model A phonograph on stand, estimated at €1,300-€1,800.
The current rate of exchange is €1 = $1.00.
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