Automata highlight Theriault’s Nov. 11 auction

MORRISTOWN, N.J. – Nearly 350 antique automata, plus music boxes, mechanical banks and a private doll collection, will be presented at auction on Nov. 11 by Theriault’s of Annapolis, Md. The auction coincides with a week of events for the Murtogh D. Guinness Collection of Automata and Mechanical Music at the local Morris Museum.

levitation.jpgHighlighting the sale is an early 20th-century piece by Phalibois known as “The Levitation Hypnotist.” Only two other examples are known to exist. The 39-inch mechanical gentleman causes his lady performing partner to rise from her reclining position to mid-air, seemingly suspended without help.

Other notable automata in the auction include “The Japanese Mask Seller” by Vichy, Mueller’s “Seated Black Man with Banjo”, and Vichy’s rare “Buffalo Bill Smoker,” which is partnered with Vichy’s “The Mexican.”

There is Roullet et Decamps’ “Lady Snake Charmer,” plus a “Pierrot Serenading the Moon,” and two versions of the “Clown Magician,” one in which the clown’s head disappears only to reappear in a nearby box, and another in which a pet mouse disappears and reappears in his hat.

Mechanical musical pieces ranging from parlor music boxes to grand-sized Regina disc players are highlighted by a Mills novelty “Violano-Virtuoso.”

The auction is titled “When the Circus Came to Town,” in reference to an early Roullet mechanical elephant up for bid. It was presented by P.T. Barnum to Wesley Redhead of Des Moines, Iowa, in the mid-1880s following the Barnum and Bailey Farewell Tour in that city. Redhead, a friend of the circus maestro, had rented the meadowlands used for the performances and had hosted Barnum at his mansion.

During this circus tour, the highlight was the famous Jumbo the Elephant, claimed to be the largest pachyderm in existence. At the conclusion of the tour, Barnum presented Redhead with the mechanical toy elephant, which has remained in the family.

Doll lots include a Bru known as “Consuelo’s Bridesmaid.” The doll was costumed in 1895 in homage to the wedding of the Duchess of Marlborough, cousin of Winston Churchill.

glass-canes.jpgA collection of glass canes and whimsies, plus wooden walking sticks, will also be up for bid. Each lot of about 10 canes is presented on its own display board.

A hardbound 140-page catalog is available for $75 including priority mailing. The auction will be conducted at the Governor Morris Westin Hotel in Morristown. Telephone and absentee bidding are available, as well as live Internet bidding. For more information, call 800-638-0422 or visit