Popcorn wagons, machines heat up Nov. 16 collectibles auction

FREDERICK, Md. – The 600+ lots in Mosby & Co.’s Nov. 16 Fall Catalog Auction cover vast collecting territory, from 18th-century English furniture to Native American and Oceanic cultural artifacts. In between, the collectibles auction shines a light on two unique American archives: the McWhirter family’s collection of Cretors popcorn machines and wagons; and a remarkable trove of photos and personal memorabilia from early 20th century race car driver Charles Merz.

Digesto Gum vendor

Digesto Gum vendor. Mosby & Co. image.

A small selection of antique and vintage advertising will open the event, with top items including a rare Digesto Gum vendor, a Mills 25-cent high-top slot machine and a pair of oversize Levis display jeans. An original, etched-glass window transom sign advertising the John Stephenson Co. – whose owner invented the rail streetcar – predates the firm’s 1898 move to new premises in Elizabeth, New York.

An eye-catching collection that Mosby & Co.’s owner Keith Spurgeon sourced locally includes approximately one dozen salesmen’s samples. Most notable is the well-detailed sample of an 1873 federal double prison cell with corridor, made by Van Dorn Iron Works of Cleveland. Other samples include a children’s playground merry-go-round, and two adjoining turn of the 20th century school desks.

Petroliana collectors would know the name “Bowser,” which refers to Sylvanus F. Bowser of Fort Wayne, Indiana. Bowser invented and marketed the first gasoline pump. Mosby & Co. will offer in its Nov. 16 sale a Bowser gas station oil tank that dispenses oil hydraulically by means of a hand crank. This rare survivor comes complete with its original oak carrying case.

The historical section casts a wide net with such disparate highlights as a pair of Japanese World War II “big-eye” naval binoculars, and a collection of mostly 19th-century ice skating items, including approximately 30 pairs of ice skates. A pair of all-original, circa-1860 Blondin skates carries a pre-Civil War patent.

Selections from the Charles Merz car racing archive. Mosby & Co. image.

Selections from the Charles Merz car racing archive. Mosby & Co. image.

An absolutely unique entry in the auction is the archive of car-racing memorabilia pertaining to Charles Merz (American, 1888-1952), who drove for the Stutz, National and Peugeot teams. “This is an archive that passed down through Merz’s family, and it includes material documenting the earliest period of car racing. Charles Merz began his racing career in 1905, at the age of seventeen,” said Spurgeon.

The Merz collection includes several hundred photos of races and racers, and spans the period from 1905 through the 1940s. Many of the photos are related to Indy 500 races, and some were autographed contemporaneously by the drivers. Almost all of the pictures are identified on verso. Additionally, the archive contains Merz’s canvas racing cap, goggles and an extremely rare Aug. 30, 1912 trophy cup from the Elgin, (Ill.) Road Race Association. In that particular event, Merz competed and won in a Stutz.

1906 Cretors Model D popcorn wagon from McWhirter family collection. Mosby & Co. image.

1906 Cretors Model D popcorn wagon from McWhirter family collection. Mosby & Co. image.

The McWhirter family, whose grandfather started a popcorn business with Cretors products in 1933, has retained a remarkable collection of popcorn wagons and popping machines. Among the wagons are a 1906 Model D that was restored in the 1980s and an extremely rare Model A, a deluxe wagon that requires restoration. Machines include one of only a few known examples of Cretors’ Model 401 twin popper, and a restored Eclipse floor machine. Both machines have peanut roasters built into their designs. Also, the collection includes a 1922 Ford Model T truck whose body was customized for use as a popcorn concession on wheels, and a 1962 Ford Thunderbird with only 77,000 original miles. The classic car was bought new and has remained in family ownership ever since.

A grouping of vintage clothing and jewelry will be followed by a large selection of 18th-century, primarily English furniture and accessories, and consists mostly of Georgian and Regency pieces. A pair of exquisite wall sconces with hand-cut eagles on the glass shades dates to around 1800.

Iroquois burl bowl

Circa-1790 double-handle Iroquois burl bowl. Mosby & Co. image.

Within the impressive ethnographic section of the sale are several fine Native-American artifacts and articles of memorabilia, including a circa-1790 Iroquois double-handle burl bowl that measures 15½ inches in diameter. A D.F. Barry cabinet card dating between 1884 and 1889 depicts seven Sioux warriors dressed for a ceremonial dance.

Two Japanese samurai helmets will be auctioned. One is crafted in the Zunari Kabuto style, 1550-1600, and retains its original “wakidate” (adornments shaped as wings). The other example, a Kabuto helmet dated 1718, was manufactured by Myochin Armorers.

Oceanic tribal items include a 19th-century ivory-inlaid Fijian “ula,” or throwing club; and a very nicely decorated Middle Sepik River (Papua New Guinea) suspension hook for hanging food.

From a well-known New York collection comes a Pre-Columbian carved wood Chancay (Peru) figure. It dates to 1000-1470 A.D.

Mule Dancers

1875 Ives mechanical Revolving Mule Dancers, only known complete example. Mosby & Co. image.

The auction will conclude with more than 300 lots of antique and vintage toys, with the highlight being the only known complete example of Ives’ 1875-patent mechanical Revolving Mule Dancers. The selection also includes penny toys, hand-painted German toys, black “jiggers,” comic characters, and both American pressed steel and German tin automotive toys. Approximately 20 boxed monster model kits – several of them still sealed – will be offered, as well.

Mosby & Co.’s Saturday, Nov. 16, 2013 Fall Catalog Auction will commence at 10 a.m. Eastern Time at the company’s gallery at 5714-A Industry Lane, Frederick, MD 21704. Preview hours are 12 noon till 7 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 15; 8-10 a.m. on auction day, and by appointment during the week prior to the sale.

All forms of bidding will be available, including live via the Internet through LiveAuctioneers.com and Artfact.com. Printed catalogs are $24 to US addresses; $35 outside the USA. For additional information, contact 240-629-8139 or keith@mosbyauctions.com, or visit www.mosbyauctions.com.

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