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Tryon Palace purchases drum used at Battle of New Bern for $28,000 - Weekend auction in Asheville nets artifacts
Just the thought of "The Old North State" drum rolls coming home to New Bern brought applause from a crowd of about 300 attending an Asheville weekend auction of historic artifacts from artist Bob Timberlake's collection, said Dean Knight, Tryon Palace registrar.
Knight attended the auction at Brunk Auctions where a Civil War era drum manufactured in Asheville and bearing the inscription "captured at the Battle of Newbern March 14, 1862" was purchased by Tryon Palace Sunday for $28,000. [Note: Another report of the auction puts the winning bid at $32,200. See "The Bob Timberlake Sale—The First 25% to 33%" by Pete Prunkl, Maine Antique Digest, 2006 (copy below).]
"Our goal was to get it back to New Bern," said Kay Williams, Tryon Palace Sites and Gardens director, of the bentwood drum with old and probably the original brown and blue painted surface. It has "The Old North State" stenciled on its side with a star, and has string, brass and leather mounts.
Knight said the bidding Sunday went quickly and the price went up quickly as well, with the drum one of the highest priced items of the hundreds composing about 15 percent of Timberlake's vast collection.
"Then boom, it's over. Everything gets real quiet," Knight said, "and auctioneer Robert Brunk looked at me and said, ‘Can I tell them?' When he said it was going back to New Bern, everyone just applauded, 300-plus. They all seemed very pleased it's coming back."
The drum had been in New Bern in recent years since Timberlake added it to his collection and was displayed at the New Bern Riverfront Convention Center, Williams said.
It may now be first displayed by Tryon Palace in the Civil War Room at the New Bern Academy, with the planned N.C. History Education Center a future option.
"We haven't done exhibit design (for the history education center) yet so I can't say exactly how it will figure in but our interest is in acquiring objects that help us better tell the story of this part of North Carolina," Williams said.
"Whenever you are acquiring an object and have even a single inscription on it, it becomes so much more valuable," said Knight. "You can take that inscription as a great clue as to its history, and in this case, there are a whole series of inscriptions."
Information provided by the auction house notes three pencil inscriptions inside the drum including one identifying E.M. Clayton of Asheville as manufacturer. Inscribed on the inside bottom head is "L.L.Lamb/Fichburg/Mass."
Levi Lamb is listed in the 1860 Census for Worcester County, Mass., as a 21-year-old mechanic. Civil War records list a Levi Lamb as a musician with the 21st Massachusetts Infantry, according to the pre-auction data.
Edwin W. Clayton was listed in the 1860 Census for Buncombe County as a cabinet maker.
Tryon Palace also purchased a Civil War briar pipe bowl from the same collection. The $550 pipe had "New Bern, NC" carved on it as well as leaf and floral decoration.
See also: "Timberlake Collection Brings $2 Million At Brunk's Auction In Asheville"
By David S. Smith, Aug 1st, 2006
The Civil War drum marked The Old North State was captured in the battle at New Bern, N.C. It sold for $32,200 going to Tryon Palace in New Bern, an Eighteenth Century palatial estate that was home to the governor and is now a museum. The boy's Confederate coat sold for $2,415, and the yellow pine cupboard realized $1,495.
Brunk Auctions, Asheville, North Carolina
The Bob Timberlake Sale — The First 25% to 33%
Maine Antique Digest
by Pete Prunkl
To Bob Timberlake, every item he consigned to the July 15 and 16 sale at Brunk Auctions, Asheville, North Carolina, was personal. These were not just 1000 decoys, drawings, paintings, shotguns, canoes, pitchers, or quilts. Each item held a genuine significance for him and his family. Twice during previews, this affable and renowned landscape artist and designer from Lexington, North Carolina, took the time to share the stories behind a few of the items collected over the past 35 years.
First were the paintings: 43 Wyeth lots, including 17 originals. In 1968, when Timberlake was undecided about his choice of profession, he sought advice from Dr. Margaret I. Handy. Handy, a friend and art patron, said, "Why not call Andy?" She offered Andrew Wyeth's phone number.
Timberlake, an unschooled devotee of realistic art, called and later visited the noted artist. "I draw all night and work all day," Timberlake explained to Wyeth. "I have to either quit art or do it." Wyeth's encouragement led Timberlake to leave his day job with the family gas company in 1970 and paint full time. In 1980 he was asked by the U.S. Postal Service to design a Christmas stamp. Today Bob Timberlake is a brand. In addition to paintings and prints, his name is attached to everything from clothing and furniture to dinnerware and Christmas ornaments.
In appreciation for Wyeth's influence, Timberlake began collecting his prints. "It was all I could afford," he said. Later, as his reputation and income grew, he was able to purchase collotypes, drawings, watercolors, and oils. Wyeths remain in Timberlake's vast collection, which may number 3000 to 4000 varied items. The artist was uncertain if this Brunk sale represented one-fourth or one-third of his collection.
The works of the Wyeth family dominated the auction's first day. Gable End, a 1986 signed watercolor by Andrew Wyeth (est. $50,000/100,000), and View of Barn behind John Andres's Farm, Bullock Road, Chadds Ford, an oil on canvas by Andrew's father, N.C. Wyeth (est. $60,000/80,000), each brought $195,500 (including buyer's premium). The winning bidder for Gable End lowered his head as the sale concluded, and auctioneer Robert Brunk had to ask, "You were bidding?" "Yes," he said. "I was sleeping and bidding."
The N.C. Wyeth oil went to a phone bidder. "What attracted me to this painting was Wyeth's treatment of the sky," Timberlake had told Brunk before the sale.
Another by Andrew Wyeth that aroused the faithful was Road to the Mill, a circa 2001 15¾" x 27¼" watercolor, purchased for $138,000 by Michael Rainey, bidding for a client. Rainey, a former Marine Corps fighter pilot from Beaufort, South Carolina, also won Andrew Wyeth's Quiet Harbor, a 13¾" x 22" watercolor ($97,750); Goose Basket, a 1987 painting in gouache and gum arabic on Strathmore paper by Jamie Wyeth ($74,750); and Archie's Roof, Study for Night Lamp, a signed, inscribed, and dated (1950) pencil drawing by Andrew Wyeth ($46,000).
The most endearing Andrew Wyeth, an illustrated two-page thank-you letter to Ed and Barbara Coffin for their gift of a rowboat, soared to eight times its high estimate. The sweet note with a 6¼" x 8¼" illustration of the gift boat opened at $6000 and finished at $92,000.
Shortly after the conclusion of the sale's first day, Brunk said that all the Wyeth originals sold for over twice their high estimates.
As he continued his preview gallery tour, Timberlake next picked up a pewter teapot that his mother told him had been used at the Edenton Tea Party. That gathering on October 25, 1774, linked female patriots in North Carolina to the fledgling nation's condemnation of the Boston Port Act. "My mother told me to be careful of this," he said. The teapot with two pewter plates sold for $316.25. "There is no way to prove that it was late eighteenth century," said Brunk as the teapot crossed the block.
On the floor near his massive decoy collection, Timberlake lifted a pine field cradle. He appreciated its clever expanding design and believed that it was a South Carolina slave cradle. As the cradle sold for $632.50, Brunk, who is always wary of anecdotes, announced, "We can't prove [the association with enslaved persons]."
Of the 34 full-size and salesman's sample canoes in the sale, Timberlake stopped at a restored 16' Kennebec with brass label on the bow, two woven cane seats, and open gunnels. He compared the larger canoe with an identical display model or salesman's sample in its original orange, green, and black paint. The large Kennebec went to a phone bidder at $10,925. Its smaller version (5'6") also went to a phone bidder at $10,350.
Early in his career canoes helped solidify Timberlake's reputation. He painted Iron Eyes Cody in a canoe for an anti-littering advertising campaign in the 1970's.
Two props used in Timberlake's painting South Carolina's Heritage (a boy's Confederate coat and a Civil War era drum found in Staunton, Virginia) were next on Timberlake's improvised tour. The coat, he said, was fashioned in bright red by the drummer's mother to protect him on the battlefield. By tradition, drummer boys were not fired upon if they could be seen. The boy was captured, in Timberlake's account, and served as a houseboy for the commandant of the Staunton prison camp.
Purcell Jones of Morehead City, North Carolina, purchased the coat with its 20 authentic South Carolina Civil War buttons for $2415. The drum went to a phone bidder at $5520.
While the drummer boy's instrument was a sentimental favorite, another Civil War drum kicked off a war of its own. Representatives from Tryon Palace, North Carolina's first capitol, now restored in New Bern, fought a determined on-site bidder for a drum manufactured in Asheville, North Carolina. On the side was stenciled "The Old North State," an early nickname for the state. On the head was a handwritten inscription, "Captured at the battle of Newbern [sic] N.C. March 14, 1862, 21st Mass Vols.…" Inside the bottom head was another inscription, "L.L. Lamb Fichberg [sic] Mass," for Levi Lamb, a musician for the 21st Massachusetts Infantry. An examination of census and drum maker records led Brunk's staff to raise the attributions to highly probable.
Brunk opened the bidding on the captured drum at $10,000. Profound silence followed. At $5000 a card went up. After a two-minute volley, an opposing on-site bidder, ironically a former Tryon Palace board member unaware of who his competitor was, did not respond to Tryon Palace's $32,200 bid. The bidder for the historic site also purchased the next lot, a Civil War pipe of carved briar marked "New Berne, NC" and "1864" for $632.50.
Timberlake's last tour stop was the decoys. He had consigned over 170 lots, the majority with repaint, reheads, and shotgun wounds, from at least 95 carvers. "I hunted with these," he said pointing to three Ronnie Wade decoys from Knotts Island, North Carolina. "They work!" The lot sold for $805.
"This is one of my favorites," he said about a wounded Maryland decoy. "That's a working decoy." It was in a lot of four that brought $1265.
"Ronnie Wade, a third-generation carver, made these for me," said the artist of seven duck and goose decoys made from lobster floats. The lot fetched $1035.
None of Timberlake's favorites reached the level of a 25" root-head swan decoy from Narrows Island Club, Currituck Sound, North Carolina, with old repaint and two horseshoe weights underneath. A floor battle between Dick McIntyre, a southern decoy specialist from Seabrook, South Carolina, and another decoy enthusiast drove the swan to $18,400. McIntyre, who captured the swan, is associated with Collectible Old Decoys.
Like peanut butter and jelly, decoys go with shotguns, and Timberlake consigned 37. Although he did not choose favorites, collectors did, and Parker Brothers manufactured them. A phone bidder paid $19,550 for a double-barrel Parker Brothers shotgun in .410 gauge weighing 6 pounds, 5.6 ounces. The 26" barrel had Del Grego engraving, and the gun was in a custom-made case. During preview, the most handled shotgun was easily the Parker Brothers .28-gauge double-barrel with a patent date of 1878. Many would-be on-site bidders were shut out of the competition for the .28; it was all phones and absentees until a phone bidder prevailed at $11,500.
Timberlake assured everyone who accompanied him around the gallery that he was not dying or bankrupt. His wife, Kay, had asked him to cull the collection. He said he had invested money that he had saved for his children in art and antiques. Proceeds from the sale of the paintings in the sale, he said, will go into trusts for the children. "Art and antiques were a better investment than the stock market," he said.
Total hammer price for the sale's 1120 lots came to $2,003,385 (as given on Brunk's prices realized list). The 17 original Wyeths contributed about 48% toward that sum.
For more information about Brunk Auctions, visit (www. brunkauctions.com) or call (828) 254-6846. For more information about Bob Timberlake, see his biography written with Jerry Bledsoe, Partial to Home: A Memoir of the Heart, Down Home Press, 2000.
© 2006 by Maine Antique Digest