Appraisal Video: (2:56)
C. Wesley Cowan
Arms & Militaria, Books & Manuscripts, Decorative Arts, Folk Art, Photographs
Cowan's Auctions, Inc.
GUEST: Well, it's a... We're not really sure what to call it, but it's, uh, colored sand in a jar, and it was presented to my great grandfather around the end of the Civil War. He was a sergeant in the Union Army, I believe from New York, and they moved to Hot Springs after the Civil War and settled here. And this was a gift from two of his friends, and, uh, it's been in my family ever since.
APPRAISER: And what do you do with it now?
GUEST: We look at it and it sits on the bookshelf, and, uh, we enjoy it.
APPRAISER: Do you keep it in a safe place?
GUEST: No. We keep it high enough where my four-year-old granddaughter can't reach it.
APPRAISER: Yeah, please do. Well, let's start with, you know, what it is. It is, it's sand in a jar. It's an incredible piece of sand art. Let's start with who your great grandfather was. He didn't come from New York, he came from Illinois.
GUEST: Close enough.
APPRAISER: And he spent most of his Civil War career in the Hot Springs, Arkansas, vicinity, and so it's interesting that he ended up in Hot Springs from, from Illinois. The real interesting thing about this remarkable piece of sand art, though, is just what you see here. On the back, this wonderful eagle with a 36-star flag. You spin it around and you see his name is written in script, there is a mortar and pestle. All of this is done with individual grains of sand. And when you flip it up, the label on the bottom says, "Pictured Rocks and Sand by A. Clemens, Deaf Mute, from McGregor, Iowa." I want to tell you that while you were sitting back in the Green Room, on a whim, while I was finding out about your grandfather, I went to the Internet and just typed in "McGregor, Iowa, sand," and bingo, we got a hit--
APPRAISER: --on A. Clemens, the guy who made this. He was born in 1856 and died in 1894. When he was five years old, he had what his family called "brain fever," and he went to the deaf-mute school in Iowa, and would come home in the summers, and he started going to this spot on the Mississippi River in McGregor, Iowa, collecting sand and sort of experimenting with making these bottles. He used a great big, over-sized fishhook, and like a popsicle stick, and he would take the sand, that he had collected along the Mississippi River, and then he would pack it in this bottle and manipulate it with the fishhook. He gained national fame for making these, and today, there's an exhibit on this guy at the Iowa State Museum.
GUEST: Is that right?
APPRAISER: I could find records of about 15 of these in existence and it is a remarkable piece of folk art. On today's market, I would guess that it's between $4,000 and $6,000 is what we'd estimate.
APPRAISER: It might bring more than that in the right auction. Great piece.
GUEST: That's great.