Steam Engines at Auction: Henry Ford Museum Sale

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This 6 HP Watertown steam engine sold for $6,600.
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This Birdsall portable brought $5,250 at the Ford Museum auction.

Portable steam engines sold for up to $9,000 at the “housecleaning” auction sale of the Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village in October 1985.

Total of all sales came to $1.26 million. Some items, such as old cars, sold for much higher than the steam traction engines.

A tabulation from the auction house, Hudson & Marshall, Inc., showed these prices paid for portable steam:

  • Wood, Taber & Morse, about 1891, 10 HP, made in Eaton, N.Y., $9,000.
  • Nichols & Shepard, about 1891, 12 HP, made in Battle Creek Mich., $8,500.
  • Watertown Steam Engine Co., about 1888, 6 HP, made in Watertown, N.Y., $6,600.
  • Geiser Mfg. Co., 1914,6 HP, made in Waynesboro, Pa., $6,500.
  • Upton Mfg. Co., 1890, 10 HP, made in Port Huron, Mich., $5,500.
  • Birdsall Co., 1890, 6 HP, made in Auburn, N.Y., $5,250.
  • Messinger Mfg. Co., about 1902, 7 HP, made in Tatamy, Pa., $3,250.
  • Port Huron Engine & Thresher Co., 1916, rare compound with code boiler; poor condition, $3,250.
  • A portable by an unknown maker, about 1900, $1,900.

The sale included a lot of stationary steam engines, as well as three tractors and a threshing machine.

Next highest price paid was $92,500 for a 1928 Bugatti cream-colored two-seater purchased new by Edsel Ford. It had not been driven since 1932.

Highest price paid was $210,000 for a 1939 Lincoln Royal limousine. It had been built for the 1939 tour of Britain’s King George VI and Queen Elizabeth through parts of the U.S. and Canada. The sales catalog said, “Low mileage. Excellent original condition. Royal crest and shield not included.” It was bought by Thomas Barratt, a collector of Scottsdale, Ariz., according to the New York Times article on the sale.

The museum auctioned the 400 old cars, engines, buggies and other objects because they were no longer needed to show or study, according to Harold K. Skramstad, president. Curators and trustees reviewed all proposals for inclusion in the sale, before it took place. IMA

For copies of the catalog, or the full list of sales results, write to Hudson & Marshall, Inc., 717 North Ave., Macon, Ga. 31298.

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