LONE JACK, Mo. – A premier collection of Americana amassed over a 30-year period by Jerry and Cathy Mueller of Sioux City, Iowa, will be offered without reserve on Saturday, September 19 in an outdoor country-style live auction event hosted by Soulis Auctions. All mandated health precautions will be observed, including the wearing of masks and social distancing. Limited tent seating and “drive-in” bidding spaces will be available to those who attend in person. Remote bidding options include absentee, phone or live online through a choice of three online platforms.
“The late Jerry Mueller was already an enthusiastic collector networking with prominent dealers by the time he and Cathy got together. It became a shared interest for them and resulted in what I would describe as a small but mighty collection,” said Soulis Auctions’ owner/auctioneer Dirk Soulis. “There are 250 lots of select American antiques that reflect decades of well-informed buying and upgrading.”
The collection’s contents span many popular subcategories of Americana, such as: weathervanes, painted furniture, including cupboards and desirable punched-tin-panel pie safes; accessories such as pantry boxes and firkins; gameboards, old figural windmill weights, barber poles, and a wonderful array of trade signs for optometrists, druggists, bootmakers, jewelers and watchmakers.
The auction will open with a circa-1880s tobacconist figure of a Native-American princess attributed to master carver Samuel Robb. Although not signed, the 69-inch gessoed pine figure exhibits all of the characteristics typically associated with Robb. It is completely original and retains a considerable amount of its original paint. “Even the few touch-ups on it are old,” Soulis noted. Estimate $8,000-$12,000
Weathervanes comprise one of the largest specialty groupings in the Mueller collection. There are 50 lightning-rod types, 14 larger copper vanes, and one 5ft-long sheet-iron horse silhouette vane that was removed from a Michigan barn in the late 20th century. Displaying a charming folky style, it was likely crafted by an “art blacksmith.” Estimate: $4,000-$6,000.
A 19th-century weathervane depicting the famous American trotter “Black Hawk” (1833-1856) is a spirited interpretation attributed to J.W. Fiske, New York City. Measuring 25.5 inches long, its design consists of a hollow copper body with a sheet-copper mane and tail. An odds-on favorite, its auction estimate is $2,000-$3,000.
Leading the figural lightning rod weathervanes is a very rare example depicting a full-bodied zinc beaver on a log with a maple leaf in its mouth. With eye appeal to spare, it is embossed with the letters “W C S,” for the W.C. Shinn Co., of Lincoln, Nebraska. “William Shinn started manufacturing lightning rods and related electrical apparatus around 1905, and a year later he wrote the book ‘The Origin of Lightning and the Philosophy of the Lightning Rod,’” Soulis noted. One of few of its type known to exist, the beaver vane will cross the auction block with a $500-$1,500 estimate.
The abundance of painted primitive furniture boasts several outstanding pie safes. A rare and important walnut/red paint pie safe, likely of Midwestern origin, is decorated with 16 blue-painted punched tins lettered with the name “LINCOLN” above crossed flags and floating stars. Only four US Presidential pie safes are known: two Andrew Jackson types (one of which sold in 2015 for $102,500 – an auction record for a pie safe), one George Washington, and the Lincoln example entered in Soulis’ sale with a $6,000-$9,000 estimate. Also worthy of special mention is an excellent Shenandoah Valley (Va.) pie safe in old green/blue paint with punched-tin panels in a Heart and Tulip pattern on its doors and sides. Estimate: $2,000-$4,000
Carving was an admired art form in the 18th and 19th centuries and was central to one of the earliest types of American advertising: the trade sign. It would be very difficult to top the Mueller collection in this particular category, which includes such highlights as: a classic 19th-century gilded wood figural stovepipe boot used as a bootmaker’s trade sign, $1,000-$1,500; several jeweler/watchmaker signs replicating gold pocket watches, with estimates variously ranging from $300 to $1,500; and five druggist/apothecary signs depicting a mortar and pestle – one of them jeweled and another with an American Eagle motif – with estimates from $500-$1,500. There are nine whimsical optometrist signs shaped as spectacles, some of wood and others of metal, like the hand-painted, gilt-framed tin sign featuring large blue eyes with finely detailed. Estimate: $4,000-$6,000
Other standout lots include: a painted Civil War drum with Seal of North Carolina, $3,000-$4,000; a circa-1876 folk art Federal Shield of canvas-covered wood, painted in red, white and blue with 13 applied silver wood stars, $1,000-$2,000; and a fine, untouched T. French Model 1808 .69-caliber musket, War of 1812 period, inscribed ‘SAMUEL MERRILL,’ $2,000-$3,000.
The live gallery auction [limited to 50 guests, must pre-register, masks mandatory, social distancing required], will commence at 10 a.m. CT/11 a.m. ET. Gallery address: 529 W. Lone Jack Lee’s Summit Rd., Lone Jack (suburban Kansas City), MO 64070. A new, additional form of bidding will be available that enables up to 16 vehicles to park between stakes around the perimeter of the tented auction venue and bid online through their mobile devices. All forms of remote bidding will be available, including live via the Internet through LiveAuctioneers, Bidsquare or Invaluable.
529 W. Lone Jack-Lee's Summit Rd.
Lone Jack, Missouri
About Dirk Soulis Auctions
Dirk Soulis Auctions is a full-service auction firm operating from Lone Jack, Missouri.