Heritage Auctions, on behalf of the American Red Cross, will auction off the one and only Rose Percy, an historic and beloved wax doll originally sold in 1864 as a benefit for the U.S. Sanitary Commission. It will be featured in Heritage Auctions’ Nov. 17 Political & Americana Auction, and is estimated at $40,000-$60,000.
Rose is a 23″ English poured wax doll with blue eyes and blond hair, possibly made by Charles Marsh or Herbert John Meech. It was initially sold at the April 1864 Metropolitan Fair in New York City to raise funds for the work of the Sanitary Commission. She will be offered with an original wardrobe of clothing and collection of accessories that are second to none in scope, quality, or history – there are 22 boxes of accessories in all, including original work by Tiffany & Co.
“There is no American doll of the 19th century more famous than Rose Percy,” said Tom Slater, Director of Americana at Heritage. “She is a rare and transcendent piece of Americana. The mere fact of her survival is an amazing thing in and of itself, let alone contemplating the history and the people she’s witnessed.
The doll’s was most likely imported directly from London in 1862 and given to the young ladies of Mrs. Ogden Hoffman’s boarding school, who gave her a hand sewn wardrobe, and persuaded local merchants, including Tiffany & Co., to donate the raw materials and accessories.
The girls donated Rose to the Metropolitan Fair in aid of the Sanitary Commission, the forerunner of the American Red Cross, in April 1864. Funds were desperately needed to continue the commission’s ministry to the sick and wounded of the war. Among the treasures of the world on display for perusal or purchase at this massive bazaar sat Rose Percy on her own small sofa (not now present), along with her wardrobe and her favorite books, photo albums, and dressing accessories.
Rose Percy was first purchased by one of the female members of the wealthy New York Astor family who paid for her and then donated her back to the Sanitary Commission to raise additional money for their coffers. Tradition says that she was raffled off for $1200 to an unknown gentleman. It is more likely that she was auctioned off for this sum, an amazing amount of money in 1864 to pay for a doll. For comparison consider that Abraham Lincoln’s donated original handwritten draft of the Emancipation Proclamation sold for $3000 at a similar fair in Chicago.
This second owner donated the doll and clothing back to Mrs. Hoffman’s boarding school. They, in turn, gave Rose Percy to a Doctor Peters, where she became the “foster child” of the doctor’s own daughter Bertha. Many times during the next years and decades would Bertha allow her precious Rose Percy to travel to fairs and exhibitions, creating interest and raising money for various worthy causes.
“Bertha loaned it back to the Red Cross for display in 1920, an event that made national news in America at the time and was widely covered in the nation’s emerging press,” said Slater. “It was Bertha’s daughter who, in 1954, formally gifted Rose to the Red Cross.”
Heritage Auctions, headed by Steve Ivy, Jim Halperin and Greg Rohan, is the world’s third largest auction house, with annual sales more than $700 million, and 475,000+ registered online bidder members. For more information about Heritage Auctions, and to join and gain access to a complete record of prices realized, along with full-color, enlargeable photos of each lot, please visit www.HA.com