World’s fairs, Tom Mix are top draws at Gray’s auction April 16

World's fairs

Two lamps depicting the Trylon and Perisphere from the 1939 New York World’s Fair, 1939. Gray’s Auctioneers image

CLEVELAND – Gray’s Auctioneers will present a wide variety of memorabilia and collectibles from historic world’s fair exhibitions, with a slew of souvenirs and curiosities from the 1939 New York World’s Fair in particular. Absentee and Internet live bidding for the April 16 auction is available through LiveAuctioneers.

The 1939 “World of Tomorrow” famously featured the monumental Trylon and Pyrosphere, two large modernist buildings connected by what was at the time the world’s longest escalator. While the metal buildings themselves were broken down and turned into artillery shells during World War II, their legacy lives on in their depiction across a variety of posters, travel guides and souvenir merchandise from the exposition. They’re all up for auction this month at Gray’s, including the painted wood and metal form lamps built in the shape of the iconic structures in Lot 145.

In addition to the array of smaller world’s fair branded items from the 1939 exhibition, Lot 47 contains perhaps the authoritative volume on the 1893 exposition, held in Chicago to commemorate the quadricentennial anniversary of Columbus’ landing in the Americas. Volumes IV-IX of the 1893 Book of the Fair consist of five leather-bound folios containing photograuves and illustrations depicting that fairs’ celebration.

Also hailing from the 1893 Chicago Columbian Exposition is Lot 36, a stunning set of nine Libbey glass peachblow rose bowls, creamers and a lovely glass artifact in the shape of a pear.  Not only would any of these gorgeous pink pieces make a marvelous centerpiece, but they’re a bona fide part of history.  Lot 37 contains a similar collection of nine blown glass serving items from the same expo in a cool blue.

World's fairs

Collection of Libbey Glass Co. peachblow rose bowls, creamers, bowl and pear from the 1893 Columbian Exposition, Chicago. Gray’s Auctioneers image

One of the most precious items in this month’s auction comes from the Exposition Universelle held in Paris in 1900. Lot 53 contains an 18K yellow gold repeating chronograph pocket watch in its original case.

World's fairs

An 18K yellow gold repeating chronograph pocket watch from the Exposition Universelle, Paris, 1900. Chicago. Gray’s Auctioneers image

For those with a passion for both beautiful glasswork and American history, opening up the auction this month at Gray’s are a number of glass souvenirs from the 1876 Centennial World’s Fair in Philadelphia.  Lot 1 contains 3 opaline glass busts of George Washington, Benjamin Franklin and Abraham Lincoln. Lot 2 contains two larger frosted glass busts of Lincoln and Washington. Lot 3 contains another large frosted glass bust of Lincoln together with a smaller bust of Shakespeare. All were produced by the Gillinder & Sons glass company.  The company was established in Philadelphia in 1861 by William Thynne Gillinder, an English émigré fleeing a poor market for glassworkers in his home country. As part of the fair, Gillinder built an exhibition glass factory, where fairgoers could purchase “Centennial” branded souvenirs of great figures from American history, such as tableware, vases, and busts like those up for auction at Gray’s. These souvenirs continued to sell for years after the close of the fair and have remained valuable collector’s items ever since, while the Philadelphia factory remains in operation today under the control of the fifth generation of Gillinders.

World's fairs

Gillinder & Sons frosted glass busts of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln from the Centennial International Exposition, Philadelphia, 1876. Gray’s Auctioneers image

For fans of vintage photography, Lot 111 contains a variety of vintage cameras and images from the 1933 Century of Progress exhibition in Chicago.

While unrelated to the World’s Fair, Lots 224-231 nonetheless contain valuable pieces of Americana pertaining to the development of the American film industry.  Each lot contains a variety of memorabilia related to silent film star Tom Mix, considered by and large to be the original Western cowboy hero.

World's fairs

Group of framed vintage Tom Mix movie posters and advertisements. Gray’s Auctioneers image

Beginning his career in 1909 at the age of 29, Mix appeared in 291 films over the course of his 26-year career, only nine of which were talkies. While only about 10 percent of Tom Mix’s films have survived, the breadth and scope of his popularity during his heyday can be keenly felt in the merchandise up for auction at Gray’s, including a variety of advertisements for the Tom Mix Circus, a Western-themed rodeo and revue styled after Wild Bill Hickok’s famous Wild West shows.