LONE JACK, Mo. – Ping! Bam! Clang! Those are the ear-piercing sounds that used to excite thrill seekers at target-shooting galleries of the late 19th- and early 20th centuries. Commonly seen at early midways, carnivals, saloons and other public places where people sought amusement, shooting galleries invited all comers – young and old – to step up, take aim and hopefully hit the target and win a prize. Each target was a sturdy, painted cast-iron form, usually replicating an animal or human figure. While originally intended as visual enticements that, over time, would become scrap metal, shooting gallery targets defied their intended lifespans. In the 1980s/’90s they were rediscovered, as art objects. Richard and Valerie Tucker were among the earliest collectors who embraced “iron as art,” and it is their incomparable shooting gallery target collection that will take center stage at Soulis Auctions on September 26. Bid absentee or live online through LiveAuctioneers.
Regarded as the ultimate collection of its type, the Tuckers’ 30-year assemblage of ‘Iron as Art’ includes many one-of-a-kind and very rare forms from late-19th/early 20th-century arcades
“The Tuckers are legendary as collectors of shooting gallery targets. They scoured the United States to locate the extraordinarily pieces in their collection, many of which are large and complex. A fair number of them are the only known examples of their type,” said Soulis Auctions’ owner/auctioneer Dirk Soulis. “Richard and Valerie documented their collection in a 2014 reference book they authored called ‘Step Right Up! Classic American Target and Arcade Forms.’ There isn’t a finer or more extensive collection of targets anywhere. In its particular category, it is the alpha and the omega.”
Clowns were a popular subject in early carnival targets. The Tucker collection includes the only extant example of a William F. Mangels (Coney Island, NY) cast-iron light-up clown target known as “Rowdy.” Monumental in size, measuring 26 by 19.5 inches, this target undoubtedly would have been the centerpiece of a shooting gallery display. It appeared in multiple Mangels catalogs and is depicted in the 2002 book American Vernacular by Maresca/Ricco. It comes to auction with a $30,000-$40,000 estimate.
Known far and wide in the hobby from its appearance on the cover of Step Right Up!, a 1911-patented J.T. Dickman (Los Angeles) cast-iron clown target (shown at top of page) is one of five known and the only one in an aqua, red and white paint scheme. Impressively sized at 20.25 by 15 inches, the amusing masked-character target appeared in Dickman’s 1921 Catalog E and was identified as “The Great Clown Target with the Bright Eye.” Estimate: $25,000-$35,000
Another Mangels production and possibly the king of all American shooting gallery targets, “Shorty” is a 53-inch depiction of a bowlegged gunfighter with his hands poised as though ready to draw his six-guns. The figure wears jeans and boots with spurs, and has a target on both his cowboy hat and Western-style shirt. Like the aforementioned “Rowdy,” this early 20th-century classic is featured in the book American Vernacular. It is expected to make $20,000-$30,000.
Two very rare and unusual C.W. Parker rocking targets – a lion, $3,000-$5,000; and a top-hatted rider on a horse, $6,000-$8,000; still have their rocking mechanisms intact, making them especially desirable. A Kansas firm, C.W. Parker was primarily known for its carousels and horses but also gained renown for its artful targets. The Tucker collection includes many Parker designs, including a dog, deer, rabbit, goats, an articulated owl, $7,000-$9,000; a curious giraffe with knock-down rider, $3,000-$4,500; a lion with a heart-shape target release, and a beautiful, pre-1910 folk-art interpretation of an Indian princess wearing a war bonnet, $7,000-$10,000.
Attributed to William Wurfflein (Philadelphia), an outstanding rooster figure is pure Americana with its red comb and wattle, fanned and delineated tail feathers adorned by a single cut-out spring-loaded star, and contrasting target of concentric circles. Its paint is all original, and its overall appearance is very similar to that of images in Wurfflein’s March 1901 catalog and price lists. The only known example of its type, the rooster could command $4,000-$6,000.
Moonlight will be shining down on the auction in the form of two targets designed as smiling caricatures of the “Man in the Moon.” The first, manufactured circa 1912 by Emil Hoffmann of Chicago, has a bright red open mouth, toothy grin, and eyes that suggest a playful personality. An iron gong on its reverse side was designed to sound a tone when the target is struck. The second Man in the Moon was produced by H.C. Evans company in the first quarter of the 20th century and, like the Hoffmann example, exhibits a level of realistic detailing not typically seen on shooting gallery targets. Each of the moon lots carries a $6,000-$8,000 estimate.
Rounding out the Tucker collection is an equally exciting Americana collection that includes sink-box duck decoys, painted furniture and accessories; and additional cast-iron antiques.
Certainly worthy of special mention are a 19th-century hitching post in the form of a dog’s face, estimate $1,000-$1,500; and a female Native-American tobacconist countertop figure that stands 66 inches tall, inclusive of its ebonized wood base and enameled, slate-topped pedestal. The well detailed, hollow-cast iron figure is shown in traditional Native garb of fringed buckskin, moccasins and beads. She holds both iron and bronze tobacco leaves, and her hair is adorned with a spray of similar bronze leaves. Estimate $3,000-$4,000.
The Saturday, Sept. 26, 2020 live gallery auction will commence at 11 a.m. CT/12 noon ET. Bid absentee or live online through LiveAuctioneers.
To obtain additional information about any item in the auction, call 816-697-3830 or email Dirk@SoulisAuctions.com.
View top auction results on LiveAuctioneers here: https://www.liveauctioneers.com/pages/recent-auction-sales/