MARLBOROUGH, MASS. – Skinner’s “timed” Americana sale featured three sand bottles made by Andrew Clemens in the late 19th century, which collectively grossed $ 1,798,750. As rare as these works are, it’s unusual to find three at auction, and interestingly, they came from three different senders. Clemens was born in Dubuque, Iowa, in 1857. At the age of five, he became deaf and mute from illness. He later made a living by painstakingly arranging colored sand to make images in glass bottles. If you haven’t seen one of these sand bottles, it’s worth going out of your way to do so. How they were made will mystify you.
The sand came from the naturally colored sandstone cliffs near his home in Iowa. He worked in McGregor, Iowa, and for a short time he produced the images and exhibited his work in a dime museum on South State Street in Chicago. The most sought after examples are those with the most detailed scenes and those that were made to order as presentation pieces. Interest in this art form is relatively recent. When a bottle first appeared in an episode of The antique dealers tour in 2002, it was valued between $ 4,000 and $ 6,000. One of the bottles in this sale featured a red and white Irish setter on one side with the word ‘Christmas’ above a fully rigged sailboat on the other side. It sold for $ 852,500. A printed manufacturer’s label is affixed to the top, which reads “Pictured Rock Sands Put up by A. Clemens, Deaf Mute, McGregor, Iowa”. An indistinct label at the bottom bears the dog’s name.
Maybe the same bidder bought another of the three. There was a banner saying, “Capt. Lyman Hunt, Commander, City of Duluth “on one side of the bottle and depicts the paddle steamer City of Duluth. The other side showed an urn of flowers, wavy lines and abstract and geometric bands. Hunt was captain of the Duluth from about 1880 to 1888. He is descended from the Hunt family, for whom the bottle was made. Skinner had a thick file with details regarding Lyman Hunt and the steamboat, including old photographs of the ship. It brought in the same amount as the previous example, $ 852,500.
The third bottle had a banner on one side with the name “Wm H. Cook” and depicted the sailboat. Wm H. Cook with two small distant ships. It was dated 1888 and the reverse depicted an eagle in flight with an American flag. It sold for $ 93,750.
The prices shown include the buyer’s premium as stated by the auction house. For information, www.skinnerinc.com or 508-970-3200.