Wagons & Wheels: American Novelty Cars and Memorabilia

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The romance of travel has deep roots in the American soul, from the stagecoaches and wagons of the 1800s, to the mechanised wonders of the early 20th century. While the grand automobiles of Duesenberg, Auburn and Cadillac have come to define the era, there has always been a certain fascination with more simple forms of transportation that existed in everyday life. Whether the humble milkman’s truck, a bygone staple of post-war suburbia, or the eye-catching neon signs that advertised motels along Route 66, RM Sotheby’s annual Hershey auction offers an abundance of these American novelties. Click ahead to see twelve lots guaranteed to make you nostalgic for quotidian life of decades past. –Jake Auerbach

RM Sotheby’s: Hershey

5–6 October | Hershey

Wagons & Wheels: American Novelty Cars and Memorabilia

  • Driver’s Education Bench, circa 1930s. Estimate $6,000¬–8,000.
    This Driver’s Education Bench was state-of-the-art technology in the 1930s, perhaps a precursor to modern virtual reality. Students would take their seats in the two driving positions while a specially made film played on a screen in front of them. Different scenarios would be shown on the screen from a first person perspective to test how student drivers reacted in applying vehicle controls. 

  • Oldsmobile Pedal Car by American National, 1921. Estimate $6,000–8,000.
    Built in 1921, this highly detailed pedal car was produced by American National, which was at the time one of the world’s largest manufacturers of wheeled goods. Featuring an original Oldsmobile emblem and Moto-Meter radiator ornament, this delightful pedal car has steerable front wheels, a hand-operated working Klaxon horn and drum headlights. 

  • 1880 Weisenhorn U.S. Mail Flesher Stagecoach. Estimate $25,000–35,000.
    Based in Helena, Montana, the Weisenhorn Carriage Company produced carriages and stagecoaches from 1873 until 1899. Renowned for their craftsmanship and robust construction, Weisenhorn stagecoaches were one of the premier choices in transportation for the late 19th century. The example offered here was used to deliver mail to and from Flesher pass in Montana, stopping at the many small mining towns along the way. This Weisenhorn stagecoach was restored to original condition in 2011, using correct and original materials throughout.  

  • 1946 Divco Model U “Rosenberger’s Dairies” Delivery Truck. Estimate $12,500–17,500.
    For over 50 years Divco was the premier manufacture of delivery trucks in America. The Model U, introduced in 1936, was perhaps their most iconic design, with its signature “snub-nose” and movable driver’s seat, which allowed the truck to be driven from a standing position. Resplendent in the cream and red livery of the Hatfield, Pennsylvania company Rosenberger’s Dairies, this delightful little Divco is a wonderful piece of American nostalgia. 

  • 1915 Ford Model T “Rosenberger’s Dairies” Pickup. Estimate $8,000–12,000.
    In 1915, with nearly a decade of Model Ts now on the road, many manufacturers wanted in on Ford’s success and produced Pre-Fab kits which allowed consumers to turn their Model T into any type of commercial conveyance, including the delivery truck configuration seen here. One can almost hear the glass milk jugs rattling in the back of this Model T, which is still registered to Rosenberger’s Dairies. 

  • 1937 White Model 706 Yellowstone Park Tour Bus by Bender. Estimate $30,000–40,000.
    This large yellow bus was a familiar sight for generations of visitors to Yellowstone National Park. Built and operated by the Yellowstone Park Transportation Company, it would take tourists along the park’s more scenic roads for just a small fee. The canvas roof can be completely uncovered, providing passengers with panoramic views and a more open-air experience. The bus offered here, Yellowstone Park no. 402, has been appropriately modified for a more user-friendly experience and is sure to be a popular centrepiece and visitor favourite of any collection. 

  • 1950 Massey Ferguson TO-20 Tractor. Estimate $6,000–9,000.
    Produced in Detroit, this 1950 Massey Ferguson was purchased new by the New Mexico Highway department and used to cut grass along Route 66 from Gallup, New Mexico to the Arizona Border. The tractor was in service until the 1970s, at which point it was put into storage and eventually sold in the late 1980s. Restored by Arizona-based specialists in Ford and Massey Ferguson tractors, the sale of this tractor includes operation and maintenance manuals and period New Mexico road maps. 

  • 1903 Cretors Model C Custom Popcorn Wagon. Estimate $25,000–50,000.
    This Model C wagon was custom built in 1903 for a bank in Pittsfield, Massachusetts. The bank used the wagon as a promotional mascot, keeping it in service into the 1970s. It has original windows, doors, woodwork, glass signage, brass, awning, steam whistle and “Roasty” clown, intact and in good condition. The steam engine is a replica of the original built by a recognised expert on Cretors wagons. It is fully operational and ready to be enjoyed.  

  • 1902 Abbott-Downing Yellowstone-Western 11-Passenger Stagecoach “Sheridan.” Estimate $80,000–100,000.
    Abbott-Downing, established in 1813, was known for over a century to produce some of the world’s finest stagecoaches. Offered from a private collection, this stagecoach was received by the Monida-Yellowstone Stage Company on 10 April 1903 at the cost of $483. Monida-Yellowstone named its coaches after famous features in Yellowstone National Park; the “Sheridan,” as this coach was dubbed, was named after Mt. Sheridan, a 10,298-foot peak named in honour of a Union general in the American Civil War.  

  • National Bicycle with Briggs & Stratton Motor Wheel. Estimate $4,000–6,000.
    Produced by the Briggs & Stratton Co. of Milwaukee from 1919 to 1924, the Motor Wheel could transform a bicycle or small scooter into motorised transport simply by attaching it to the rear wheel. This particular example, painted a brilliant red, is attached to a National brand bicycle in a matching colour.  

  • Indian metal sign with multicolour neon, circa 1940s. Estimate $9,000–12,000.
    This well known neon sign was on display for many years in front of a motel on Route 66 in New Mexico. Constructed in the 1940s and recently restored, the piece is especially notable for the variety of different colours used in its design.   

  • 1929 Worthington Model A Tractor. Estimate $4,000–8,000.
    This rare Worthington Model A tractor was based on components from Ford’s own Model A and was designed to pull gang mowers and cut grass on golf courses. Fewer than 400 Model As were produced, of which only a fraction exist today. Proceeds from the sale will benefit The Hillside School. An institution dear to the consignor, the school caters to students K-8 with learning disabilities, seeking to maximise the potential of the child through excellence in education. 

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