A large part of what makes the auction industry so intriguing is the people we meet. As auctioneers we have the opportunity to learn a little bit about a family’s history and present some of the wonderful collections that people have taken lifetimes to amass. In this month’s auction we have the pleasure of selling some items for some very interesting people, and would like to highlight two of those people in this blog post: the late Mr. Forrest Cress and Ms. Barbara Ihrig.
Forrest Cress was born on February 14th, 1892. He worked for Standard Oil Company, who sent him to China in 1916 during World War I. In a handwritten narrative of his life, part of which is pictured, Mr. Cress writes that he was also working on special assignment for the U.S. government reporting to the American military attaché in Peking during the war. Later in his career he joined General Motors, then joined Chrysler Export Corporation where he managed the Far East and South East Asian division for over 20 years. During the Great Depression Mr. Cress was sent to work in South Africa for four years, and then returned to the Far East where he lived and worked until he retired in 1957. During World War II, Mr. Cress spent two years in the Philippines as a Japanese prisoner of war, a fact that is detailed in multiple pieces of government correspondence preserved by the Cress family, and on file with the Smithsonian Institute.
We are in possession of several interesting pieces of correspondence belonging to Mr. Cress, and will exhibit these during our inspection on October 13th. These include documents from the State Department concerning his passage from Asia to America on the MS Gripsholm, an information packet detailing relief measures for American POWs in the Philippines, a 1915 letter from Standard Oil, as well as several of Mr. Cress’ business cards. While these documents are not included in this auction, I think they will certainly provide credibility to the remaining items we are selling on behalf of his heirs. Some of his items in this month’s auction include a personalized sterling silver Siam cigarette case, a ship carved out of rose quartz, and a brilliant agate incense pot.
This month we are also selling some items for Barbara Ihrig, a very sharp 94-year-old woman who has seen much change in her lifetime. One particularly interesting item we are selling for Ms. Ihrig is an extraordinary hand-written and hand-illustrated book dated 1888. This book, which meticulously details scientific and zoological theories, was written and illustrated by Mr. Hugh E. Hammond, who was an eccentric and reclusive neighbor Ms. Ihrig once had in upstate New York. During one of our meetings with Ms. Ihrig and her daughter, they told us that Mr. Hammond had no family to look after him, so every day for five years they visited him to take him food. Ms. Ihrig’s daughter vividly remembers Mr. Hammond walking down the stairs on his hands with his legs straight up in the air during these visits. Other items we are selling for Ms. Ihrig include two early 20th century signed Asian lacquerware pieces, old pocket watches, and an old cannonball rope bed.
One reason I am so enamored with this industry is because I love the stories behind the people and the items I sell for them, and I believe auction bidders do too. Sometimes it’s the story behind the piece that induces a person to bid. Whether I’m selling an estate for heirs who have lost a loved one or selling for someone who simply wants to share some of their pieces with someone else, I have certainly learned the most important lesson: When you take the time to listen, everyone has a story.