From approximately 1915 through the 1930's, Mrs. Vargas-Alphonso, influenced by the artistry of her father who also sculpted in wax, crafted a variety of wax dolls inspired by the black folk she saw on New Orleans's street corners while growing up. Sold exclusively at the time through Harriet's, of 318 Rue Royale in the French Quarter of New Orleans, the completely hand-made, one-of-a-kind dolls are seldom found on today's market due to their inherently fragile nature, making them highly sought after in the Black Memorabilia Collectible arena.
This particular figure is known as The Banjo Player and is actually quite rare and very difficult to find in today's collectible market, likely because there were not as many Banjo players crafted as opposed to the more commonly found Vargas cotton pickers or praline sellers.
Vargas wax figures are distinctly characterized by their interesting but highly exaggerated facial features. The Banjo Player wears a tan hat with black band, a green flowered neck scarf, a red and yellow patterned shirt and textured, loose-fitting black pants- with all but the hat constructed of actual cloth fabric that was coated with a fine layer of clear wax to stiffen them. He supports all of his weight on his back left leg while propping his right leg up upon an actual wooden log as he plays! His wax body is internally supported by a wire frame through which the figure is attached to the wooden base via his left leg.
This wonderful figure is in very fine condition for his 85+ years of age with the following imperfections: missing left-hand fingers (an unfortunate, but extremely common consequence of time), and the most obvious imperfection being a missing section of his hat brim. It is evident that the banjo has been re-glued into position over the years---a situation which does not surprise me given that the banjo is only supported by the left hand and propped upon the right leg--not a very secure position from a constructional viewpoint.
Regardless of his minor imperfections, this VARGAS figure would be classified as in FINE condition. Wax is a very delicate and fragile medium in which to work, and some loss is expected given that these figures are fast approaching 100+ years of age. The banjo player's brilliantly executed face with open mouth filled with song, his realistic and intact banjo complete with all original strings, and his incredibly natural and realistic pose remains a most delightful snapshot of C1920 New Orleans African American cultural history!
Please note- photos were taken in interior natural light. The first two photos best represent true, actual color. Any white or light spots on the figure are a result of light glare and are not reflective of discoloration or fading.
Following the conclusion of World War II, the American Tobacco Company of Virginia changed its product name from Nigger Hair to Bigger Hair, seeking to broaden the product's marketing appeal as well as viewing the latter label as the more-socially acceptable one. (The earlier Nigger Hair moniker was used by the American Tobacco Company from the 1890's through the early, pre-WWII 1940s; the lithographed can was manufactured by the B. Leidersdorf Company, Milwaukee, Wisconsin.) Interestingly, the company DID NOT change the image of the African woman, but merely added the words Fiji Islander to the left of her face in its indifferent and weak attempt to move further away from the earlier, severely derogatory label.
Measuring 7 inches high x 5 Â¾ inches wide, the photos provide a fine representation of condition. The container is in near-mint condition with a tiny rub here and there, and some very minor wear around the top of the container that likely occurred from simply taking the cover on and off. This wear is completely covered by the cover. The original orange color of the container remains consistent throughout, and the structural integrity of the cardboard is quite sturdy. The original wax bag which held the tobacco remains inside--highly unusual! The container retains most of its paper Federal Revenue Tobacco seal on either side and is dated February 26, 1926, Series 119, a tax stamp which was issued exclusively in 1949. Truly incredible condition given the age and material composition of this piece--- 69 years!!
This very rare tobacco container is just a wonderful example of latter Black Americana advertising and looks even better "in person" than the camera was able to capture with its lens!
If the Nigger Hair Tobacco container is currently in your collection, the addition of the Bigger Hair container will complete your collection from both a cultural and historical perspective! The Nigger Hair Tobacco container featured in the last photo is currently available. Both pieces may be purchased for the single price of $1195 with no further discounts applicable.
*** Type "tobacco" in our web cover page SEARCH box to locate the 1941 Nigger Hair Tobacco tin currently available and full of original tobacco!
As the backside paper label displays a 5 digit zip code, this product was produced in 1963 or later. I purchased this piece from a Texas collector of Black Memorabilia for my own personal collection in about 2007. The seller stated that at one time this product was readily and prolifically available in her area, up until the late 1960s - early 1970s.
The bottle is in very fine condition with age-related creasing to the front paper label as evidenced in the photos.
While newer in age than pieces I typically collect and/or sell, I found this piece to be culturally unique enough to be worthy to collect and then offer for sale. I have never seen another!!!!
This wonderful piece is unmarked but is documented in numerous guides as the Black Chef cookie jar made in the 1940's by the National Silver Company. It likely once had a "NASCO" foil label on its base which dried up and fell off over the course of the jar's lifetime.
Fabulous cobalt blue accenting makes this cookie jar quite striking in its appearance. A great display piece!
As stated, the cookie jar remains in all original condition-- a rarity for a cookie jar of this vintage! Please take the time to view all photos as they represent condition quite nicely. Glaze crazing typical to the age of this 60+ year old piece is evident as well as small surface flakes present here and there along lid cover edge- a very common site for flakes/chips on any lidded ceramic piece given that the lid was continually taken on and off during use and thus easily subject to damage. A single superficial hairline occurring during firing can be seen on the interior base; it does not go through to the exterior.
It is quite rare to find a vintage cookie jar in such fine overall condition! Reproductions abound on today's market, but authentic pieces such as this are quite scarce and are truly collecting treasures when discovered!
While her little body was machine stitched together, the remainder of Mammy is all hand-completed! She has a sweet, cheerful, hand-embroidered face that is framed by a tall red, white and blue bonnet! She continues her patriotic look with a red and white checkered top and blue and white flowered pants---how racy---pants instead of a skirt!!!
Mammy clutches a gold colored tomato which, of course, is designed to keep the sewing pins!
In wonderful condition!! Just waiting to be displayed with other sewing or black American collectibles!
Protected in an antique gold wooden frame, this magazine sheet has retained all of the brilliance of its original patriotic colors- red, white, and blue, making it a rather striking piece of wall art-perhaps for the nursery! Seldom located in such fine condition!
PLEASE NOTE: Any discoloration, white spots, or other unnatural variances in color are due to the unavoidable light reflections caused by the glass in the framing. The presence of the glass made photography quite a challenge!
While some photos may appear a bit blurry, this is a function of photography and not condition. All postcards are crisp and clear! The six comical cartoon postcards are much more brightly and vividly colored than the photos depict. The four photo postcards also feature titles describing their subjects.
A delightful grouping that would be much-appreciated framed!
As each is priced separately (see photos for pricing), please email us stating which item you wish to purchase so that we can customize your order form.
Measuring 7" long x 4.5" high x 4" wide, this colorful toy features two African-American boxers who are activated by jiggling the paddle which causes the boxer's arms and legs to freely fly about.
The boxers have painted wooden bodies with lithographed tin arms and legs. They are attached to the wooden paddle by a thin metal wire.
The toy is complete and in all-original condition and has not been subjected to any repair or repaint. Wear to the painted faces is evident as noted in the extreme close-up photos provided. No manufacture marking evident.
This seldom-found toy displays very nicely and would be a delightful addition to a Black Americana toy collection.
The walking stick is constructed of a single piece of wood. The staff is painted with black stripes, and at the very top, the stripes switch to polka dots to simulate the man's shirt. A handle has also been carved out which apparently represents the man's arm, painted with the same polka dots.
The head carving features distinctive full lips and a strong, protruding chin. A mustache and goatee are painted in black under the nose and bottom lip. The hair is also simply painted in black with a crude nose drawn in. The eyes are also hand-done and feature pupils and numerous full eyelashes. The left eye is slightly faded while the right eye is quite distinct.
The carver/artisan is unknown as is the walking stick's origin. A unique Folk Art Black Americana piece!
The toy is in very fine, working condition. When wound, the black dancers bob up and down, moving their hinged legs about and swinging their arms. The dancer's heads, bodies, and arms are constructed of flat tin, while their legs and feet are three dimensional. Other than a few light scratches here and there, the surface lithography and paint is in fabulous condition.
The toy measures 8” tall and 5 ½” wide. Marked with “MADE IN U.S.A.” on the back of the dancer's jackets as well as "MADE IN USA" and "PAT 2072308" (Patent Year 1937) on the bottom of the toy base.
Measuring 9 by 11 inches framed, this litho retains its vibrant colors!
A delightful piece which features the accompanying text on the reverse side.
The frame is a temporary and inexpensive one to allow the potential buyer to view the story on the backside, but the piece should be properly framed to enable its continued conservation once purchased.
Please ignore any white streaks seen in photos; these are the result of light reflection off of the glass.
In fabulous condition with 90+ years of all original surface patina, this phenomenal piece is very highly detailed and displays wonderfully! It authentically depicts the highly fashionable Art Nouveau styling which was so wildly popular at the turn of the 20th century. This brass ashtray promotes the English settlement of the CONGO on the African continent, and thus, the words "CONGO" are impressed across the native's chest. The earliest version of this ashtray was crafted in BRONZE did not feature the Congo label across the native's chest.
A must-have piece for the sophisticated Black Americana collector!
Given away by the Merrick Thread Company as a free advertising premium to encourage the purchase of its product, this mirror depicts a rather confident black boy hanging from a single strand of Merrick thread while dangling above the open jaws of a hungry alligator! At the base of the mirror the caption reads, "Fooled Dis Time Cully Dis Cotton Aint Gwine To Break".
A delightful Black Americana Advertising piece!
Manufactured by FOSTA Products, this highly sought after piece of Black Memorabilia shows some wear to the gold lettered word, “RECIPES”, although the majority of the paint remains intact. Small paint rubs are present here and there on Aunt Jemima’s face as seen in photos. The tiny plastic knob on the left side of the box that acts as a hinge for the cover is missing, but this minor imperfection detracts little from the fabulous color contrast and visual appeal of this delightful and essential, vintage piece of early 50’s Black Americana!
Please see the RED Aunt Jemima Fosta Recipe Box available for purchase separately.
Measuring 5 1/8 inches tall with soap dish attached, Mammy's colors- her deep red dress, mustard yellow shawl, and yellow and red polka dot head scarf- remain vibrant and brilliant with a wonderful old patina! Her face features large, dark eyes and a smiling, red mouth.
The soap dish is designed to be removed, and its anchoring cast iron peg fits into a hole atop Mammy's head. The exterior of the soap dish is cast to resemble a wicker laundry basket and is painted a slightly lighter-toned, mustard yellow.
A delightful, vintage piece of early Black Americana in premium condition!
Painted in 1934, the framed piece measures 20" x 26.5"; the watercolor, 13” x 19.5 “. Completed in various subtle tones of blue, gray, green, and brown. The watercolor was reframed in 1987 by the previous owner.
This circa 1920-30's Johnny Griffin item is constructed in solid brass and is known as a document clip used to hold together important papers. It remains functional for such use today or may be simply used as an attractive desk paperweight!
It is in all original condition with delightful patina- not a reproduction- no replaced parts- and measures 4 1/8 inches long x 2 3/8 inches wide. It does not retain any marking other than a mold number 5241.
Johnny Griffin Black Americana collectibles should form the cornerstone of any serious Black Memorabilia collection!
To see all of the Johnny Griffin items currently available for sale, simply type “Johnny Griffin” into the search box on our web home page.
The work is entitled, "Coffee With the Spirit World" and is done in acrylics on watercolor paper. It comes mounted on acid-free foam core which can continue to be used when the piece is framed.
Of this piece of artwork, Sister Raya says, “When peoples get up in the morning they slog on coffee and stumble round full of stress and worry, but they don’t be knowin that’s the time when the spirit folk be slippin round they heads. They be friendly folk and like you to say good morning to them. People go too fast today, slow down when you be drinkin yo coffee and say good mornin!”
The vibrant blues, yellows and reds make this art work tremendously visually appealing and thought-provoking!