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 figure, known as the Cotton Seller with Child, is most particularly hard to find and thus is quite highly sought after as it features a very young, female black child standing in a basket of newly-picked cotton. The Vargas family seldom included children or infants in their depictions of the numerous trades of black New Orleans folk, making any characterization featuring a child or an infant more than significantly rare.
Vargas wax figures are distinctly characterized by their interesting but highly exaggerated facial features. This female, Mama, Cotton Seller wears a red and white kerchief on her head, a red and white checked scarf around her neck, and a yellow and white checked shirt and skirt with an apron that matches her head scarf - all constructed of actual cloth fabric that was coated with a fine layer of clear wax to stiffen them. At her feet is a very large, wax-constructed basket made to simulate wicker that is filled with cotton and within which her young female child stands. The Cotton Seller's wax body is internally supported by a wire frame through which the figure is securely attached to the wooden base. The bottom of the base is stamped "Genuine VARGAS New Orleans, LA".
This wonderful figure is in amazing condition for her 75+ years of age with no apparent or visible imperfections other than some missing fingers, a condition which is quite common among found Vargas figures.
The Cotton Seller's young, female child also has some missing fingers, and additionally, her neck shows a contiguous crack all the way around. Because her structure is also supported by internal wiring, her head remains securely attached to her body. Please note that the child is merely placed inside the cotton basket and was never securely glued into it. The wax cotton basket, which was originally glued to the wooden base, has become loosened from it; however, when placed on the base, it will easily remain in place for display.
This particular estate document is extraordinarily unique and atypical in comparison to other estate documents of this period as it lists 15 SLAVES among the articles of property, and it actually labels these individuals as SLAVES as opposed to the much more common and typical practice of listing "Slaves" as "Negroes". The slaves are listed on the back side of the document with all other inventory listed on the front side.
Each slave is listed by first name with the corresponding current market value written to the left of the name, with the total market value of the 15 slaves named at $8600-- quite a hefty sum when one considers that the remainder of the estate (furniture, livestock, transportation and work vehicles, tools, etc) is valued in total at $980.75. Also listed in the inventory was 13,000 pounds of seed cotton, indicating that Lewis Mattair owned a sizable cotton plantation, clearly farmed by the slaves.
Lewis Mattair is noted in the 1860 Federal Census as a resident of Suwanee County, Florida; the 1860 Federal Census- Slave Schedules references Lewis Mattair owning 28 male and female slaves, ranging in age from 4 to 58. Lewis Mattair is listed in the 1865 Florida Tax records, but his name does not appear in any archived state or federal records after that year. Thus, it is presumed that this document dates from or just prior to 1865, the year that the Civil War ended.
The Middle Passage Museum was the dream of Jim and Mary Anne Petty of Mississippi as well as that of an anonymous Georgian benefactor who had together compiled a collection of slave artifacts numbering over 15,000 pieces and who had hoped to find a permanent site in Mobile, Alabama, for their museum. While they formed a non-profit organization to raise funds for their hoped-for museum, their dream was never realized.
In a 2003 statement, Jim Petty remarked, "The importance of the exhibit of these artifacts is to understand the harshness of what slavery and segregation was all about. The items in the exhibit remind us of the terrible heinousness of slavery. Viewing the collection can be very emotional, but it is a tool through which we can understand, honor and respect a great culture. We want to realize that out of slavery, a great culture emerged, and carried on, and continued to strive for a better life regardless of the adverse conditions that were placed upon them."
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 3/4 inches wide, the container is in good condition, perhaps a 7 out of 10, with one side exhibiting minor surface scuffing, while on the other side more scuffs and rubs are evident. Some minor wear around the edge of the top of the container likely occurred from simply taking the cover on and off; however, this is completely concealed by the cover. The original cardboard cover was lost with the passage of time; the replacement tin cover shown was in place when this container was acquired.
The original brownish orange color of the container remains consistent throughout, and the structural integrity of the cardboard is quite sturdy. Superficial rust is evident on the inside and outside of the metal base; this rust does not impact integrity of the tin base. The container retains partial remnants of its paper Federal Revenue Tobacco seal on both sides.
This very rare tobacco container is just a wonderful example of latter Black Americana advertising. The container looks better "in person" than in the photos as the camera actually accentuated the appearance of the scuffing, especially on the "better" side!
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!
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!
In lovely condition with age crackling to the backside of the seashell, this stunning piece appears to have never been used for its original purpose as a hanging wall planter. The black paint is in impeccable condition and any white dots that appear in photos are the result of light reflection off of teeny glaze imperfections and are NOT chips, rubs or scratches to the surface. The gold stippling to the seashell is perfect!
The piece has a hole in the back to facilitate wall-mounting or it may be easily displayed on a shelf.
A very seldom found piece of vintage Black Memorabilia that is truly stunning in appearance!
Her cute face is completely hand-stitched and is accented by original celluloid hoop earrings. She wears a flowered bandanna, a cream colored flowered shawl, and an off white apron over her green and black mini-checked dress. She even has a cream colored petticoat underneath all! Her machine-stitched clothes are odor free and are nicely constructed, although her apron does have tiny age holes!
Although her bottle frame is covered by a black stocking, the stocking has risen up revealing her sand-filled milk bottle with red lettering from R.W. Tripp's Dairy, established 1889. The milk bottle lettering is in great shape and even features a graphic of a school boy and girl! Among milk bottle collectors, this particular milk bottle is quite rarely found and quite highly sought after, adding further collectible value to this sweet doll!
This great, early bottle doll is one of 3 currently offered bottle dolls --- all priced separately.
Constructed of tin with tin back and a cardboard lithographed image and a glass cover, the puzzle is in all-original condition with some tiny crimps to the edges as noted in photos. (Please disregard any light or shiny spots in photos which are due to flash reflection off of the glass.)
An interesting image and a delightful piece of early Black Memorabilia!
Mr. Layton was a skilled pitcher with a strong bat who had a four-year career in the Negro Leagues, playing for the Indianapolis Clowns, the New York Black Yankees and the Raleigh Tigers. One of his teammates was a promising infielder by the name of Hank Aaron, who signed with the Boston Braves in 1952, and eventually became a Hall of Famer. Layton received an invitation in 1951 to try out for the Brooklyn Dodgers, but by then his shoulder was troubling him so he declined, hoping it would heal and another opportunity would present, which unfortunately never came. As of 2016, Mr. Layton, at the age of 87, was enjoying retirement as an associate pastor in a North Carolina ministry.
A brief history of the Negro League:
African-Americans first began to play baseball in the late 1800s on military teams, college teams, and company teams, eventually finding their way to the established professional baseball teams of white players. However, racism and “Jim Crow” laws would force African-Americans from these teams by 1900, with black players left to form their own teams.
In 1920, an organized league structure was formed under the guidance of Andrew “Rube” Foster, a former player, manager, and owner for the Chicago American Giants. In a meeting held at the Paseo YMCA in Kansas City, Mo., Foster and several other Midwestern team owners joined to form the Negro National League. Soon, rival leagues formed in Eastern and Southern states, which brought black baseball to major urban centers and to rural countrysides in the U.S., Canada, and Latin America. The Leagues maintained a high level of professional skill and inspired economic development in many black communities.
In 1945, when Major League Baseball’s Brooklyn Dodgers recruited Jackie Robinson from the Kansas City Monarchs, Robinson became the first African-American in the modern era to play on a Major League roster. While this historic event was a key moment in baseball and civil rights history, it marked the decline of the Negro Leagues. The best black players began to be recruited for the Major Leagues with their black fans following them, and the last Negro Leagues teams folded in the early 1960s.
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.
The trademark for Sharpoint is a cleverly-designed, eye-catching, broadly smiling image of an African American gent. If one looks closely, one can clearly see the words "Sharpoint Cobblers Nails" printed within the black space of the gent's mouth! A very "sharp" advertising strategy!
Sharpoint Wire Cobbler's Nails were manufactured by the Charles F. Baker Co, Boston, Massachusetts. The smaller box retains its end flap which features both the manufacturing and patent information, with the patent number corresponding to a 1933 USA Patent date. Each box amazingly still retains the original cobbler's nails!
The boxes are in very good condition considering their age and the fact that they held tiny, sharp nails for over 80 years! As stated earlier, the smaller box does retain the end flap which features manufacturing info. The larger box is missing this flap. The cover litho on each box remains very crisp and clear. Typical, age-related edge wear is noted. Please peruse all photos for condition details. The boxes have been shrink-wrapped to protect the integrity of the cardboard, and they do contain the nails.
These VERY, VERY RARELY FOUND SALESMAN SAMPLE size boxes WITH ORIGINAL NAILS are offered at $125 each, or the two boxes can be purchased as a pair for $198.00 firm.
From 1901-1924, Bruckner produced this original, 12" Topsy Turvy doll for Horsman's Babyland Rag Doll line that features Caucasian, "Betty", on one end and African American, "Topsy", on the other. The inspiration for this doll is based on the character of Topsy in Harriet Beecher Stowe's classic 1852 novel, "Uncle Tom's Cabin".
The Bruckner Topsy Turvy doll was advertised in a 1907 Babyland Rag Doll catalog as follows:
"TOPSY-TURVY---What is this?
Looks like just a pretty miss.
But turn her over and you'll find,
She is quite another kind.
First she's White and then she's Black,
Turn her over and turn her back.
Topsy that side--Betty this--
Yet complete, each little Miss."
The detail on this hard to find classic doll is lovely. Both heads indeed have the pressed, molded mask faces with lithographed features. Topsy's face is in mint condition! Betty's face is also in excellent condition with no superficial rubs to the flesh-toned coating of her mask; her lithographed facial features remain just beautiful!! (Such rubs are not unexpected as these particular doll masks are, unfortunately, very prone to rubbing. To find one of these 100+ year old dolls without such rubbing is quite rare!)
Grinning Topsy has red bows tied to her black mohair braided pigtails which are tucked into her red headscarf. Her red blouse, which matches her head scarf, is trimmed with cream banding around the sleeve and neck edges. The cream scarf she wears around her shoulders tucks into her very full, red/cream checked, gingham skirt. Topsy’s cream banding is lightly soiled and there is also some subtle fading to her red head scarf, most notably in the back. Flip her over, and....
Betty's more subtle Anglo face and her hair are lithographed. She wears the same red/cream checked gingham fabric of which both her dress and ruffled bonnet are constructed. Over her very full gingham dress, Betty should also wear a sheer, ruffled, white pinafore, however, it has been lost over time. Betty’s cream banding around each sleeve is also lightly soiled as are her hands.
Both dolls have the typical "mitten" hands of the stuffed rag dolls of this era. There are no other difficulties to report other than some tiny, stray (original) glue spots here and there. No rips, tears, or odors, and she has been stored in a smoke-free home. The 1901 Patent Bruckner Topsy Turvy doll typically carries a $650+ dollar price tag, but deductions to price have been levied to account for the minor imperfections that are noted in this doll.
The photos show it all- these two girls are a charming pair! A very difficult to find doll in such wonderful condition!
Also offered for sale is a COMPLETE 1901 Patent Bruckner Topsy Turvy doll with absolutely no soiling or fading. To view, simply type Bruckner into the SEARCH box on our homepage.
Poster reads further: "Benefit- Pals Bible Club-Elm Street Baptist Church". "Directed by Churchill Traylor". Features a very sweet Black Minstrel caricature graphic! It is believed that this event took place in the Petersburg, Virginia area.
Fine condition with very subtle age-related edge tears that do not interfere with image. Would look just wonderful framed!!
Her composition face is in impeccable condition with sharp, well-drawn painted facial features. Her face is further accented by 3 darling curls peaking out from under her brightly colored cloth bandanna!
Her body is machine-stitched cotton fabric stuffed with sawdust. On the back of her right thigh, her place of origin is stamped: "POLAND". Her little flowered skirt is also machine stitched and is the only piece of clothing that may be removed.
Condition is superb with the exception of a hand-stitched repair to the seam line of her left foot where the foot is joined to the leg. Does not detract.
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!
Fine detailing hallmarks this 11.25 inch tall doll. She is dressed in a black native costume -- all handsewn with yellow and black beads, and is adorned with a matching double-strand beaded necklace and single-strand beaded bracelet along with gold hoop earrings. Her lips, as well as the baby's, are painted red and both have inset life-like, plastic eyes. Her hands swivel at the wrists; her arms and legs are jointed at shoulder and hip, respectively.
No identifying marks are evident; clothing is securely attached and could not be easily removed for a further look.
Condition is excellent with the exception of damaged toes on the right foot.
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.
This circa 1940's (perhaps even earlier!) Mammy has a polished cotton half body firmly stuffed with cotton batting which is attached to a fabric-covered, cardboard platform that enables her to sit. Such a doll is often referred to as a platform or toaster doll as her voluminous skirt was designed to cover unsightly kitchen appliances - most commonly the toaster!
Most notable is this Mammy's exquisitely executed, hand-embroidered face, and her elaborate dangling beaded hoop earrings!
Mammy's clothing is machine stitched and is absent of holes, rips or repairs. While all her patterned clothing retains its original and uniform coloring, all of the purple cloth has faded- obviously a less stable dye used there. When one opens the folds of the cloth, one sees the rich, deep purple it once was!
An unusually well-detailed doll for its type!
Featuring a delightful, cartoon-like caricature of a black man, this board is in very good condition with minor edge wear, slight age-discoloration and a crease to the rim at the left end of the hat.
An interesting, seldom-found piece of Black Memorabilia!
Please disregard reflections in photos that are due to the presence of protective plastic wrap.