Tonya A. Cameron to auction Asian art, antiques and historical ephemera from estate of Boston theater critic Dr. Caldwell Titcomb

December 30th, 2011 by

Brandeis professor emeritus was noted African-American history scholar

 

Giant in Tower mechanical bank, 1902, John Harper Ltd., from a collection of cast-iron banks to be auctioned in the opening session. Tonya A. Cameron Auctioneers image.

SAUGUS, Mass. – Tonya A. Cameron Auctioneers will present selections from the estate of theater critic, university professor and African-American history scholar Dr. Caldwell Titcomb in a Thursday, Jan. 12 evening auction at the company’s suburban Boston gallery. Internet live bidding will be provided by LiveAuctioneers.com.

 

The 350-lot sale, which will be divided into two consecutive sessions, includes important archival documents and other ephemera from Dr. Titcomb’s historical research, as well as Asian art and bronzes; furniture and several paintings. Additional private consignments from New England residences include collections of antique mechanical banks and toys; 19th-century rifles, fine diamond jewelry and American sterling silver.

 

“There’s more than enough in this sale to keep people interested and on their seats, but we also enjoy playing host to our guests, so there will be a complimentary hors d’oeuvres smorgasbord and beverages available for all who attend,” said Tonya Cameron.

 

Session I, starting at 5 p.m., features a single-owner collection of approximately 20 cast-iron mechanical banks of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Among them are an Eagle and Eaglets, Humpty Dumpty, Trick Dog, Teddy (Roosevelt) and the Bear, full-figure Uncle Sam, Artillery, and Uncle Remus. A coveted English production known as the Giant in Tower bank was made in 1902 by John Harper Ltd.

 

The bank collector also amassed a number of amusing battery-operated toys from the 1950s and ’60s. The grouping includes Shoeshine Bear, Mambo Elephant, Drinking Monkey, Clown Playing Xylophone, and Sneezing Bear. A Bubble Blowing Monkey is similar in design to the battery ops but functions via an electrical plug. The opening session also contains a few boxed space-theme and wind-up toys.

 

File copy of Dr. Caldwell Titcomb’s 1966 letter to Amherst College inquiring about the dates during which “famous Negro abolitionist Robert Purvis” may have been a student there. Archive of Dr. Caldwell Titcomb. Tonya A. Cameron Auctioneers image.

At approximately 6:15 p.m., the 300-lot session featuring Dr. Titcomb’s estate items will commence. Tonya Cameron said she is honored that her company was chosen to auction the late professor’s collections.

 

“Dr. Titcomb was an intellectual fixture in Boston’s theater scene. He had been a professor at Brandeis University, was a longtime theater critic and a passionate musician and composer. On top of that, he was deeply interested in African-American history and left an extraordinary archive of letters – some historical and some his own – and other ephemera documenting decades of study in that field,” Cameron said.

 

A file copy of an Aug. 6, 1966 letter from the Titcomb archive attests to the late professor’s fastidious attention to detail. In that letter to Amherst College’s Alumni Records Department, Titcomb informs that he is researching “early Negro college students” and wishes to clarify a possible historical discrepancy. He asks if Amherst’s records can confirm whether or not “the famous Negro abolitionist Robert Purvis” attended, but did not graduate from, Amherst College prior to 1826. In his letter, Titcomb explains that he wishes to confirm a published statement he had seen regarding Purvis’ matriculation at Amherst, noting that the timeframe stated seemed “odd, since Purvis was not born until 1810.”

 

The ephemera highlights also include a typed manuscript for a play Titcomb wrote, and five personally assembled scrap albums of obituaries, biographies and other materials pertaining to theatrical luminaries from around the world. “It’s a remarkable time capsule,” Cameron observed.

 

Pair of large, bronze foo dogs, Estate of Dr. Caldwell Titcomb. Tonya A. Cameron Auctioneers image.

Dr. Titcomb embraced many cultures and traveled extensively across Asia, acquiring 18th, 19th and 20th century antiques. The auction selection includes many bronzes in the $500-$1,000 range and several in the $200-$500 range. The top lot of this category is a pair of large bronze foo dogs estimated at $2,000-$3,000.

 

Ceramics include Imari and Moriagi productions and a beautiful Kutani porcelain vase in an orange and blue colorway. Carved hardstone figurals will be offered in group lots.

 

Louise Davies Webber abstract watercolor painting. Tonya A. Cameron Auctioneers image.

Also coming from the Titcomb estate are abstract paintings by Maine landscape and still life artist Louise Davies Webber, a Chinese sword with decorated handle and scabbard; and an Indian sword with figural hilt.

 

Private consignments yielded an extensive Reed & Barton 24-place-setting sterling silver flatware set in the Burgundy pattern. While a few of the settings lack their salad forks, the silver suite includes desirable butter pats and knives; and many unusual serving pieces such as a stuffing spoon and large meat fork. The set is housed in a mahogany chest and carries a presale estimate of $4,000-$5,000.

 

Gorham 6-piece coffee, tea and water kettle set with tray, 1950s. Est. $4,000-$4,500. Tonya A. Cameron Auctioneers image.

Another silver highlight is a Gorham 6-piece coffee, tea and water kettle set. The midcentury service, complete with tray, is expected to make $4,000-$4,500.

 

Firearms are led by a G. Hyslop antique flintlock Kentucky long gun and Thompson/Center 50 caliber flintlock. Other collectible weapons include an 1880s-era Turkish flintlock pistol and an Allen Thurber & Co. pocket pistol with an 1845 patent. Civil War books and etchings complete the section.

 

(Top) 1880s-era Turkish flintlock pistol and (bottom) Allen Thurber & Co. pocket pistol with an 1845 patent. Tonya A. Cameron Auctioneers image.

The auction’s broad variety of goods also includes 18th century Spanish Colonial paintings, Abe Blashko drawings, bronzes by listed artists, a fine campaign chest on pedestal, five vintage Brunswick ivory-tipped pool cues with pearl and ivory inlay; and gold and diamond estate jewelry.

 

Tonya A. Cameron’s auction featuring selections from the estate of Dr. Caldwell Titcomb will take place on Thursday, Jan. 12, 2012, at the company’s gallery at 113 Bennett Highway, Saugus, MA 01906, commencing at 5 p.m. Eastern time. Preview: Jan. 11 from 12-5 and Jan. 12 from 12-4:45.

 

All forms of bidding will be available, including telephone, absentee and online through LiveAuctioneers.com. For additional information, call 781-233-0006 or e-mail tac602@gmail.com. Visit Tonya A. Cameron Auctioneers online at www.tacauctioneers.com.

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