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Category Archives: Blog

F.W. Woolworth, the American Dream, and a Silver Punch Bowl

Sterling Silver Presentation Punch Bowl Commemorating the Opening of the F.W. Woolworth Building (Lot 227, Estimate $30,000-$50,000)

Few pieces of design excited the early modern American imagination like Cass Gilbert’s skyscraper for F.W. Woolworth. Built in Manhattan as the tallest building in the world (792 feet tall), it literally pushed to new heights the frontiers of modern engineering and design. Referring to Woolworth’s success as a five-and-dime magnate, the New York Times would later call the building “the skyscraper built by the nickels of millions.” The 20th century archetype for the American Dream started his first shop with a few borrowed and saved dollars; by the time he commissioned Gilbert to design his corporate headquarters, he was personally worth many millions.… Read More

Watch a Video of a Macabre Automaton: St. Dennistoun Mortuary

“St. Dennistoun Mortuary” is a coin-operated automaton, attributed to John Dennison, c. 1900. The mahogany cabinet and glazed viewing area displays a Greek Revival mortuary building with double doors and grieving mourners out front. When a coin is inserted, doors open and the room is lighted revealing four morticians and four poor souls on embalming tables. The morticians move as if busily at work on their grisly task and mourners standing outside bob their heads as if sobbing in grief.

Watch & Listen: A Singing Mechanical Bird Box

Singing mechanical bird boxes have fascinated viewers since the 18th century. Contained within these small, elegant boxes is a complex mechanism and bellows which provide mechanical movement to the bird, wings, tail and beak while pumping air through a multi-pitch whistle providing the sound. Many of the later boxes, like the one shown in this video, are made in Germany and are available for a fraction of the cost of the 18th century examples.

The Perpetual Calendar Clock: Watch a Mesmerizing Video

On July 16th, Skinner will sell Henri Robert’s perpetual calendar clock, which was shown in the Paris Exposition of 1839. The calendar mounted in the lower section of the Belgian slate case was uniquely designed to show the year, month, day-of-the-month and day-of-the-week through the use of a single silvered dial and concentric hands, all self-correcting for the four-year cycles of leap year.

Watch William Bond’s Astronomical Regulator No. 396 in Action

Over 140 years ago, in 1868, the antique clock you see running below kept Standard Time in New England. This masterpiece is The Bond Shop Astronomical Regulator No. 396, crafted by William Bond & Son. It is one of only three known in the world, and once stood in the window of the William Bond chronometer shop in Boston.

Now I’ll let the clock speak for itself—Watch and listen to it running as cleanly as it did in 1868.

Skinner will auction this spectacular precision timekeeper on November 20, 2010 in our Marlborough, Massachusetts auction of Science, Technology, Clocks, & Militaria.… Read More

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