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.
Both dolls retain their 3 original pigtails, all tied off with tiny pieces of string. Their hand-painted lips and eyes remain in excellent condition as is the dark brown paint which covers the bisque bodies which were originally white when manufactured (the white bisque coloring is visible at the joints).
Both dolls have jointed arms and legs which allow them to assume different positions. The string holding the larger doll's legs in place has stretched over these many years resulting in looser leg joints. (This can be repaired if so desired by the new owner.)
The larger doll is dressed in a hand-made outfit consisting of an ivory, yarn-knitted petticoat under a yellow crocheted dress while the smaller doll remains au naturalle! A darling, teeny tiny pair that display quite nicely!
The bowl sits upon a one inch high foot and has glaze crazing typical of an 85+ year old piece of pottery. No chips, cracks, or hairlines. One teeny, tiny fleabite on rim too small to be photographed with any clarity.
An outstanding piece of American Spongeware! Becoming much more difficult to find- particularly in this outstanding condition!
Please type the word "spongeware" into the Search box to find the other pieces of C1900-1920 Ohio Yellowware Spongeware currently being offered for sale. All pieces are prices separately.
This club actually presents a number of qualities that indicate it may, in fact, be an example of pre-1860s craftsmanship: : LENGTH of the face is 6 inches. The DEPTH of the face is 1 1/8 inches max. The face is SMOOTH and CURVED, and the club head is shaped in the form of a TEARDROP. The club is UNMARKED. The neck is slightly thin at just over 3/4 inches--- all indicators of an early, pre-1860s club!
This amazing club sports most of its original varnish surface and is offered in "as found" condition. The darkening of the finish results in a wonderfully rich patina. The club displays an enchanting presence owing to the gently-sculpted angling of the face. The sole of the club is without the usual ram's horn which was the typical norm, making this particular club that much more intriguing and quite unusual!!! I have not been able to find reference to clubs that were made in this fashion. RARE!!!
The early golfer must have been quite robust and sturdy as this heavy club face is one that most folks today would have a difficult time keeping "square" at impact. Long spoon clubs were used off of grassy surfaces which accounts for the very nice condition of this beauty. Besides the unobtrusive, expected scuff marks on the sole, there is only one tiny, barely-noticeable chip on the leading edge of the club face at the bottom, consistent with hitting something other than a grassy surface!
The lead on the back of the club has been partially removed to customize it for the golfer, and the original twine adds to the club's character. The slightly warped hickory shaft is undamaged and sports a warm, honey-colored surface. The leather grip was expertly replaced many, many years ago and has signs of honorable wear.
The skills of the craftsman are most apparent when the club is viewed from the top. While unmarked, this club displays the form of the exceptional, highly-skilled, UK club makers of the 19th century. According to author and golf history expert, Jeffrey B. Ellis, unsigned, long-nosed golf clubs were the norm in the pre-1870 era.
This rare, antique, hand-wrought, golf club was recently acquired from the estate of a gentleman who had restored and collected golf clubs for 7 decades! His family, while settling his estate, remarked that he had "paid crazy prices for some of his collection!". This prized, rare club is certain to have been included in that category!
A phenomenal, rarely-found example of 19th century craftsmanship, and a tangible example of exemplary golfing history.
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!
The hardwood case measures 4.5"L x 3"W x 1.5"H and is in very nice condition. "HENRY TROEMNER MAKER PHILADA" is stamped in red on one side of the case. The box top retains remnants of a State Weights & Measures certification sticker and an old decal with the letter "M" noted.
The brass gram weights have the expected patina and tarnish of a vintage piece. The aluminum milligram weights and tweezers are all in fine condition.
A nice addition to your collection!
The box approximately measures 4.5"H x 1.5"W and is in fair condition missing both the top and bottom flaps and shows wear commensurate with age. The delightful 4 inch bottle sports complete front and back labels and is in undamaged condition. The insert is included and the paper is brittle with signs of loss mostly at the folded areas.
A nifty medicine for quelling coughs caused by colds, croup, bronchitis and other afflictions. The bottle and box display quite nicely as seen in the photos. A neat find!
The child’s head nods back and forth by pivoting on a tiny metal bar inserted through her neck .
Condition is mint, and the piece is signed on the bottom of her right foot: “Hand Painted Lenwile China Ardalt Japan 6529”.
Black nodders are quite difficult to come by and have become an interesting sub-collecting category in the field of Black Americana! Not to be missed!
Please see the companion matching Ardalt Black Nodder pieces also available (pictured here as well) - the Black Girl Child Nodder and the Black Boy Clown Nodder!!
Remaining in its original frame with original wooden and paper backing, this watercolor retains its framer's identifying sticker which reads, "Staton's Art Shop 5409 Germantown Ave." Perhaps this Germantown address indicates Philadelphia area origin? In the interests of proper conservation, the new owner should re-frame this lovely piece with appropriate acid-free materials.
Please ignore any white streaks seen in photos; these are the result of light reflection off of the glass.
A lovely watercolor- nicely executed!
This seldom found copy was originally published in 1932 by Rand McNally & Company of New York.
This copy has superficial scratches to the front and back covers, as well as surface soiling, and wear on book cover edges.(see photos). The front cover has a slight tear at the crease that does not effect strength or integrity of the cover board. A couple of pages have minor staining. The binding is super-tight and all pages remain present.
Topsy's adventures are divided into three chapters in length, approximately 59 numbered pages. Book is filled with a variety of black-ink and black and red illustrations as represented in photos. The story of Topsy was likely inspired by the Little Black Sambo stories which originated at the turn of the 20th century. PLEASE NOTE: in the photos, the printing seems light and faded- not so! It is merely the function of over-lighting or light reflection.
A wonderful and truly RARE book not to be missed!
Please see the other Topsy Turvy book available for separate purchase, a 1938 copy of Topsy Turvy's PigTails.
This wonderful Depression Era piece features a whimsical 10 inch long cutout figure of a little wooden black girl with hand-painted smiling mouth and eyes! She is dressed in a hand-stitched cotton costume that has been stuffed with scrap fabric.
Her feet feature two brass-finish hooks, presumably to either hang keys or pot holders from. Her ears each have a punched out hole--whether this is functional or purely decorative remains a mystery. A small brass hoop threaded through a piece of fabric which was then tacked to the back of the girl's head facilitates hanging on a wall. Overall condition is fine with age-related soiling to the dress and minor paint wear typical of a 70 year-old-piece.
One of my favorite hand-made pieces with true folk art appeal!
This piece is very much reminiscent of Johnny Griffin items with the exception of the intact, broad-rimmed hat on this piece versus the torn rim typically seen on all "named" Johnny Griffin pieces.
This circa 1920-30's novelty piece is constructed in solid brass, is hefty in weight, and was likely used as an ash tray given its tobacco leaf design/theme. The "Johnny Griffin-like" head of the young African-American boy that serves as the centerpiece of this wonderful piece, was molded separately and screwed into place. The screw is concealed under an original brass cap, done purely for esthetics.
The piece is in all original condition with the delightful, warm, rich, golden patina of old brass- not a reproduction- no replaced parts- and measures 7 inches long x 4 1/2 inches wide. It does not retain any markings, and country of origin is unknown, although likely of European origin.
A very seldom found Tobacciana piece of Black Memorabilia, that indeed pairs well with Johnny Griffin items!
To view all of the Johnny Griffin items currently available for sale, simply type “Johnny Griffin” into the search box on our web home page.
Coloring is quite brilliant, and the condition is very fine with appropriate age-related crazing and some tiny, circular, firing imperfections on Mammy's polka dotted scarf as noted in photos. Please note that white marks are flash reflections, not imperfections. Makers mark is noted on the back--- an "E" inside of a crown.
A delightful piece of Black Memorabilia that displays wonderfully on a wall or shelf!
Interestingly, this display was found among the contents of an old North Carolina country store.
This product was made in the 1940's in the USA with tubes originally selling for 15 cents per tube. Each bakelite capsule or tube contains 45 sticks of "Q-15 Soft Standard" pieces of pencil-lead.
As seen in the photos, the red caps of the bakelite containers are brittle from age and are in varying states of "wholeness"--some intact and some not.
An interesting and unusual item to add to one's advertising or olde school collection!
The traveling case's exterior is constructed of leather, and the interior sports 5 compartments packed with a total of 62 medicine bottles. Specifically, there are 32 narrow medicine vials with metal screw-on caps, plus 17 medium-size vials. There are six miscellaneous vials, 5 of which are corked, and one that houses a later-date, glass syringe. Finally, there are 7 apothecary bottles with ground glass stoppers residing in their individual compartments.
Imprinted in gold-gilding on the inside cover flap is the manufacturer name, "H.K. MULFORD COMPANY", which is a precursor to today's Merck. The label cites "7 Highest Awards from the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition" (which took place in Chicago) and which dates the case to the 1890's.
This interesting case measures 11 inches L x 5.5 inches W x 6.25 inches H. The case is complete and has modest wear and tear commensurate of a used antique. Some separation of leather parts with stains of age and use reside on the interior and exterior surfaces.
An intriguing piece of early pharmacy and physician care.
Colorful detailing of cats on cardboard covered-bottom is marked "Made in Germany". Tin frame holds game with glass cover on one side and mirror on reverse side.
In excellent condition considering age. Glass cover is free of cracks. Game color is still bright. Original mirror has a few spots of silvering and light scratching but is free of cracks. Displays quite well!
Her cute face is composed of pearl button eyes with red fabric mouth. She wears a flowered bandanna and a pale blue apron over her pale blue patterned dress. Her clothes are odor and stain free and are nicely constructed--note fancy sleeve detail!
Just love her size!!! Odor-free---- ready to be displayed in your collection!! She is one of 3 offered bottle dolls all coming from the same estate--and all priced separately.