Dean Collection Sold at Auction

Steam lineup

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Part of the steam lineup at the auction of the late Robert Dean's collection held Thursday, August 2, 1984 in Centerville, Maryland. In approximately six hours time, Merv Hilpipre auctioned off about 1200 items, which had been collected over a period of nearly 20 years.

The farm of the late Bob Dean near Centerville, Maryland, drew hundreds of bidders and seperators last August as his outstanding collection of big engines and smaller pieces of equipment went up at auction.

Holding of the sale proceeded as the former Maryland state senator had planned. He had given full instructions to his wife, Miriam, on how the sale was to be arranged and held. He included instructions on media in which to advertise (including IMA and GEM). A conservationist, he told her to sell the machinery but to keep the land.

Editor Gerry Lestz speaks with Mrs. Dean under an umbrella on her farm in Centerville, the day of the auction which drew over 800 people from all over the East coast.

She followed his recommendations, and as we sat and interviewed her the day of the sale, she reminisced on his career and his collecting. The first piece he bought was an old stationary Erie engine from a cannery near their home. By the time of his death 19 years later, he owned many traction engines, stationary engines, marine engines, saw mills, a stone crusher, walking plows, pulleys, belts and innumerable other items.

For details on prices obtained at the auction, see adjoining story, with information from Merv E. Hilpipre, whose firm conducted the sale.

Bob Dean might have become a sea captain, but preferred to settle down on a land-locked farm in Maryland. He and his wife were charter members of the Tuckahoe Steam & Gas Association, whose annual show is held near Easton, Maryland.

Now Mrs. Dean is one of the organizers of a group to set up a museum for St. Anne's County, in which the home is located. Joe Jackson is chairman of the committee, and says the aim is to collect all items indigenous to the county, farm and maritime. A blacksmith shop bought by Dean some years ago, with all its tools, is to be part of the museum. Mrs. Dean said that Arthur Hough-ton, formerly owner of Steuben Glass, is very interested in the project. He lives ten miles away.

Dean grew up on a farm near Ridgely, Maryland, then attended Washington College in Chestertown and graduated in 1931. He went to sea with the Isthmanian Steamship Co., stayed 9 years, and won his master's license. He could have served as 'master of any ship on any sea in the world,' Mrs. Dean recalled, but preferred to come back to the soil in Maryland. The couple was married in 1940 and settled on the property they called Anchor Rest, with a homestead site that is handsome.

Dean was elected state senator from Queen Anne's in 1945, and was in office 16 years. The collection of engines and other equipment started small, but by 1970 he was attending a sale every Saturday. He would come home telling Mrs. Dean, 'I've brought you another load of goodies,' and on Sunday they would spend the day unloading.

Sign at right reads: 'This is a Frick portable steam engine. Next to the smallest engine the Frick Company made, it was built about 1915 at Waynesboro, Pa. The engine came from the Roanoke, Virginia area and I restored it during 1971-72, a job requiring many hours and much patience. It has a 5-inch diameter piston with an 8 inch stroke and is commonly designated as a 5 x 810 horsepower engine. The boiler has 26 2-inch flues and these were renewed April 1972 at a cost of $300.00. The engine was used for small jobs on farms such as powering small threshing machines, earring and shelling corn, baling hay and grinding feed. It was also used in industrial plants for powering small machine and related work. Owner Robert P. Dean, Centerville, MD.'

This part of the crowd was gathered as Merv Hilpipre auctioned a Corliss engine. The engine was said to have all of its parts though disassembled. It brought a price of about $300.00.

Although he could not run steam engines, he loved to ride on them, and men of the neighborhood would assist. He enjoyed life, and the engines, and Tuckahoe, and was on the way to put a sawmill in the woods when he suffered a fatal attack. He was 74.

'He wanted to die on this farm,' his wife related. 'He told me, many times, sell the equipment, because people enjoy the engines, but you keep the land.'

And the land is for the couple's daughter, Bonnie Roschy, who was at the sale. Bonnie teaches middle school in Havre de Grace. Her husband John is principal of Prospect Mill elementary school in Bel Air. They have two children, Dean, 16, and Anne, 14.