July 24, 1998
As the summer approaches its midpoint, the Antiques and Collectibles
Newsletter approaches its first anniversary! This has been a very
rewarding experience for me, and I thank you all for your good wishes and
words of encouragement each week.
FROM THE DEPARTMENT OF DID THEY SERVE CHICKEN FRIED STEAK?
You know how I adore these involved stories. It seems that the sculptor Alexander Calder lived half the year in France, and the other half in the tiny town of Roxbury, CT. He was known for his generosity in giving his friends and neighbors little wire sculptures and other things he had made. In 1971, the town was planning its 175th anniversary celebration, and a committee asked Calder to design a commemorative town seal for the occasion. They wanted something genteel and gentle, in keeping with the town image. Calder made a lively chicken and a cow, which he sent from France to the Head Alderman, Harold Birchall, who also happened to be his friend and neighbor. Birchall told the committee he didn't like the artwork, briefly showed another friend the wire sculptures, which he had slipped into his shirt pocket, and that was that.
Years later, after both Calder and Birchall had died, another committee was formed, this time to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the town. The committee went looking for the two sculptures, which had long since disappeared from view, and found them, just as you might expect, on the wall in Birchall's house. They had been lovingly dusted and hung there by his widow, who had no intention of giving them up, as she had found them while going through her late husband's things. She did agree to lend them to the town for 48 hours, so molds could be cast, and all sorts of merchandise generated. The images of the chicken and cow were very popular and sold like hot cakes on everything from key chains to tee shirts. People loved the idea that a famous sculptor had designed them just for the town. So, the committee went back to Mrs. Birchall and asked that she turn them over to the town, as that was Calder's intention in the first place. Well, words ensued, voices were raised, attorneys were hired. And that's where things stand right now. The Birchall family has been cautioned by their attorneys not to discuss the "case". The whereabouts of the chicken and the cow are unknown, but the committee suspects they are with a relative in Florida.
Recently, Roxbury honored the 100th anniversary of Calder's birth with a
low-key, friends-and-relatives only luncheon. The menu cover was decorated
with the lively chicken and cow.
COME UP AND SEE ME SOMETIME DEPARTMENT
The Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery in Washington, DC has mounted a fascinating exhibit through August 23, 1998. It is called, "Celebrity Caricature in America" and includes some outstanding examples of the caricaturist's art. Works include portraits of Babe Ruth, Charles Atlas, HL Mencken, Will Rogers, Eddie Cantor, The Marx Brothers, Fiorello La Guardia, Josephine Baker, George M. Cohan, fan dancer Sally Rand and Martha Graham. Also included, and awfully tough to lampoon, considering that she was a caricature herself, is the over-the-top Mae West. For more information, telephone (202)357-2700.
A BRIGHT IDEA
Those folks in Sandy Hook, CT really used their noodles. They are now able to provide the Internet auction experience for people who are either not online, or who don't own those expensive digital cameras or scanners. They've opened The Mill/ehammer Online Gallery. Those not online can stop by the gallery and view items up for sale on the auction. They can bid right from the gallery. Those wishing to sell items, can have them photographed with a digital camera at the gallery, and uploaded on to the auction. All this for a small fee. For more information, call (203)426-4469 or visit Ehammer at http://www.ehammer.com.
That's it, Accumulators. Hope you have a glorious weekend. The heat has
finally broken here in New York City, and Artie and I are taking friends to
a Pennsylvania reproduction house to see what's currently on the market. I
heartily recommend this to all of you. Forewarned is forearmed. Happy Hunting!
© 1998 Judith Katz-Schwartz. All rights reserved.
Antiques and Collectibles Newsletter #51
U.S. Library of Congress
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