19th-century weathervanes, antique shooting gallery targets, notable folk art toys delivered visual appeal to Soulis’ buoyant Mid-Americana Auction

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Dec. 10 sale of 196 tightly curated lots included New England dairy cow vane, $22,300; Whippet carnival target, $19,200; and important ‘gentleman’ whirligig, $18,000

LONE JACK, Mo. – Everyone loves a big multi-day antiques auction because of the sheer amount of goods from which to choose, but sometimes it’s more fun to bid at a smaller, studiously curated sale where every piece has a story to tell. That was the case at Dirk Soulis’ colorful 196-lot Mid-Americana Gallery Auction, which took in $240,000, inclusive of buyer’s premium.

The marvelous mix of folk and outsider art, weathervanes, old-paint furniture and primitives had its own entertaining sideshow going on with the addition of carnival shooting gallery targets, a category whose following has gotten quite a boost since Soulis’ September 2020 auction of Richard and Valerie Tucker’s consummate collection. 

Racing to the top of its category, a rare, early 20th century C W Parker iron shooting gallery target took the form of a striding whippet with a bull’s-eye on its side. As would be expected, its patina reflected the effects of its prior use, but its paint appeared original and untouched – an unusual physical attribute considering targets were often haphazardly repainted during the off-season, sometimes annually. Signed C W Parker Abilene, Kansas on verso, the sleek 27-inch-long hound crossed the finish line at $19,200 against an estimate of $6,000-$9,000. 

A scarce 1930s sheet-iron shooting gallery target depicting an eye-catching “Cowboy Gunfighter” drew comparisons to a larger model that was made by William F Mangels of Coney Island, New York. While not as detailed as the similar target produced by Mangels, the cowboy auctioned by Soulis was a nice buy at $7,800, roughly the midpoint of its estimate range.

A substantial “Fishing Boy” shooting gallery target of a type never before seen at auction was created as a single 46-inch iron casting mounted to an iron base plate. Its line of provenance included the aforementioned Tuckers, who, despite their vast knowledge on the subject of gallery targets, were unable to attribute it to a particular manufacturer. Neither were they aware of any other examples like it. The nearly 4ft-tall target made $6,600 against an estimate of $2,000-$3,000.

An attractive early 20th century cast-iron “Pancho Villa” shooting gallery target attributed to Emil Hoffmann of Chicago was illustrated in the company’s circa-1912 catalogs and titled “Mexican Head-Illuminated Eye Target.” The head-and-shoulders design bears a striking resemblance to Villa, who escaped prison and fled to El Paso, Texas, on Christmas Day of 1912. It was bid to $6,000 against an estimate of $2,000-$4,000.

Figural weathervanes that adorned the rooftops of 19th-century rural barns and houses are staples in Americana collections, so the opportunity to acquire a rare form at the sale was appealing to many bidders. The auction’s top lot, ambling its way to $22,300, was a vane in the shape of a three-dimensional dairy cow. Attributed to the Boston firm A J Harris & Co (active 1868-1882), it was modeled in fine detail and proportionate to a real-life cow. Its copper body exhibited an attractive time-generated layer of variegated green verdigris, with a powdery, granular oxidation present on the iron head. “Weathervanes like this, with a heavier, more solid head, would balance a vane properly and be more likely to keep the figure facing into the wind,” said Dirk Soulis, owner of Soulis Auctions.” 

A 19th-century full-bodied copper dairy cow weathervane, with a zinc head and copper body set on four independent legs was also attributed by some sources to A J Harris. It achieved $12,000 against an estimate of $2,000-$4,000. The original gilt finish on another striking bovine – a Cushing & White copper weathervane depicting a full-bodied dairy cow – was largely intact and accented with naturally-occurring verdigris highlights. It reached $10,800 against an estimate of $3,000-$5,000.

Rare and important mid-19th-century carved and painted pine whirligig formed as a gentleman in top hat and tails, with mustard-colored waistcoat and brownish-red trousers. Nicely executed and mounted to a sheet-metal vane. Sold for $18,000 against an estimate of $3,000-$4,000
Rare and important mid-19th-century carved and painted pine whirligig formed as a gentleman in top hat and tails, with mustard-colored waistcoat and brownish-red trousers. Nicely executed and mounted to a sheet-metal vane. Sold for $18,000 against an estimate of $3,000-$4,000

Rare and important, a mid-19th-century carved and painted pine whirligig was carved in the form of a gentleman in a top hat and jacket with tails worn over a mustard-colored waistcoat and brownish-red trousers. Well known to the collecting community, it has been attributed by some as the circa-1860 work of a Bucks County, Pa., carver named Amos Schultz. Against an estimate of $3,000-$4,000, it left the building with an Iowa collector who paid $18,000.

Another standout in the folk art category was a pull toy depicting an animated top-hatted man on an articulated horse with an articulated dog running alongside them. A book example, the toy had previously been exhibited at several prestigious institutions, including the Museum of American Folk Art, the Brooklyn Museum, and the New York Historical Society. Also, as noted on the cloth tag affixed to its underside, it had once been part of the famed Kahn Collection. It sold to a prominent New England dealer for $7,995 against an estimate of $2,000-$4,000.

While the furniture category has seemed dormant of late, there was interest in an unusually ornate pie safe with heart and star tin panels, a scroll-cut upper gallery, and scrolled skirt between tall, intact original feet. Against a $400-$600 estimate, the kitchen classic of Southern origin served up a winning bid of $1,200.

Items that are one of a kind can produce surprising prices at auction. One example was the early 19th-century folk art watercolor on velvet with motifs associated with the American frontier of its period, including beaver and white-tail-type deer. It realized $2,040 against an estimate of $300-$500. Another sleeper was the complex circa-1900 folk art scherenschnitte composed entirely of clipped US postage stamps from the 1890s. The finished work artfully depicted a Spanish mission, peacock and butterfly within an exuberant spiraling landscape. It sold for $1,265 against an estimate of $400-$600.

To contact Soulis Auctions about consigning an item or collection to a future Americana, art or general antiques sale, please call 816-697-3830 or email [email protected]. All enquiries are kept strictly confidential, and there is no obligation to consign. Visit Soulis online at https://soulisauctions.com/.

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