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.
A tiny bisque black boy holding a watermelon slice is seated on a throne of sea shells. The name of the location that this sea shell souvenir was meant to commemorate is worn and is no longer readable.
Two very minor chips are present as shown in photos which do not detract from the beauty of this piece!
This particular tin retains its original, paper, US Internal Revenue tax stamp with an additional red ink imprint clearly dating this tin November 1941.
The image of an African woman with the racist title of “Nigger Hair” imposed over her shoulders was used by The American Tobacco Company of Wisconsin to promote its product; the lithographed tin was manufactured by the B. Leidersdorf Company, Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Interestingly, it must be noted that after World War II, the product name "Nigger Hair" was changed to "Bigger Hair", although the exact same image of an African Woman continued to be used. The company simply added the words “Fiji Islander” to the left of her face in a very, very weak attempt to broaden the product’s appeal by moving further away from the earlier, severely derogatory moniker. At that time, the material out of which the tobacco container was constructed was changed from tin to heavy cardboard.
Measuring 7 inches high x 5 ¾ inches wide, the condition of the tin is a fabulous 9 out of 10--- sporting a lithograph on the front side with extremely teeny, minor, superficial scratches and rubs, and on the back side, tiny scratches along with tiny areas of paint loss (please see photos for condition). There is a very subtle crimp on the seam side of the tin at the base- difficult to see and impossible to photograph. The lid and the base of the tin show minor evidence of oxidation. The inside of the tin is clean with some minor oxidation evident. The tin is free of both rust and pitting.
The original orange color of the tin remains consistent over the entire tin although the color is a darker orange tone in actuality than what the camera “saw” when photographing it. Any imperfections are quite reasonable and expected given the age of this piece-- nearly 80 years of age!! This tin is just a wonderful example of early Black Americana advertising and looks so much better "in person" than what the camera was able to capture with its lens! Please note that any "white" areas in photos are flash or lighting reflections and are not imperfections to the tin.
The tin still retains its contents; it appears very little was consumed. The contents are quite antiquated and are no longer fit for human consumption and are presented for display purposes only. Additionally included is a grouping of discount tobacco coupons that were discovered inside the tin on top of the contents!
Truly an extraordinarily RARE piece of Black Memorabilia seldom found in this phenomenal condition complete with bail handle, lid and tax stamp! (Soft tissue paper has been wrapped around the bail handle to prevent any further scratching to the tin exterior.)
***For the ultimate collector of Nigger Hair Tobacco tins, an extraordinarily rare, 1949, Bigger Hair Tobacco container is also offered for sale- separately. The addition of the Bigger Hair Tobacco container will complete your collection from both a cultural and historical perspective! *** Type "tobacco" in our web cover page SEARCH box to locate it.
Both the Nigger Hair and the Bigger Hair Tobacco containers may be purchased together for the single price of $1195 with no further discounts applicable.
All six Aunt Jemima, 4 inch tall spices bottles are marked on the base "Aunt Jemima F & F Mold & Die Works, Dayton Ohio Made in the USA".
Condition is wonderful with just some very, very minimal paint loss here and there as noted in photos. Each spice bottle separates at Aunt Jemima's waist to reveal the plastic grated shaker which is also removal for easy refilling of spices.
The 12 inch long x 2 inch deep spice rack is also in wonderful condition with only the expected, age-related minute surface scratches from use, here and there to the white plastic. The rack is marked on the inside beneath the last "S", "Lustro Ware Stock No. L-51, Patent Pend, Made in the USA".
Difficult to find complete set in this wonderful condition! Please view our other Aunt Jemima items also available.
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!