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famed family’s collection

Turner Auctions + Appraisals to sell famed family’s collection June 30

famed family’s collection
Grouping of late 19th/early 20th century Chinese medals, including a Tiffany World War I Red Cross medal. Estimate: $800-$1,200. Turner Auctions + Appraisals image

SOUTH SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. – Turner Auctions + Appraisals will present the Peck Family Historical Collection on Sunday, June 30, 10:30 a.m. Pacific time. The sale offers diverse and eclectic items acquired by three generations of Peck family members, from the late 1880s to present day – great-grandfather Dr. Albert Peck, longtime a medical missionary then physician for China’s first president; grandfather Llewellyn Peck, who was born in Tienstin (Tianjin), China, and became editor of the Northern California newspaper Saratoga Star; and Llewellyn’s son, Willys and his wife, Betty Wesson Peck, a Renaissance man and woman who were vital, esteemed and beloved members of the town of Saratoga, California. Bid absentee or live online through LiveAuctioneers.

Offering over 215 lots, this sale features artworks, autographed letters or photographs, collections of photographs and postcards, militaria, an Edison Home Phonograph and cylinders, early cameras and phones, toys and dolls, railroad lanterns, vintage European currency, stamps on letters, book collections, and much more.  There are also several items from Japan and Tibet, and a wide selection from China, most from the 19th century.

From China are medals; woven silk panels and embroideries; a silk robe; censers; opium pipes; carved figures, including jade; Kangxi and other vases; fingernail guards; a cloisonné bowl and vases; lacquer boxes; documents and an ancestor plaque; memorabilia from the Boxer Revolution; numerous photos and postcards; calligraphy and painted scrolls; scroll maps; paintings on paper; and landscape scrolls.

American historical items include letters from Abraham Lincoln and John F. Kennedy, a signed photo of a young Mark Twain (below), an 1867 award by President Andrew Johnson, and a reception invitation to the inauguration of Ulysses S. Grant. From World Wars I and II are books, soldiers’ ephemera, and military clothing and helmets.

famed family’s collection
Signed photograph of a young Mark Twain (center) in Virginia, 1864. Estimate: $1,000-1,500. Turner Auctions + Appraisals image

The multi-generational story of the Peck family is a captivating one, beginning with Dr. Albert Peck (1848-1923). Born in Racine, Wisconsin, he graduated from Rush Medical College in Chicago, where he was a physician and lecturer on eye diseases. Volunteering as a foreign missionary of the Congregational Church, he went to China in 1880, where he was in charge of the Williams Hospital in Pang Chia Chuang for many years. After more than 20 years as a medical missionary, he entered private practice, where he held several important posts for the Chinese government, including Foreign Medical Attaché to the Pei Yang Government.  Dr. Peck was consulting physician to Yuan Shi-Kai when that statesman led the reform movement that resulted in his election as president of the Republic of China in 1912. This ended the Qing dynasty and 2,000 years of imperial rule. In honor of his long and valued service, Dr. Peck was decorated with the Order of the Double Dragon by the Chinese Imperial government, and twice received the Order of the Bountiful Harvest under the new republic.

Note that medals awarded to Dr. Peck are included in the upcoming auction. Other Chinese items in the sale come from Dr. Peck living in China for 30-40 years. Among these are legal documents from the Chinese Empire and the Chinese Republic signed by the Emperor and first president of the republic, respectively; these are related to passports and permission to practice medicine in China signed by Yuan Shi-Kai.

Dr. Peck’s son, Llewellyn Peck (1886–1979), was born in the outskirts of Tianjin in northern China. Llewellyn and his siblings were sent to study at American universities. Llewellyn attended Pomona College and during World War I, served in the U.S. Army in the Balloon Corps as an artillery observer. A journalist in San Francisco early in his career, he moved to Saratoga to become editor and publisher of the Saratoga Star. A published poet and frequent contributor to the editorial columns of the Bay Area papers, Llewellyn Peck later served as postmaster of Saratoga.

Llewellyn’s son, Willys (1923-2013), was raised in Saratoga. He served in the Army during World War II in a division that helped liberate the Dachau concentration camp in 1945, and then graduated with a degree in journalism from UC Berkeley. Following in his father’s footsteps, he began a long and storied career as a newspaperman, mostly at the San Jose Mercury News, where he was a writer and editor. But Willys had many more interests, skills and talents – including a lawyer, train buff, Shakespearean scholar, poet and playwright. One particular passion was as Saratoga’s town historian, and he was one of the founders of the Saratoga Historical Foundation. He also authored two books on Saratoga history and wrote extensively on topics of historic interest pertaining to his home town.

As a young man, Willys Peck met his wife, Betty Wesson (1921 – ), when she was teaching in Los Gatos. Reluctant to marry him until he owned a house, Willys did purchase a home in Saratoga for $12,000 and sent a telegram saying: “Have house. Will you marry me?” She accepted and they married in 1952. Celebrated in her own right, Betty was a beloved kindergarten teacher, described by a past student as a “fairy godmother.” She taught kindergarten and mentored parents and teachers for over 50 years; she also founded the Easterbrook Farm School, now called the Los Gatos-Saratoga Observation Nursery School, which still thrives.

Together Willys and Betty created a life of community, passions and joy, opening their home and hearts to all those who wished to enter.  The house Willys purchased to secure Betty’s agreement to marry him is one the couple lived in their entire lives and where their two children, Anna Peck Rainville and Willys (“Bill”) Peck, Jr., had the good fortune to grow up.  While the couple were never intentionally “collectors” per se, the house was filled with numerous acquisitions of their lives well-lived and family history.  Recognizing the many contributions they made to the community over decades, Willys and Betty Peck are immortalized with bronze statues in Saratoga’s town square.

Here are some highlights of the upcoming sale:

– Lot 122: A grouping of late 19th- early 20th-century Chinese medals, including: A boxed Chinese commendation medal, box measuring 2½ inches high 6¾ inches wide. Two late 19th-/early 20th-century Chinese commendation medals each in a lacquered and inscribed box measuring 2¾ inches wide x 4½ inches deep. An early 20th-century Tiffany Red Cross medal on original cardboard mount with a penned note: “During World War Service in Lientsin, China.” Medal measures 2 inches high. An early 20th century Tiffany Red Cross medal on original cardboard mount with a penned note: “During World War Service in Lientsin, China.” Medal measures 2 inches high. An early 20th-century French book cataloging Chinese medals titled “The Order of the Double Dragon,” 13in. high x 9¾in. wide. Estimate: $800-$1,200.

– Lot 112: An important photograph of the young and virtually unknown Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens) flanked by A.J. Simmons, Speaker of the Nevada Territory Legislature and Billy Clagett shortly before his infamous duel challenge and scandal that resulted in his hasty departure from Virginia City, Nevada, in the spring of 1864. The reverse date of Jan. 1864 and the names of the three men in the photograph appear to be in Sam Clemens’ handwriting. Estimate: $1,000-$1,500.

– Lot 19: A 19th-century watercolor of an English fishing village by William Dalglish (1860-1909), 27½ in. high x 36¼in. wide framed. Estimate $700-$900.

famed family’s collection
William Dalglish (Brithish, 1860-1909), watercolor of an English fishing village, 27½in. x 36¼in. framed. Estimate: $700-$900. Turner Auctions + Appraisals image

– Lot 20: A 19th-century Edison Home Phonograph with a large collection of cylinders. Estimate:  $300-$500.

– Lot 59: An exceptionally cast 18th/19th-century Chinese bronze censer, depicting cranes, dragons and phoenix, 16in. high x 8in. diameter. Estimate: $600-$800.

famed family’s collection
Chinese cast bronze censer, 18th/19th century depicting cranes, dragons and phoenix, 16in. high x 8in. diameter. Estimate: $600-800. Turner Auctions + Appraisals image

– Lot 55: A finely painted and detailed Tibetan silk scroll, 18th/19th century, 34in. high x 23in. wide. Estimate: $400-$600.

– Lot 60: A fine late 19th-century Chinese silk robe, measuring 96in. high x 56in. wide. Good condition with some slight staining and wear. Estimate: $600-$800.

– Lot 114: Abraham Lincoln letter, dated 1863. A possibly unknown letter by President Abraham Lincoln during the Civil War concerning and just prior to the “Amnesty and Reconstruction Proclamation” issued in 1863 that offered pardon to those participating in the “existing rebellion” if they took an oath to the Union. It is a response to an unidentified correspondent’s suggestion that the “Southern States would send representatives to the next Congress.” Letter framed in glass and pencil dated Dec. 12, 1863. Estimate: $1,000-$1,500.

– Lot 69: A large and beautifully painted Chinese porcelain vase of the Kangxi period (1654-1722), depicting nobles and wise men, 13½in. high x 10in. diameter. Estimate: $500-$700.

famed family’s collection
Beautifully painted Chinese Kangxi period (1654-1722) porcelain vase, 13½in. high. Estimate: $500-$700. Turner Auctions + Appraisals image

– Lot 118: Photographs and memorabilia of the Chinese Boxer Revolution, including a contemporary history, period photos, a demand that Christians leave their faith, etc. Estimate: $200-$300.

– Lot 152: Two late 19th-/early 20th-century Chinese printed ink on paper scroll maps measuring 48in. inches x 12. Estimate: $200-$300.

– Lot 155: A rare 19th-century railroad engine lantern, measuring 32in. high x 17in. wide x 13½in. deep. Estimate: $1,000-$2,000.

– Lot 185: Four WWI and WWII Era German and American Helmets. A World War II German helmet, a World War I German helmet with camouflage, and two World War I American helmets. Estimate: $150-$250.

Turner Auctions + Appraisals begins its online auction on Sunday, June 30, 2019, at 10:30 a.m. Pacific time.

For more information, contact Stephen Turner, president of Turner Auctions + Appraisals, at 415-964-5250 or

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famed family’s collection