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    Extremely Rare Ives Sojourner Truth Mechanical Clockwork Toy, 4" x 11" x 5", E. R. Ives & Co., Bridgeport, Connecticut, ca. 1880s. An animated Sojourner Truth doll stands behind a podium on a lacquered wood speaker's platform. She is engineered to bend forward, thump the lectern with her right hand, and turn her head while quoting from a stationary book in her left hand. The doll's coal-black face is a garish caricature of the actual reformer, with its wide eyes and red mouth ringed with gleaming white teeth. Reducing the subject to a mere Negro stereotype may not have been entirely unintentional. The doll's original cloth costume consists of a patterned dress with lace collar and beribboned bonnet. The condition of this rare toy is excellent but for a little wear to the velvet that covers the lectern top (where it is struck by her moving hand) and normal aging to garments. The toy's original turning key is not present.

    E. R. Ives and Company operated in Bridgeport, Connecticut, from 1872-1932. They are best known for toy trains, but in the early 1880s they produced several moving figures of well-known personalities which are now "Holy Grail" items for collectors of nineteenth century toys. By far the most commonly seen is a walking (or rather lurching) figure of Ben Butler, Civil War general, gadfly politician, and 1884 Greenback / Anti-Monopoly Party candidate for President. Generally considered the most expensive variety depicts Ulysses S. Grant seated in a chair, raising and lowering a cigar. A nice example will run $20,000, if you could find one. Of nearly equal importance is this wonderful mechanical Sojourner Truth. Born a slave in Ulster County, New York, in 1797, she suffered under three hard masters until New York abolished slavery in 1828 and ended up in New York City working as a domestic. She experienced a "spiritual revelation" in 1843 when she adopted the name Sojourner Truth, and began a walking tour of the northeast preaching "God's truth and plan for salvation." She became acquainted with William Lloyd Garrison and Frederick Douglass and became actively involved in the Abolition movement. After the Civil War, she worked tirelessly to aid the newly-freed Southern slaves. She also became aware of the growing Women's Rights movement, which came to national attention with Victoria Woodhull's independent candidacy for president in 1872. In her final years, Women's Rights and Women's Suffrage arguments became more and more central in her public speeches. Given the tenor of the times, it should not be surprising that some of the items produced to take note of Sojourner were crudely satirical. A familiar bisque figure depicts her as a savage holding a large club and a "Votes for Women" placard. In over thirty years, we have not seen more than three or four of these toys. A prominent New England Americana dealer offered an example in a late 1990s fixed-price sales catalog at $14,750, and advises that "Seven callers wanted to buy it!" Here, then, is an opportunity of the utmost importance for collectors of mechanical toys, Woman's Suffrage, and American Social Movement items!

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    February, 2007
    26th-27th Monday-Tuesday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 1
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
    Page Views: 1,318

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