Soulis To Hold No-Reserve Auction Of Exceptional 30-Year Jerry And Cathy Mueller Americana Collection

Sept. 19 Sale Features 65 Weathervanes, Painted American Furniture And Accessories, Figural Trade Signs, And Patriotic Antiques

September 11, 2020

A premier collection of Americana amassed over a 30-year period by Jerry and Cathy Mueller of Sioux City, Iowa, will be offered without reserve on Saturday, Sept. 19, in an outdoor country-style live auction event hosted by Soulis Auctions. All mandated health precautions will be observed, including the wearing of masks and social distancing. Limited tent seating and “drive-in” bidding spaces will be available to those who attend in person. Remote bidding options include absentee, phone or live online through a choice of three online platforms.
“The late Jerry Mueller was already an enthusiastic collector networking with prominent dealers by the time he and Cathy got together. It became a shared interest for them and resulted in what I would describe as a small but mighty collection,” said Soulis Auctions’ owner/auctioneer Dirk Soulis. “There are 250 lots of select American antiques that reflect decades of well-informed buying and upgrading.”
The collection’s contents span many popular subcategories of Americana, such as weathervanes, painted furniture, including cupboards and punched-tin-panel pie safes, accessories such as pantry boxes and firkins, gameboards, old figural windmill weights, barber poles, and an array of trade signs for optometrists, druggists, bootmakers, jewelers and watchmakers.
The auction will open with a ca. 1880s tobacconist figure of a Native-American princess attributed to master carver Samuel Robb. Although not signed, the 69-inch gessoed pine figure exhibits all of the characteristics typically associated with Robb. It is completely original and retains a considerable amount of its original paint. “Even the few touch-ups on it are old,” noted Soulis.
Weathervanes comprise one of the largest specialty groupings in the Mueller collection. There are 50 lightning-rod types, 14 larger copper vanes, and one five-foot-long sheet-iron horse silhouette vane that was removed from a Michigan barn, which displays a charming folky style.
A 19th-century weathervane depicting the famous American trotter “Black Hawk” (1833-56) is a spirited interpretation attributed to J.W. Fiske, New York City. Measuring 25.5 inches long, its design consists of a hollow copper body with a sheet-copper mane and tail.
Leading the figural lightning rod weathervanes is a rare example depicting a full-bodied zinc beaver on a log with a maple leaf in its mouth. With eye appeal to spare, it is embossed with the letters “W C S,” for the W.C. Shinn Co., of Lincoln, Neb. “William Shinn started manufacturing lightning rods and related electrical apparatus around 1905, and a year later he wrote the book, ‘The Origin of Lightning and the Philosophy of the Lightning Rod,’” said Soulis. One of few of its type known to exist, the beaver vane will cross the auction block with a $500-$1,500 estimate.
The abundance of painted primitive furniture boasts several outstanding pie safes. A rare and important walnut/red paint pie safe, likely of Midwestern origin, is decorated with 16 blue-painted punched tins lettered with the name “LINCOLN” above crossed flags and floating stars. Only four U.S. presidential pie safes are known: two Andrew Jackson types (one of which sold in 2015 for $102,500, an auction record for a pie safe), one George Washington, and the Lincoln example entered in Soulis’ sale with a $6,000-$9,000 estimate. Also worthy of special mention is an excellent Shenandoah Valley (Va.) pie safe in old green/blue paint with punched-tin panels in a heart and tulip pattern on its doors and sides estimated at $2,000-$4,000.
Carving was an admired art form in the 18th and 19th centuries and was central to one of the earliest types of American advertising, the trade sign. The Mueller collection is strong in this category and includes such highlights as a classic 19th-century gilded wood figural stovepipe boot used as a bootmaker’s trade sign, several jeweler/watchmaker signs replicating gold pocket watches, and five druggist/apothecary signs depicting a mortar and pestle, one of them jeweled and another with an American Eagle motif. There are nine whimsical optometrist signs shaped as spectacles, some of wood and others of metal, like the handpainted, gilt-framed tin sign featuring large blue eyes.
Other standout lots include a painted Civil War drum with the seal of North Carolina; a ca. 1876 folk art Federal Shield of canvas-covered wood, painted in red, white and blue with 13 applied silver wood stars; and a fine, untouched T. French Model 1808 .69-caliber musket, War of 1812 period, inscribed “SAMUEL MERRILL.”
The live gallery auction (limited to 50 guests, must pre-register, masks mandatory, social distancing required) will commence at 10 a.m. CT/11 a.m. EST. The gallery location is 529 W. Lone Jack Lee’s Summit Road, Lone Jack (suburban Kansas City), Mo. A new, additional form of bidding will be available that enables up to 16 vehicles to park between stakes around the perimeter of the tented auction venue and bid online through their mobile devices. All forms of remote bidding will be available, including live via the internet through LiveAuctioneers, Bidsquare or Invaluable.
To reserve a gallery seat or drive-in car space, make an appointment to preview the collection, or obtain additional information about any item in the auction, call 816-697-3830 or email To view the online catalog, visit
All images courtesy of Soulis Auctions.


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