Tag Archives: Selkirk auction

The Missing Pieces

St. Louis Star-Times article from 1941. Click to view larger version.

St. Louis Star-Times article from 1941. Click to view larger version.

Part of what makes the Campbell House Museum so special is its collection of thousands of original furnishings and personal items left behind by the Campbell family. CHM’s originally-furnished interiors are nearly unparalleled in the United States – it’s a special place. But it’s important to note that we don’t have everything. In fact, we’re missing quite a bit. Large pieces of furniture, beautiful works of art and countless papers, books and knick-knacks have left the halls of the Campbell House over the years. The big reason? An auction of the house’s contents that happened in 1941.

Hazlett Campbell died without an heir in 1938, leaving behind a sizable family fortune and an 11,000 square foot townhouse full of beautiful things. While the money was eventually split between distant family members, the house posed a larger issue. Cousins who had inherited the interior furnishings and fixtures of the building opted to auction them off through local auction house Selkirk’s. At this point, the story becomes familiar. A dedicated group from the community banded together, raised funds and purchased back hundreds of items as they passed across the auction block. Most of what you see on tours of the Campbell House today is only here due to the dedication and financial support of these fine folks. But they didn’t get everything. While many of the pieces that “got away” did so because of the group’s financial constraints, others were allowed to be purchased by others because they didn’t neccesarily fit with the foundation’s vision for the Campbell House Museum (still two years away from opening to the public). In the years since, few items have left the house and some have even returned. Here are some of the things that got away…

Click the gallery below to view the slideshow.

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Campbell goblets are on their way home!

One of twelve Campbell goblets that are coming home.

First day back in the office after a long weekend, and we have an email from a board member announcing he’s secured the donation of some Campbell possessions from the Selkirk auction back in February 1941.

What was the Selkirk auction? After Hazlett — the last surviving Campbell — died in 1938, the Campbell estate went through a long probate case. It was one of the largest in Missouri history, and it took ten years to wrap up. As part of the settlement — and why we have many of the possessions we do — all the Campbell furnishings went up for auction at a 1941 sale by Ben J. Selkirk and Sons (now Ivey-Selkirk Auctioneers). Stix, Baer & Fuller, meanwhile, purchased the house from Yale University (who had inherited it), and they in turn donated it back to the newly formed Campbell House Foundation.

Since the Campbells’ furnishings were auctioned at a public sale and the foundation only had a budget of $6,500 to buy back as much as possible, quite a few items ended up with other families. Fortunately, many generous folks have given us back items over the years. Today was no exception.

Board member Tim Rohan learned a local family had this set of twelve punch goblets (pictured above), and they agreed to generously donate them back to us . Here’s the original auction catalog description:

[969] American Sterling Silver Punch Goblets, Mermod & Jaccard Co

Hemispherical body with double-scroll border, baluster and ring stem; rising circular foot with beading, height 4-1/4 inches.

They fetched a whopping $2.25 each at the 1941 Selkirk auction.

St. Louis Post-Dispatch clipping of the Selkirk auction. These cups are on the bottom shelf of the case in the top picture. Also note that "Women Almost Swoon."

To the left is an image of a page from the Sunday, February 23, 1941 edition of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, and these cups can be seen in the top picture on the bottom shelf of the case.

Want to see the goblets (and all of our other cool stuff)? They’re not here just yet, but give us a call at 314/421-0325. The house is open by appointment only in January and February, but we are here all week and we’re always happy to welcome guests.

With this donation, ongoing mysteries and all the other exciting programs and events we have on tap, 2012 has kicked off swimmingly. From the Campbell family to yours, we hope that you’re having a happy and productive new year.

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