Pictorial trays helped Coca-Cola build a powerful soda brand

An original 1897 Coca-Cola tray with painted cola leaves and nuts decorating its rim, achieved $50,000 plus the buyer’s premium in February 2019. Image courtesy of Michaan’s and LiveAuctioneers

NEW YORK – Far and away, Coca-Cola is the world’s bestselling soft drink. The company claims that nearly two billion eight-ounce servings are consumed every day. So, exactly how does a sugary soda dominate all others for more than 100 years? The answer is marketing and then more marketing. Coca-Cola trays were key to building the beverage’s brand.

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Detail of a 19th-century Continental macro-mosaic of a prominently haloed St. John Bosco, which realized $1,600 plus the buyer’s premium in April 2021. Image courtesy of Akiba Antiques and LiveAuctioneers

Ring of reverence: a history of the halo in art

Detail of a 19th-century Continental macro-mosaic of a prominently haloed St. John Bosco, which realized $1,600 plus the buyer’s premium in April 2021. Image courtesy of Akiba Antiques and LiveAuctioneers

Detail of a 19th-century Continental macro-mosaic of a prominently haloed St. John Bosco, which realized $1,600 plus the buyer’s premium in April 2021. Image courtesy of Akiba Antiques and LiveAuctioneers

NEW YORK – “And God said, let there be light and then there was light,” according to the Book of Genesis in the Old Testament of the Bible. Many would insist that God didn’t create light so much as he is light. Before literacy was widespread, the ideas of light representing good and darkness symbolizing evil had to be communicated to the faithful visually, through works of art. By the Middle Ages, artists had adopted the convention of painting a halo of light around the head of a deity or a saint to mark who should be respected and revered.

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This set of German-made American Revolutionary War toy soldiers, hand-painted and having engraved features, sold for $375 plus the buyer’s premium in September 2020. Image courtesy of Old Toy Soldier Auctions USA and LiveAuctioneers

For centuries, toy soldiers have carried on the fight

This set of German-made American Revolutionary War toy soldiers, hand-painted and having engraved features, sold for $375 plus the buyer’s premium in September 2020. Image courtesy of Old Toy Soldier Auctions USA and LiveAuctioneers

This set of German-made American Revolutionary War toy soldiers, hand-painted and having engraved features, sold for $375 plus the buyer’s premium in September 2020. Image courtesy of Old Toy Soldier Auctions USA and LiveAuctioneers

NEW YORK – Depicting fighting soldiers as tiny, easy-to-move figures has been a mainstay of military planning since medieval times. What started as a serious strategy-building tool ultimately evolved into the icon of childhood now known as the toy soldier.

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A Mughal Empire gold pendant inlaid with kundan-set green glass, white topaz and rubies sold for $2,500 plus the buyer’s premium in December 2021. Image courtesy of Artemis Gallery and LiveAuctioneers

Mughal Empire artisans raised arts of Asia to new heights

A Mughal Empire gold pendant inlaid with kundan-set green glass, white topaz and rubies sold for $2,500 plus the buyer’s premium in December 2021. Image courtesy of Artemis Gallery and LiveAuctioneers

A Mughal Empire gold pendant inlaid with kundan-set green glass, white topaz and rubies sold for $2,500 plus the buyer’s premium in December 2021. Image courtesy of Artemis Gallery and LiveAuctioneers

NEW YORK – In 1526, the Mughals, descendants of the Mongol leaders Tamerlane and Genghis Khan, created an empire stretching from the Indus Valley and northern Afghanistan to sub-continental India. The empire endured until the 19th century, and flourishing trade sparked Mughal artisans to innovate within a wide range of arts and crafts, from textiles to painting to jewelry to beautifully decorated weapons.

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A scarce set of 1908 Rose Company postcards, one featuring E.J. Coleman, president of the Scranton Miners baseball club, sold for $660 at Robert Edward Auctions’ spring 2018 sale. Image courtesy of Robert Edward Auctions.

Collector seeks rare Scranton baseball cards to complete collection

A scarce set of 1908 Rose Company postcards, one featuring E.J. Coleman, president of the Scranton Miners baseball club, sold for $660 at Robert Edward Auctions’ spring 2018 sale. Image courtesy of Robert Edward Auctions.

A scarce set of 1908 Rose Company postcards, one featuring E.J. Coleman, president of the Scranton Miners baseball club, sold for $660 at Robert Edward Auctions’ spring 2018 sale. Image courtesy of Robert Edward Auctions.

SCRANTON, Pa. (AP) – In the most fun card game a baseball fan as big as he is could play, Stephen Olson is potentially holding a miracle hand. He just needs to be dealt two more cards to complete it.

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Before Lakeside picked up Barrel of Monkeys, the game was called Chimp to Chimp. Photo by the author

An American classic, Barrel of Monkeys opens up about turning 50

Before Lakeside picked up Barrel of Monkeys, the game was called Chimp to Chimp. Photo by the author

Before Lakeside picked up Barrel of Monkeys, the game was called Chimp to Chimp. Photo by the author

NEW YORK – Everyone of a certain age remembers playing the game Barrel of Monkeys. The author provides a behind-the-scenes account of how the popular 1960s game came to be.

When Pixar featured Barrel of Monkeys in all three Toy Story movies, it was proof that this celebrated toy was not only iconic, but still a whole lot of fun. It’s hard to believe that it has been hanging around us since early 1965, and yet, 2015 will mark Barrel of Monkeys’ 50th year in stores. As popular as it is, finding facts relating to this classic game’s origin is nearly impossible.

Milton Dinhofer, now 91, provides the missing links regarding this nostalgic toy’s evolution. After earning his engineering degree at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Dinhofer went on to design the recognizable monkeys found in those plastic barrels today. Dinhofer didn’t work for a big toy company; it was at his Long Island home where he toyed with his many game ideas.

Leonard Marks, the Barrel of Monkeys inventor on file, was a schoolmate of Dinhofer’s. Marks told Dinhofer in 1961 that he had an idea for a game – an idea that came to him while waiting to sell his line of greeting cards to a small mom-and-pop shop. Dinhofer recounts the story Marks told him: “As he waited for the shop’s owner [Robert Gilbert], Marks started fiddling with [an open box of] snow-tire-replacement-chain links that were on the counter – hooking them together. Later when the owner approached to look at Marks’ greeting cards, Marks was still playing with the links.” Dinhofer adds: “Marks was so interested in playing, he hadn’t realized so much time had passed. He said to the owner, ‘this would make a great toy.” Gilbert then said to Marks he was friends with a successful toy promoter named Milton Dinhofer.” Marks immediately reached out to his old school friend.

Dinhofer had already had two major toy achievements to his credit. He created what he believes to be “the first full-size wearable space helmet.” His helmet made the covers of both The Saturday Evening Post (Nov. 8, 1952 issue) and Collier’s magazine (April 18, 1953 issue). Prior to that, he invented, designed and successfully brought to market Sip-n-See. This was a line of twisted plastic drinking straws with characters on them. Dinhofer says it was not only the “first twisted straw,” but also the “first plastic drinking straw” on the market. It provided an alternative to the glass and paper straws being sold at the time, and Dinhofer says it sold over “five million pieces.” One of those straws would influence the design of Barrel of Monkeys.

Recounting his first business meeting with Marks, Dinhofer said: “Marks brought a pile of his links over and started playing with them.” They are in Dinhofer’s possession today and are red, s-shaped links made from a one-quarter-inch plastic rod. Each link has pinched ends for connecting. Dinhofer said that as he watched Marks play with the links, he thought to himself, ‘monkeys!’

“I told [Marks] he had a winner …  I would develop it and he should sell it … We signed an agreement that night.” Asked why he chose monkeys, Dinhofer responds: “What else would you make them? Monkeys came to my mind instantly.” Dinhofer modeled the monkey’s arms after his Sip-N- See cowboy straw which had s-shaped arms just like a link.

“Our first step,” Dinhofer explained, “was to have a patent search made. Many linking games were disclosed but nothing with animals.” Dinhofer said that while none of those patented toys were successful, he still believed in theirs. It would take Dinhofer three months to go from a sketch to a functional monkey – in other words, likable and linkable. “We had to have 10 to 15 perfect pieces in order to see how they played,” he said, adding that the biggest challenge in designing them was the monkey’s balance. After that, he said, “I researched monkey photographs and made numerous sketches until I got a cute face down on paper.” Dinhofer selected a body he liked from another of his sketches and then hired a professional model maker. A. Santore of A.S. Plastic Model Co. carved, under Dinhofer’s supervision, one perfect sample. Dinhofer then found a company that would make a beryllium mold from Santore’s monkey and run sample monkeys from it. Looking at Dinhofer’s first-run monkeys, one sees that they look exactly like Lakeside Toys’ 1965 debut version. The only difference between Dinhofer’s monkeys and today’s is that shortly after the toy’s release, more hair was added to their bodies.

Next Dinhofer had to name it. “More fun than a barrel of monkeys,” was a common phrase in the ’60s that dated back to at least the 1800s. But that was not where Dinhofer and Marks got the name for their toy. Dinhofer disclosed, “I also have one package…with the name Chimp to Chimp on it.” Chimp to Chimp was Barrel of Monkey’s initial name and like BOM, it had 12 monkey playing pieces. Twelve monkeys “seemed just right,” said Dinhofer. “Three to 12-year-olds had to stand to link all 12.” Thus too many links would require actually lifting the children higher to accommodate the growing chain of monkeys – a situation where more wasn’t necessarily better. Asked if Chimp to Chimp monkeys came in a cardboard tube like Lakeside’s 1965 version, Dinhofer says: “Lakeside had more experience at $1[retail prices]. I had designed very expensive packaging. It was much more expensive than the cardboard can that Lakeside used and much more expensive to load.”

At last Chimp to Chimp was ready to be shown to retailers. Dinhofer says, “Marks showed to Woolworth’s … it was the biggest chain with 2,100 stores. They liked it but wanted a guarantee that we would put it on TV for 13 weeks (approximately $150,000-$275,000 worth of commercials).” TV advertising was becoming the norm, but was impossible for Marks and Dinhofer to agree to Woolworth’s deal; it was too expensive and too risky for them to chance a failure. After that, Marks told Dinhofer there was no further interest from retailers. Marks moved on and partnered with another man named Herman Kesler.

In 1969, Dinhofer met James R. Becker at Lakeside. Becker would eventually become Lakeside’s president and go on to help pioneer global licensing as we know it today. But at the time, Becker was a vice president and still relatively new at Lakeside. Through Becker’s recounting, Dinhofer came to learn how Lakeside picked up Barrel of Monkeys from Kesler and Marks. In 1964, Kesler called Zelman Levine, the chairman and president of Lakeside Toys, and set a November meeting in New York City. At the meeting were Levine, Becker and Lakeside’s soon-to-be national sales manager, Stanley Harfenist (Harfenist was trying to bring the Gumby toy line to Lakeside, which he eventually did in February 1965. Harfenist then went on to become Lakeside’s general manager.)

Becker told Dinhofer that Kesler walked into Levine’s room and just as Marks had done with his links at Dinhofer’s, Kessler uncupped his hands, dropped the monkeys onto a table, and started to link them together. Becker also said that the phrase “more fun than a barrel of monkeys” was brought up at that meeting by Becker himself. Zelman Levine immediately approved the item, and Zelman took all the samples back with him to Minneapolis.

Dinhofer’s legal documents show Kesler and Marks signed an agreement with Lakeside on Jan. 29, 1965. Dinhofer also has royalty statements showing gross sales beginning in the first quarter of 1965. He speculates that if Lakeside used his original mold, that would explain how the toy got to market so fast after contracts being signed. Lakeside also used similar packaging to their already successful Pick-Up-Sticks game, which probably sped up the release process. Dinhofer’s news clippings show that that by April of 1967, Barrel of Monkeys was No. 2 on Toy and Hobby World magazine’s “Toy Hit Parade” chart. Coincidentally, at No. 3, was BOM’s future Toy Story co-star and eventual Hasbro-brand mate, listed simply as Potato Head.

Today BOM is part of Milton Bradley under the Hasbro umbrella. As one of Time magazine’s “All-Time 100 Greatest Toys,” (2011) prepares to turn 50, Dinhofer can’t help but reflect. Taking it all in, he shares: “I had a lot of talent. Too bad it took me 50 years to realize it.”

But thanks to Dinhofer and many other talented people, Barrel of Monkeys has successfully run without batteries for almost half a century. Why is it so successful? Is it the barrel, the monkeys or the links? Maybe it’s the game’s simplicity? It certainly doesn’t hurt that it brings a smile for under $10. Quite possibly, it was just a perfect storm of ideas, people, timing and luck.

Whatever the reason for BOM’s longevity, after hearing Dinhofer’s recounting, one can’t help but imagine a big 50th bash with monkeys swinging from chandeliers, barrels of champagne flowing, and Dinhofer photoBOMbing us all. At the very least, we can raise a glass and toast to him and all who put those monkeys in a barrel, and those barrels into tiny happy hands. And when Milton raises his glass, may he be beside his favorite links – his family, his children, his great-grandchildren, and his great-great-grandchildren, because, truly, what could be more fun than that?

Tracy Leshay 
is the granddaughter of Milton Dinhofer.


ADDITIONAL IMAGES OF NOTE


Before Lakeside picked up Barrel of Monkeys, the game was called Chimp to Chimp. Photo by the author

Before Lakeside picked up Barrel of Monkeys, the game was called Chimp to Chimp. Photo by the author

These are the original links Marks brought to Dinhofer. With them are Dinhofer's original drawings that the links inspired him to create. Photo by the author

These are the original links Marks brought to Dinhofer. With them are Dinhofer’s original drawings that the links inspired him to create. Photo by the author

Dinhofer's Sip-n-See straw sold over 5 million pieces. Photo by the author

Dinhofer’s Sip-n-See straw sold over 5 million pieces. Photo by the author

Leading toys from the April 3, 1967 ‘Toy and Hobby World’ magazine. Photo by the author

Leading toys from the April 3, 1967 ‘Toy and Hobby World’ magazine. Photo by the author

Barrel of Monkeys inventor Milton Dinhofer. Photo submitted

Barrel of Monkeys inventor Milton Dinhofer. Photo submitted

Covers of leading magazines featured the toy space helmet designed by Dinhofer. Photo by the author

Covers of leading magazines featured the toy space helmet designed by Dinhofer. Photo by the author

This colorful low vase in the murrine romane technique is one of the highlights of ‘Venetian Glass by Carlo Scarpa: The Venini Company, 1932-1947’ at the Metropolitan Museum of Art through March 2. A similar vase was exhibited at the Venice Biennale in 1936. Private collection. Photo courtesy Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Feature: Carlo Scarpa’s architectural approach to glassmaking

This colorful low vase in the murrine romane technique is one of the highlights of ‘Venetian Glass by Carlo Scarpa: The Venini Company, 1932-1947’ at the Metropolitan Museum of Art through March 2. A similar vase was exhibited at the Venice Biennale in 1936. Private collection. Photo courtesy Metropolitan Museum of Art.

This colorful low vase in the murrine romane technique is one of the highlights of ‘Venetian Glass by Carlo Scarpa: The Venini Company, 1932-1947’ at the Metropolitan Museum of Art through March 2. A similar vase was exhibited at the Venice Biennale in 1936. Private collection. Photo courtesy Metropolitan Museum of Art.

NEW YORK – “Venetian Glass by Carlo Scarpa: The Venini Company, 1932-1947,” the current exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, is accompanied by a comprehensive catalog filled with new research. The show and scholarship provide a treasure trove of valuable information for collectors of 20th century glass. As examples of Scarpa’s glass appear at auction this year, buyers will have a greater appreciation of the complex process involved in taking the designs from drawings to completed works.

Born in Venice, Carlo Scarpa (1906-1978) falls into that long tradition of architects who ventured at times into designing furniture and decorative arts for interior settings; fellow countryman Gio Ponti (1891-1979) and American Frank Lloyd Wright (1867-1959) are other good examples. While Scarpa continued to practice architecture – most surviving projects are in and around the city where he worked – it is his 13-year collaboration with Murano glassmaker Paolo Venini that is celebrated in the exhibition.

Sheena Wagstaff, the MMA head of Modern and Contemporary Art, said: “We have the great fortune of partnering with the prestigious museum Le Stanze del Vetro to take up a once-in-a lifetime opportunity to bring to New York glass works of extraordinarily high caliber, that have never before been seen in any American museum. Visitors will encounter beautiful, translucent, and ethereal glass vessels, created from Scarpa’s radical pushing and expanding of glass-blowing techniques to their absolute limit.”

Viewers visiting the show of nearly 300 works will be dazzled by the vivid colors and intrigued by the variety of forms and textures that sprang from Scarpa’s architectural approach to glassmaking. There is no substitute for the visual impact of all that beauty. In a review, the New York Times suggested, “If you are open to it, this exhibition can radically reshape your ideas about form, beauty, originality and art for art’s sake.”

The exhibition was adapted from an earlier one at Le Stanze del Vetro, a gallery in Venice devoted to the study of modern glassmaking, and continues in New York until March 2. As an added bonus, the Metropolitan has displayed nearby works from Europe and Asia that influenced Scarpa’s designs, such as ancient Roman mosaic glass and Chinese porcelain vases.

Collectors, however, will consider the massive and highly detailed catalog the gift that keeps on giving, because in its pages editor and exhibition curator Marino Barovier and his panel of scholars explain why and how each piece was created. Many individual catalog entries are accompanied by Scarpa’s original design drawings. The glass exhibits are grouped into over two dozen technical groups with descriptive Italian names such as Pennellate – brushstrokes. This profusion of decorative methods is further testimony to the architect’s prolific creativity. While some styles come up often at auctions and shows, pieces in less well-known categories are true eye-openers.

Most familiar to collectors will be the vases in the 1938 Rigati (striped) and 1940 Tessuti (woven) techniques, both of which employed multicolored glass rods. Corrosi 1936-1938 featured forms with a surface textured by emersion in acid. Some examples from this series are characterized by decorative relief attachments – sweeping ellipticals or button-like bugne or bosses. Less common is a 1940 group, Laccati neri e rossi, which imitates the black and red lacquer of Chinese objects.

The catalog presents revealing biographical information on Scarpa’s career including an opening essay by MMA Curator Nicholas Cullinan, who helped organize the exhibition. “The Wholeness of Inseparable Elements: Clarity and Form in the Work of Carlo Scarpa” orients the glass creations within the architect’s entire body of work. The curator points out how difficult life was for artists during the rise of Fascism in Italy: “The fact that Scarpa was able to advance his bold ideas in architecture and design without the sponsorship of Benito Mussolini’s regime is a remarkable accomplishment that should not be overlooked.”

After World War II, Scarpa focused on the task of reconstruction. Cullinan writes, “During the remarkable postwar period of renewal and restoration in Italy Scarpa’s extraordinary architectural career blossomed.”

Specializing in 20th century design, Wright Auctions is unique in offering annual sales dedicated to Italian Glass, and Scarpa’s works have been an important component. As one catalog entry noted, “ … perhaps more than any other glass designer of his time, Scarpa created pieces that were both shockingly modern and of enduring classical beauty.” As can be seen from the accompanying illustrations, the June 2013 auction included rare examples made during the architect’s years at Venini which realized exceptional prices, and the upcoming sale on May 20, 2014 will offer more lots designed by Scarpa.

In a recent interview, President Richard Wright said, “We’ve been most active in that market. Last year’s sale had some exceptional Scarpa pieces, and we’ll have our third stand-alone glass auction in May.” Prices in 2013 ranged from a simple mezza filagrana bowl at $2,750 to a highly desirable pennelate vase that brought an impressive $74,500.

Based in Chicago, Wright has added gallery space and consignment offices in the historic Parke-Bernet building on Madison Avenue in New York City. After visiting the Scarpa show at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the auctioneer said, “The exhibition is a tour de force – it’s really impressive. There are so many exhibits that I really respond to, including some very rare mosaic pieces that are truly experimental. In the Met show, they show Roman mosaic glass from their collection nearby Scarpa’s versions, variations and inventions.”

Wright continued, “He also made Chinese- inspired vessels which are sublime. When they’re at their best, they have all the beauty of perfect Chinese porcelain – form and color and proportion, all in harmony. That speaks to his talent – the fact that he can work in such a range of styles and do so successfully. He had an ability to absorb all of these ancient techniques of glassmaking and make them relevant in the 20th century. He’s a big part of the reawakening of that craft movement. He trained as an architect and he had a wonderful sense of proportion and incredible sensitivity to materials.”

For more information about the past and future sales of Italian glass at Wright, go to www.wright20.com to view the online catalogs.


ADDITIONAL IMAGES OF NOTE


This colorful low vase in the murrine romane technique is one of the highlights of ‘Venetian Glass by Carlo Scarpa: The Venini Company, 1932-1947’ at the Metropolitan Museum of Art through March 2. A similar vase was exhibited at the Venice Biennale in 1936. Private collection. Photo courtesy Metropolitan Museum of Art.

This colorful low vase in the murrine romane technique is one of the highlights of ‘Venetian Glass by Carlo Scarpa: The Venini Company, 1932-1947’ at the Metropolitan Museum of Art through March 2. A similar vase was exhibited at the Venice Biennale in 1936. Private collection. Photo courtesy Metropolitan Museum of Art.

From 1932 to 1947, Carlo Scarpa (1906-1978) served as artistic director at the Venini Glassworks, where he developed innovative techniques that reinvigorated Venetian glassmaking. Scarpa (right) is shown with glassmaker Arturo Biasutto at the factory in an archival photo from 1943. Archivio Storico Luce. Photo courtesy Metropolitan Museum of Art.

From 1932 to 1947, Carlo Scarpa (1906-1978) served as artistic director at the Venini Glassworks, where he developed innovative techniques that reinvigorated Venetian glassmaking. Scarpa (right) is shown with glassmaker Arturo Biasutto at the factory in an archival photo from 1943. Archivio Storico Luce. Photo courtesy Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Among his works with relief decoration, Scarpa designed a series featuring swirling elliptical patterns and an iridized surface. A beautiful deep blue rilievi vase, circa 1935, doubled its high estimate to sell for $81,700 in Wright’s Italian Glass auction in June 2012. Courtesy Wright Auctions.ç

Among his works with relief decoration, Scarpa designed a series featuring swirling elliptical patterns and an iridized surface. A beautiful deep blue rilievi vase, circa 1935, doubled its high estimate to sell for $81,700 in Wright’s Italian Glass auction in June 2012. Courtesy Wright Auctions.

While the world was at war in 1942, Scarpa and Venini produced a rare series of glass forms that look like they were decorated with brushstrokes or Pennellate of color. Collectors pay a premium for examples of this technique; this small vase sold for $74,500 in June 2013. Courtesy Wright Auctions.

While the world was at war in 1942, Scarpa and Venini produced a rare series of glass forms that look like they were decorated with brushstrokes or Pennellate of color. Collectors pay a premium for examples of this technique; this small vase sold for $74,500 in June 2013. Courtesy Wright Auctions.

Glass in the a fili technique, decorated with horizontal thread-like colored bands, was first exhibited in Venice in 1940. This narrow-necked vase, almost 9 inches high, brought $41,250 at auction in 2013. Courtesy Wright Auctions.

Glass in the a fili technique, decorated with horizontal thread-like colored bands, was first exhibited in Venice in 1940. This narrow-necked vase, almost 9 inches high, brought $41,250 at auction in 2013. Courtesy Wright Auctions.

The Scarpa-Venini collaboration also produced glass designs for chandeliers and lamps. A pair of 1936 Diamonte table lamps, model 9034, realized $18,750 at auction in April 2013. Courtesy Wright Auctions.

The Scarpa-Venini collaboration also produced glass designs for chandeliers and lamps. A pair of 1936 Diamonte table lamps, model 9034, realized $18,750 at auction in April 2013. Courtesy Wright Auctions.

This deep green vase with an iridized corroso surface is decorated with bugne or bosses in relief. The circa 1935 work, signed inside the lip ‘Venini Murano,’ sold for $30,000 last year in Chicago. Courtesy Wright Auctions.

This deep green vase with an iridized corroso surface is decorated with bugne or bosses in relief. The circa 1935 work, signed inside the lip ‘Venini Murano,’ sold for $30,000 last year in Chicago. Courtesy Wright Auctions.

Architect Carlo Scarpa collaborated with fellow architect/designer Marcel Breuer on the marble Delfi table, produced as part of Simon Gavina’s Ultrarazionale collection in 1968. An example sold for $23,750 in 2012. Courtesy Wright Auctions.

Architect Carlo Scarpa collaborated with fellow architect/designer Marcel Breuer on the marble Delfi table, produced as part of Simon Gavina’s Ultrarazionale collection in 1968. An example sold for $23,750 in 2012. Courtesy Wright Auctions.

Clockwise from top left: Vivid greenish-blue radiant cut .92 carat diamond, vivid yellowish-green 1.01 carat diamond, vivid purple .81 carat diamond, rare fancy red diamond. All images by Zach Colodner, courtesy Optimum Diamonds.

Chasing rainbows: The intense competition for colored diamonds

Clockwise from top left: Vivid greenish-blue radiant cut .92 carat diamond, vivid yellowish-green 1.01 carat diamond, vivid purple .81 carat diamond, rare fancy red diamond. All images by Zach Colodner, courtesy Optimum Diamonds.

Clockwise from top left: Vivid greenish-blue radiant cut .92 carat diamond, vivid yellowish-green 1.01 carat diamond, vivid purple .81 carat diamond, rare fancy red diamond. All images by Zach Colodner, courtesy Optimum Diamonds.

SAN FRANCISCO – Sotheby’s in Geneva made auction history last month when it sold the Pink Star – a 59.60-carat oval cut pink diamond – for $83,187,381, a world auction record for any diamond (or gemstone or jewel, for that matter). Sotheby’s David Bennett called the stone “a true masterpiece of nature.” Four bidders competed for the stone, the largest internally flawless, fancy vivid pink diamond ever to be certified.

If you have ever looked at a fuschia wildflower and marveled at its impossibly bright color, consider the spectrum of naturally occurring colored diamonds: from yellows and browns — the most common colors — to pink and blue, to deep greens, purples and reds—the most rare. While colored diamonds are usually muted in tone, some rare specimens are so candy-vivid you can’t believe they are not treated. There is even a diamond known as a “chameleon” that, as the name suggests, actually changes color.

 

For 20 years, before retiring recently to work in the auction business, Josh Cohn was a colored-diamonds specialist with the Gemological Institute of America, the non-profit organization that sets the standard for grading gemstones. At GIA, Cohn would examine stones to grade them and determine whether their color occurred naturally or synthetically. The GIA analysis of colored diamonds encompasses aspects of clarity, color and place of origin for certification. Treated stones are also graded. (The Institute’s website is a superbly illustrated source of information about, and images of, colored diamonds: http://www.gia.edu.)

 

“Some of the naturally occurring colors can look highly artificial, and some treated diamonds have more subtle colors; without advanced testing, you can’t tell if stones have been treated,” says Cohn.

 

Causes and Origins

 

Of the known causes in natural colored diamonds, color can be influenced by radiation or trace elements, such as nitrogen or boron, interacting with the crystal during its development. Artificial treatment processes including radiation and high temperature /high pressure (hpht) are used to quickly replicate the color effects that take tens of millions of years to come about naturally. Again, cautions Josh Cohn, you can’t discern treated stones with the naked eye or even through a loupe. The best way to guarantee the diamond you are buying is through a report from an accredited laboratory, such as GIA.

 

Different diamond colors are associated with different mine locations throughout the world. The famous Hope blue diamond is thought to have been mined in India at the Kollur mine some three centuries ago. Mr. Cohn, who now works as a consultant for Morphy’s auction house in Pennsylvania, says developments in mining technology have more recently opened deposits of colored diamonds, such as the deep pinks from the Argyle mines and the bright yellows found in the Ellendale Mines, both olocated in Western Australia. The Pink Star/Dream was mined in 1999 by De Beers in Africa.

 

“The Golconda mines in Southern India were once known as the best source for pink diamonds, but other mines have come to the fore.” said Cohn.

 

Auction Market

 

The market for colored diamonds has been extremely strong over the past year, culminating with the record-setting sales of November. One day before Sotheby’s sold the Pink Star/Dream, Christie’s offered a fancy-vivid orange diamond, at 14.82 carats the largest known to exist. The pear-shape orange diamond (also known as a “fire diamond”) eclipsed its estimate of $17/20 million to fetch $35.5 million at Christie’ in Geneva.

In April of this year, the pink Princie diamond, found centuries ago in the Golconda mines of southern India, was bought by a telephone bidder at Christies in New York, for $39.3 million. The diamond’s provenance included ownership by the super-wealthy royal family of Hyderabad.

Colored diamonds in the middle range also have elicited intense bidding this year: at Leslie Hindman Auctioneers, in April, a 7.85-carat vivid fancy yellow diamond ring with an antique cushion cut outstripped its estimate of $150,000-$200,000 to realize $542,500.

Colored Diamonds in Museums

 

Those who wish to see colored diamonds up close have several options. The storied Hope Diamond, on display at the Smithsonian’s Harry Winston gallery (part of the enormous collection of gems and minerals that is part of the institution’s Natural History Museum) is probably the most famous colored diamond of all. It’s a 42.5-carat blue diamond whose popular history includes, according to the museum’s online catalog: “a stint in the French crown jewels, a daring theft, two re-cuttings, an English king, a wealthy American socialite, a bit of mystery and a curse or two.”

The DeYoung Red Diamond, at 5.03 carats, is one of the largest natural fancy dark red diamonds known. It was gifted to the Smithsonian by a Boston jeweler who acquired the rare and extremely valuable stone as part of a collection of estate jewelry, wherein it was wrongly identified as a garnet.

Another amazing blue diamond on display at the Smithsonian is called the Blue Heart, a heart-shape 30.62 carat blue diamond taken from a South African mine in1908, as a rough stone of 100.5 carats.

In San Francisco at The De Young Museum, an exhibition of Bulgari jewelry on display through February 2014 includes some beautiful examples of fancy yellow diamonds. A trio of tremblant brooches, so-named because of the setting that allows some of the diamonds to tremble slightly, thus increasing their radiance, are modeled on sprays of flowers. A beautiful single-flower brooch has delicate, curling petals, shaded by pave diamonds that range from white, to pale yellow, to brighter yellow at the tips.

 

A Colorful Future for Diamonds

 

The momentum for large colored diamonds offered at auction seems undiminished. Sotheby’s December sale includes a 51.75 fancy vivid yellow cut-cornered square diamond ring, estimated at $2.5/3.5 million. No doubt we will see other examples as the important winter and spring sales unfold.

Search for colored diamonds in upcoming auctions at www.LiveAuctioneers.com.


ADDITIONAL IMAGES OF NOTE


The Orange: a fancy vivid orange diamond of 14.82 carats sold at Christies Geneva on November 12, 2013 for $36 million against a pre-sale estimate $17/20 million. Image courtesy Denis Hayoun Diode SA Geneva

The Orange: a fancy vivid orange diamond of 14.82 carats sold at Christies Geneva on November 12, 2013 for $36 million against a pre-sale estimate $17/20 million. Image courtesy Denis Hayoun Diode SA Geneva

A vivid greenish-blue radiant-cut .92 carat diamond. Zach Colodner image, courtesy Optimum Diamonds

A vivid greenish-blue radiant-cut .92 carat diamond. Zach Colodner image, courtesy Optimum Diamonds

A vivid yellowish-green 1.01 carat diamond. Zach Colodner image, courtesy Optimum Diamonds

A vivid yellowish-green 1.01 carat diamond. Zach Colodner image, courtesy Optimum Diamonds

A vivid purple .81 carat diamond. Zach Colodner image, courtesy Optimum Diamonds

A vivid purple .81 carat diamond. Zach Colodner image, courtesy Optimum Diamonds

A rare fancy red diamond. Zach Colodner image, courtesy Optimum Diamonds

A rare fancy red diamond. Zach Colodner image, courtesy Optimum Diamonds

Bulgari flower brooch, 1968; platinum, emerald, white and yellow diamonds. Image courtesy FAMSF

Bulgari flower brooch, 1968; platinum, emerald, white and yellow diamonds. Image courtesy FAMSF

A hand-colored albumen print mounted on card shows Lt. William Miller Owen and his brother Pvt. Edward Owen as they appeared in their Confederate uniforms around 1861 at the beginning of the Civil War. Both rose in rank during the conflict. The pair sat for the photograph in New Orleans at Guay's Temple of Art, a gallery on Poydras Street. With its strong local appeal, the image brought $7,050 at the Neal Auction Co. in 2007. Courtesy Neal Auction.

American Civil War photographs: art and history

A hand-colored albumen print mounted on card shows Lt. William Miller Owen and his brother Pvt. Edward Owen as they appeared in their Confederate uniforms around 1861 at the beginning of the Civil War. Both rose in rank during the conflict. The pair sat for the photograph in New Orleans at Guay's Temple of Art, a gallery on Poydras Street. With its strong local appeal, the image brought $7,050 at the Neal Auction Co. in 2007. Courtesy Neal Auction.

A hand-colored albumen print mounted on card shows Lt. William Miller Owen and his brother Pvt. Edward Owen as they appeared in their Confederate uniforms around 1861 at the beginning of the Civil War. Both rose in rank during the conflict. The pair sat for the photograph in New Orleans at Guay’s Temple of Art, a gallery on Poydras Street. With its strong local appeal, the image brought $7,050 at the Neal Auction Co. in 2007. Courtesy Neal Auction.

The rapid development of affordable photographic techniques in the mid-19th century was a technological innovation that affected every level of society. By the time of the American Civil War, photographs had an impact on family relations, battlefield strategy and national politics. Scenes of conflict—once portrayed as heroic in paintings and drawings—were now revealed with tragic realism, and even 150 years later, the viewer cannot help but be moved by the images.

Historians and collectors have a valuable new resource, the scholarly catalog Photography and the American Civil War, which accompanies an exhibition of the same name organized by the Metropolitan Museum of Art. After an initial run in New York, which will end Sept. 2, the show will travel to the Gibbes Museum of Art in Charleston, S.C., Sept. 27 to Jan. 5 and the New Orleans Museum of Art, Jan. 31 to May 4, 2014. The exhibition was timed to coincide with sesquicentennial of the Battle of Gettysburg, a turning point in the war, which took place July 1-3, 1863.

In the volume, Jeff L. Rosenheim, the MMA’s curator in charge in the Department of Photographs, writes that the attack on Fort Sumter on April 12, 1861 spurred the popularity of family photos: “Lincoln’s order for militia to protect and preserve the United States government was heeded across the North, and was a boon to photographers from Massachusetts to Michigan. Similarly, in the South it was a catalyst for Confederate militiamen to seek their portraits before heading off to serve their equally new leader, Jefferson Davis. The result of this military activity was the creation of an unparalleled mass national photographic portrait of men and women of all means, of large and small families, and of groups of soldiers.”

Soldiers carried photographs of wives and sweethearts into battle, while the women who waited back home had an image of their absent warrior nearby. Most common images were tintypes printed on sheet metal or ambrotypes printed on glass; both were often mounted in decorative cases with embossed borders. Small carte de visite prints on paper were another easy way to carry a photo. Women and men often carried lockets with a cherished image inside. People began to share photos when they met, much as we do today.

Rosenheim explains, “It was a matter of practicalities more than aesthetics. If a soldier had the cash and wanted only a single picture, he paid for an ambrotype or a tintype and within a few minutes departed the studio, near camp or in town, with a handsome cased image; if he wanted multiple examples of his portrait, or had lost most of his cash the night before in the last hand of poker, he bought a carte de visite or a dozen copies thereof. If he chose the carte de visite, he had to return the picture gallery later in the day, or on the next day, since the photographer had to print the negative in the sun and then mount the miniature portrait on card stock. The next stop for the soldier often was the post office.”

Soldiers put on a brave face for these images; they look young, alive, and ready to fight. Almost all are in blue or gray uniforms, some obviously homemade. Whether they sit or stand at attention, many display weapons—rifles, small arms, swords and even large knives.

The Civil War also saw the broad use of field photography at major battle sites, which illustrated what type of damage these armaments could do. Stark images of the dead and wounded gave families back home an accurate view of the results of modern warfare, which had an effect on political sentiment on both sides of the conflict.

Perhaps the best-known name in Civil War photography is Mathew Brady (circa 1822-1896), who had opened a daguerreotype portrait studio on Broadway in New York City in 1844, when he was a young man. But Rosenheim notes, “By the time of the fall of Fort Sumter, Brady was less a photographer than an entrepreneur who managed what we would call today a picture agency, which operated much like the Associated Press. He hired the best photographers, worked all the picture outlets (newspapers and magazines), and hobnobbed with influential politicians and the social elite.” Many of the historic images he exhibited in 1862—and took credit for—had actually been taken by Alexander Gardner (1821-1882), one of his team of photographers, who eventually left Brady to establish his own studio.

Photography and the American Civil War is illustrated with over 250 images from the Metropolitan’s extensive holdings and other public and private collections. Rosenheim’s research provides new information on the history of the photographic process, the photographers who labored to chronicle the war, and the effect their images had on American life. As the exhibition travels and more collectors have access to the catalog, this information will prove valuable to buyers and sellers in the auction market who focus on material from the “War between the States.”

In many cases, Civil War portrait photographs have been carefully preserved in family albums and come to auction complete with the names of the sitters and their regiments. They may also be attached to archives of letters or military records, a fortunate circumstance that increases their value for historians. Certain auction houses specialize in sales that focus on historical and political memorabilia.

Cowan’s Auctions in Cincinnati, Ohio, presents American History sales several times a year, which include vintage photography. The interest in history and archaeology comes naturally to founder Wes Cowan, who holds a Ph.D. in anthropology, a subject that he taught at Ohio State University. Cowan grew up in an antique-oriented household and had a strong interest in early photography, particularly stereoscopic views.

Katie Horstman, director of American history at Cowan’s, was in charge of the extremely successful American History auction this June. Highlights included an albumen print of Abraham Lincoln with Gen. George B. McClellan and his staff on the battlefield of Antietam in October 1862, taken by Alexander Gardner, which brought $15,275, and a print titled “General R.E. Lee and Staff” made by Matthew Brady’s Washington, D.C., firm in 1865, which sold for $19,975.

“There were over 150 lots of Civil War photography,” notes Horstman. “Some of our consignors are individual private collectors, who have been accumulating things over a long period of time. The first part of the June sale consisted of carte de visite images of Civil War soldiers, primarily out of Maine, and many of those in this sale were involved in the Battle of Gettysburg in some way.” These came from the estate of a single collector who focused on Maine regiments. Other consignments for the history sale come from institutions which are deaccessioning items or from dealers’ inventories.

Horstman continues, “The buyers range from private collectors to dealers, some of whom may be buying for institutions. Our next live American History Auction will take place on Nov. 15, 2013, and we are currently in the process of accepting consignments for the sale. It will feature early historic photography, with a focus on Civil War cased images and paper photographs.”

Tennessee is known as the Volunteer State, a claim that goes back to the Revolutionary War when the Overmountain Men from the Appalachians fought in the Battle of Kings Mountain. At Case Auctions in Knoxville, images of soldiers with a local connection often bring a premium. President John Case says, “We get excellent prices for Tennessee-related items; they bring more than I would have expected. When we get them, I think folks recognize the rarity, and the lots bring pretty strong bidding from institutions and private collectors.”

Case continues, “An important sale that comes to mind is the McCammon Archive that sold for $10,400 (est. $4,000-$5,000). It had his tintype image accompanied by his letters.” The letters, which were written by Union Capt. Oliver Pinkney McCammon to his future wife, A.E. McCall, of Blount County, Tenn., over the course of the war, document important military actions, political concerns and general conditions in the camps.

Citing an important lot sold in 2011, Case says, “We also had a tintype of Sirenius Mort, who was a Union lieutenant and came from a family of East Tennessee potters. That went to an institution for $5,290 (est. $700-$1,000)—but that was because we knew who he was and he was also a potter. His family was split in its loyalties; his other brothers went and fought for the Confederacy. Union images tend to bring as much sometimes as the Confederate ones because we were so pro-Union in East Tennessee.”

He emphasizes that families are willing to part with such photographs and accompanying material because they know they will be documented in the catalog and become available to historians. Case says, “I have a lot of ambrotype Confederate soldiers coming up in January.” Sometimes the smallest details add to the value, as was the case with one lot destined for that sale: “When you looked at the image of the soldier with a magnifying glass, you could see that he had a star on his buckle. That changed everything because that meant he was from Mississippi and that commands double.”

Jeff Rosenheim wrote an article about the landmark exhibition he organized, “Photography and the American Civil War,” in the March/April 2013 issue of The Magazine Antiques, which states why these portraits are so important: “The show examines the role of the camera during a cataclysmic period in American history and attempts, as much as is possible, to effect a balance between North and South, and between what we know and what we do not. Formal field portraits of well-dressed officers are tempered by more intimate likenesses of common soldiers, Rebels and Yankees, in whose eyes and body language rest much of the pathos of the war.”

 


ADDITIONAL IMAGES OF NOTE


A hand-colored albumen print mounted on card shows Lt. William Miller Owen and his brother Pvt. Edward Owen as they appeared in their Confederate uniforms around 1861 at the beginning of the Civil War. Both rose in rank during the conflict. The pair sat for the photograph in New Orleans at Guay's Temple of Art, a gallery on Poydras Street. With its strong local appeal, the image brought $7,050 at the Neal Auction Co. in 2007. Courtesy Neal Auction.

 

A hand-colored albumen print mounted on card shows Lt. William Miller Owen and his brother Pvt. Edward Owen as they appeared in their Confederate uniforms around 1861 at the beginning of the Civil War. Both rose in rank during the conflict. The pair sat for the photograph in New Orleans at Guay’s Temple of Art, a gallery on Poydras Street. With its strong local appeal, the image brought $7,050 at the Neal Auction Co. in 2007. Courtesy Neal Auction.

‘Photography and the American Civil War,’ a landmark exhibition organized by the Metropolitan Museum of Art, will travel to Charleston, S.C., and New Orleans. In this quarter-plate ambrotype with applied color, an unknown artist has photographed Capt. Charles A. and Sgt. John M. Hawkins of the Georgia Volunteer Infantry, 1861-1862. David Wynn Vaughan Collection; photo Jack Melton. Courtesy the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

‘Photography and the American Civil War,’ a landmark exhibition organized by the Metropolitan Museum of Art, will travel to Charleston, S.C., and New Orleans. In this quarter-plate ambrotype with applied color, an unknown artist has photographed Capt. Charles A. and Sgt. John M. Hawkins of the Georgia Volunteer Infantry, 1861-1862. David Wynn Vaughan Collection; photo Jack Melton. Courtesy the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

This large albumen print titled ‘General R.E. Lee and Staff’ was made by Matthew Brady’s firm in 1865, not long after Appomattox. A “holy grail” for Confederate image collectors, the photograph sold for $19,975 at Cowan’s in June. Courtesy Cowan’s Auctions Inc.

 

This large albumen print titled ‘General R.E. Lee and Staff’ was made by Matthew Brady’s firm in 1865, not long after Appomattox. A “holy grail” for Confederate image collectors, the photograph sold for $19,975 at Cowan’s in June. Courtesy Cowan’s Auctions Inc.

The four young Kentucky cavalrymen armed with sabers paid $4 for this half-plate ruby ambrotype before they went to war. Their names are written in pencil in the case. The well-preserved image brought $15,275 at a Cowan’s auction in 2009. Courtesy Cowan’s Auctions Inc.

 

The four young Kentucky cavalrymen armed with sabers paid $4 for this half-plate ruby ambrotype before they went to war. Their names are written in pencil in the case. The well-preserved image brought $15,275 at a Cowan’s auction in 2009. Courtesy Cowan’s Auctions Inc.

This Civil War tintype of Union soldier Sirenius M. Mort had extra value because the sitter was a member of the important Mort pottery family of Jefferson County, Tenn. The lot sold for $5,290 in 2011 at Case Auctions. As was often the case at the period, the photograph was mounted in an attractive embossed gutta-percha case for home display. Courtesy Case Auctions.

 

This Civil War tintype of Union soldier Sirenius M. Mort had extra value because the sitter was a member of the important Mort pottery family of Jefferson County, Tenn. The lot sold for $5,290 in 2011 at Case Auctions. As was often the case at the period, the photograph was mounted in an attractive embossed gutta-percha case for home display. Courtesy Case Auctions.

Civil War photographs often descend in the family of the subject and may be attached to important historical material. This locket with circular tintype of Capt. Oliver Pinkney McCammon (OPM) of the 3rd East Tennessee Cavalry was part of over 120 items, mostly letters of correspondence between Capt. Pinkney and his future wife during the war years of 1861-1865. The complete archive brought $10,440 in June 2012 at Case Auctions in Knoxville. Courtesy Case Auctions.

 

Civil War photographs often descend in the family of the subject and may be attached to important historical material. This locket with circular tintype of Capt. Oliver Pinkney McCammon (OPM) of the 3rd East Tennessee Cavalry was part of over 120 items, mostly letters of correspondence between Capt. Pinkney and his future wife during the war years of 1861-1865. The complete archive brought $10,440 in June 2012 at Case Auctions in Knoxville. Courtesy Case Auctions.

Today, this pocket globe from the Holbrook Apparatus Manufacturing Co. of Wethersfield, Conn., 1830–59, might be called a learning toy. To a young student in the 19th century, the three-dimensional paper and wood map was a prized possession that extended his knowledge of the world. Image courtesy Winterthur Museum; Bequest of Henry Francis du Pont.

Explorers, cartographers put America on the map

Today, this pocket globe from the Holbrook Apparatus Manufacturing Co. of  Wethersfield, Conn., 1830–59, might be called a learning toy. To a young student in the 19th century, the three-dimensional paper and wood map was a prized possession that extended his knowledge of the world. Image courtesy Winterthur Museum; Bequest of Henry Francis du Pont.

Today, this pocket globe from the Holbrook Apparatus Manufacturing Co. of Wethersfield, Conn., 1830–59, might be called a learning toy. To a young student in the 19th century, the three-dimensional paper and wood map was a prized possession that extended his knowledge of the world. Image courtesy Winterthur Museum; Bequest of Henry Francis du Pont.

WINTERTHUR, Del. – Before global positioning satellites photographed the earth from outer space, paper maps were the cutting-edge technology that connected man with the world around him. What lies beyond the river? How do I get to the next settlement? Where does one country end and another begin?

To find the answers, explorers undertook perilous journeys through mountains and across oceans, taking measurements and drawing physical contours. This painstakingly assembled data, once analyzed, ensured that ever more accurate maps could be published and distributed.

“Common Destinations: Maps in the American Experience,” an exhibition running through Jan. 5 at Winterthur in Delaware, brings together more than 100 rarely seen exhibits dating from the 1750s to the 1870s. The maps and objects, drawn from the permanent collections of the famous museum and its research library, illustrate how cartography influenced daily life on this continent.

The exhibition was conceived and curated by Dr. Martin Bruckner, associate professor in English and American literature at the University of Delaware, who also has secondary appointment in the Center for Material Culture Studies. He is the author of The Geographic Revolution in Early America: Maps, Literacy, and National Identity (UNCP, 2006).

He stated, “Then, as today, American took pride in building unity out of diversity, and maps helped a fledgling nation forge common bonds and foster good citizenship. Visitors will see how men used maps at home and abroad; how women and children engaged with maps to nurture family ties; and how maps became the social glue that would bind a people of strangers into a community during times of change and development.”

In a painting by Edward Savage (1761-1817) which is closely tied to the exhibition theme, George Washington and his family examine the new plan for a national capital city. In 1791, the president had asked French-born architect Pierre Charles L’Enfant (1754-1825) to submit a grand design, and his unusual grid plan with diagonal avenues intersecting north-south and east-west streets at circles and plazas is very much in evidence in the layout of modern Washington. Today the work would be done with a computer program, back then the plans were laboriously drawn by hand using drafting instruments.

One of the themes explored in the show is how mapmakers were working out a balance between artistic elements—the decorative cartouches and flourishes—and the developing interest in even greater scientific accuracy in the content of the maps. Serious map collectors have been among the most enthusiastic visitors since the exhibition first opened in April.

Many more will come later this year for a scholarly conference at Winterthur on Oct. 11-12 featuring presentations by distinguished academics and a series of workshops with curators and conservators. By fall, “Common Destinations” also will be available as an online exhibition at www.winterthur.org, so that many more people have access to the material.

Catharine Dann Roeber, Winterthur curatorial fellow who worked with Dr. Bruckner on the exhibition, said, “There are wonderful maps in the show, but the emphasis is on how people interacted with maps and learned from them and incorporated them into their daily life. There are objects you would not normally see if you were just looking for the ‘greatest hits’ of American map-making.”

She continued, “One of the main things that Dr. Bruckner was trying to do was bring in the story of how maps were used and experienced by all types of Americans. So we have wonderful map samplers and one of the Westtown School needlework globes. We have paper maps that were made both by schoolgirls and schoolboys. There are ceramic objects that have images based on the cartouches from maps, so it’s really a multimedia exploration, not just the flat maps that people are used to seeing.”

She notes, “One of my favorite objects is a wonderful little pocket globe that was intended to be part of a kit for schoolchildren for learning geography. It’s called the Holbrook Apparatus. It’s a little globe that splits in half, so you have the world on the outside and a flat map on the inside.”

Some of the most recent objects in the exhibition come from the 1876 Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia, which revived public interest in American history and antique artifacts. Roeber says, “Philadelphia was an important center for map production. By the 19th century, a number of the printing houses were turning out maps in great numbers. At the Centennial Exposition, there were a number of these printing houses that were featuring maps for schools and institutions and town halls. We have some wonderful images of that.”

In the marketplace, rare maps can bring startling prices. Not long after the continent’s discovery, an early 16th century map commissioned from a group of scholars by the Duke of Lorraine first labeled our land mass “America,” a name derived from explorer Amerigo Vespucci (1454-1512). Christie’s referred to this as “The Million Dollar Map” when one of four known examples sold for more than that sum in 2005. The only extant large version of this map was acquired by the Library of Congress 10 years ago.

Marc Fagan, director of consignments, prints and maps at the Neal Auction Co. in New Orleans, is an expert on antique maps, particularly those of regional interest. From Texas to Florida, the young United States vied for territory with European powers. The great port city of New Orleans and the vast Louisiana territory were under both French and Spanish rule before being purchased in 1803. As sovereignty and physical borders constantly shifted, new maps had to be printed to reflect the changes.

Fireworks erupted on the floor at Neal’s annual Louisiana Purchase Auction in November 2009. Dating to 1858, a rare copy of Norman’s Chart of the Lower Mississippi River from Natchez to New Orleans after Marie Adrien Persac (American/Louisiana, 1827-1873) came up for sale with an estimate of $18,000/25,000. The map records the divisions of land along the river with owners’ names and features vignettes of New Orleans, Baton Rouge and plantations with a decorative border of cotton plant and sugar cane motifs. After spirited bidding, the important document was purchased for $316,000.

Fagan says, “That is one of the most famous maps regionally, and it is rare. In general, there are various reasons why people like maps. It might be the aesthetics, the rarity, the importance of them—whether they show something for the first time—and the condition. That map had it all. It was the first one to come up—no one knew when another one came up. It was aesthetically very pleasing. And two guys wanted it.”

Many of the historic maps sold at Neal’s emerge from old Southern collections. The expert explains, “A lot of times there will be several maps in a collection—two, three, four—that have been passed down. A man starts a collection and his family doesn’t want them for some reason. Or single maps will come out of a house. Whenever you have success for one thing, it draws consignors, particularly with the information available on the internet.” Potential consignors can easily find out the results for similar material in past sales, and they give the auction house a call.

Fagan is always on the hunt for historic maps from the Americas and Europe. He adds, “We’ve had globes, I love globes. We sold a good pair of English floor globes five years ago for about $75,000.” On his want list are early detailed county maps and city maps, which “are very difficult to come by.” Past catalogs can be viewed online at www.nealauction.com, and Neal sales are great destination auctions because of the food and entertainment possibilities nearby in the Garden District and French Quarter.


ADDITIONAL IMAGES OF NOTE


Today, this pocket globe from the Holbrook Apparatus Manufacturing Co. of  Wethersfield, Conn., 1830–59, might be called a learning toy. To a young student in the 19th century, the three-dimensional paper and wood map was a prized possession that extended his knowledge of the world. Image courtesy Winterthur Museum; Bequest of Henry Francis du Pont.

Today, this pocket globe from the Holbrook Apparatus Manufacturing Co. of Wethersfield, Conn., 1830–59, might be called a learning toy. To a young student in the 19th century, the three-dimensional paper and wood map was a prized possession that extended his knowledge of the world. Image courtesy Winterthur Museum; Bequest of Henry Francis du Pont.

The Washington family gathers round the new plan for a national capital city drawn up by Pierre L’Enfant. This painting by Edward Savage, the keynote image of the ‘Common Destinations’ exhibition, is a perfect illustration of the role maps played in American public and private life. Image courtesy Winterthur Museum; Bequest of Henry Francis du Pont.

The Washington family gathers round the new plan for a national capital city drawn up by Pierre L’Enfant. This painting by Edward Savage, the keynote image of the ‘Common Destinations’ exhibition, is a perfect illustration of the role maps played in American public and private life. Image courtesy Winterthur Museum; Bequest of Henry Francis du Pont.

This 1858 copy of ‘Norman's Chart of the Lower Mississippi River from Natchez to New Orleans’ after Marie Adrien Persac sold in New Orleans. The map shows divisions of land along the river with owners' names and is decorated with artistic vignettes of the region. Two dedicated bidders drove the price well beyond the modest $18,000-25,000 estimate to a spectacular $316,000. Image courtesy Neal Auction Co.

This 1858 copy of ‘Norman’s Chart of the Lower Mississippi River from Natchez to New Orleans’ after Marie Adrien Persac sold in New Orleans. The map shows divisions of land along the river with owners’ names and is decorated with artistic vignettes of the region. Two dedicated bidders drove the price well beyond the modest $18,000-25,000 estimate to a spectacular $316,000. Image courtesy Neal Auction Co.

Printed in the United States in 1825, this map shows the city and suburbs of New Orleans according to an 1815 survey conducted by Jacques Tanesse. City maps are sought after by collectors and historians, and this plan framed by vignettes of city buildings sold for $16,133 at Neal’s in 2011. Image courtesy Neal Auction Galleries.

Printed in the United States in 1825, this map shows the city and suburbs of New Orleans according to an 1815 survey conducted by Jacques Tanesse. City maps are sought after by collectors and historians, and this plan framed by vignettes of city buildings sold for $16,133 at Neal’s in 2011. Image courtesy Neal Auction Galleries.

This 1718 map by Guillaume de l’Isle, published in Paris, shows the full extent of the French territory of ‘La Louisiane’ bordering the cluster of American colonies on the East Coast. The important document brought $13,743 at Neal’s last November. Image courtesy Neal Auction Galleries.

This 1718 map by Guillaume de l’Isle, published in Paris, shows the full extent of the French territory of ‘La Louisiane’ bordering the cluster of American colonies on the East Coast. The important document brought $13,743 at Neal’s last November. Image courtesy Neal Auction Galleries.

Who owned what in North America looked very different when John Disturnell of New York published this ‘Mapa de los Estados Unidos de Mejico … ’ in 1847. The historic map brought $107,550 at Neal’s in 2011. The map was an important reference in negotiating the Treaty of Guadalupe-Hildalgo, which established the border between Texas and Mexico. Image courtesy Neal Auction Galleries.

Who owned what in North America looked very different when John Disturnell of New York published this ‘Mapa de los Estados Unidos de Mejico … ’ in 1847. The historic map brought $107,550 at Neal’s in 2011. The map was an important reference in negotiating the Treaty of Guadalupe-Hildalgo, which established the border between Texas and Mexico. Image courtesy Neal Auction Galleries.

After spending many hours stitching this circa 1815 sampler globe, young Ruth Wright a student in Westtown, Pa., would have known her geography. The sampler map is one of several in the Common Destinations exhibition at Winterthur. Image courtesy Winterthur Museum.

After spending many hours stitching this circa 1815 sampler globe, young Ruth Wright a student in Westtown, Pa., would have known her geography. The sampler map is one of several in the Common Destinations exhibition at Winterthur. Image courtesy Winterthur Museum.

Not long after the Revolutionary War, John Wallis in London published ‘The United States of America Laid Down From the Best Authorities, Agreeable to the Peace of 1783,’ a copy of which is on display in Winterthur’s current map exhibition. Image courtesy Winterthur Museum; Bequest of Henry Francis du Pont.

Not long after the Revolutionary War, John Wallis in London published ‘The United States of America Laid Down From the Best Authorities, Agreeable to the Peace of 1783,’ a copy of which is on display in Winterthur’s current map exhibition. Image courtesy Winterthur Museum; Bequest of Henry Francis du Pont.