Sunday, August 24, 2014

Shedding some light on illuminated globes

     There is a whole group of globes out there that until now I have not really talked about, that is illuminated globes. Part globe, part decorative lamp they are an interesting merger of two useful items that when merged seemed to make each a bit less useful. Today they are seen as beautiful sculpture, reminiscent of a different time.  
     Illuminated globes enjoyed a fairly brief but intense surge in popularity in the 1930's and 40's  this is a subset of globes that is intensely cross collected.  What do I mean by that? Well basically these globes are of interest to obviously globe collectors, also Art Deco collectors, period designers, and novelty lighting collectors.  All of these groups have an interest in these globes for one reason or another.
     Construction of these globes was materially intense, the orb itself a glass sphere, then map surface was applied, a sturdy base was necessary, then the addition of a safe lamp.  These were a premium product offered for sale by most of the American globe producers of the time, as well as some European makers as well.
1949 Crams Atlas globe
1949 Crams Atlas globe 
     This group of globes is a very good example of design trends influencing globe manufactures, most of these globes are intensely Art Deco stylized, reflecting the time period they were made. So let me show you a globe:  This is a 1949 Crams  "Atlas base" globe it is a 12 inch orb with a stylized Atlas figure supporting the world. This is an impressive piece as a globe, lamp, or deco object d'art.  The influence for this globe came from the famous Atlas sculpture in Rockefeller Center that debuted in 1937.
1949 Serpent globe
1949 Serpent globe

Crams did not stop with the Atlas globe, probably more desirable is it's Sea Serpent globe of the same time period.  This globe ups the ante when it comes to over the top deco style! It is fantastic, nautical collectors want this, globe collectors want this, of course deco collectors want this globe.... could I heap any more desire onto this object?.....Oh what the heck I want this globe!  Great color, and great design it is smaller than our Atlas and so does not have the room defining dominance but I think that's a good thing.  So as you can imagine both of these globes come at a premium to the collector, especially in excellent condition.
1939 Replogle Deco scroll globe
    I want to show another globe a bit different than the first two, a different company, a gentleman's lighted globe if you will.  1939 Replogle illuminated globe, featuring a deco inspired scrolled metal base, this is a handsome globe, I think it looks equally nice with the lamp on or off,  the gores are hand applied to a 12 inch glass orb, muted oceans, and great pinks, greens and purples make this globe stand out. Again it is reflective of it's time period, taking full advantage of Art deco trends.
     As I mentioned at the top of the page illuminated globes were not exclusive to America, but the vast majority you will encounter will be from the great Chicago globe makers.  When globe makers moved from the east coast to the mid west they were part of a much larger trend in America. from about 1890 to 1950 America's manufacturing might became concentrated in the middle of the country what we refer to as the "Rust belt" today, but it's easy to forget that places like Cleveland, Buffalo, Detroit, and of course Chicago were in many ways the silicon valleys of their time. These globes represent their place in time as deco era masterpieces, but they also represent America's industrial and creative might. I mean where else than 1930's Chicago could it have been done!
     This post really only scratches the surface with regard to illuminated globes, certainly worthy of a place in even the most discriminating collection. I have to thank Dee Wiemer, owner of Upstarts, for photos and background regarding illuminated globes.

**Don't forget to join this page, and feel free to comment, and as always let's discuss!**

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

A look at the current market for Antique globes: James Wilson thirteen inch globe

     I want to start a recurring post where I look at the current state of the market for antique globes, I think a few times a year I will bring a link to a globe that sold at auction and will editorialize a bit:

so here it is:   Wilson's New American Thirteen inch globe, 1835

This wonderful example of a Wilson globe sold  June 24/25th  in New York at the venerable Christies Auction house, the price $3250 included the buyers premium.  Please click the link, and please scrutinize the picture, I wish that there was a second picture of the other hemispheres, but for the sake of our conversation let's assume that the globe was in equally nice shape all around.
     Now this is an American globe from the very beginning of globe production in this country, yes there are earlier Wilson globes, but there are also later ones as well. This piece seems to be in nice untouched/ unrestored condition, A full mount in Wilson's largest size 13 inches, makes this one of the most desirable globes for a collector of American globes.
     So what about the price?  Well I would love to have seen more pictures, but if the one picture available represents the globe properly then I think the price paid was a good one, very fair.  I've seen these globes for sale at the retail level for much higher.
     I should close this post with a bit of truth, I did not know about this auction when it occurred, I am lax in checking the listings of the big auction houses, but I think I'm going to start getting better in the future.  Skinner in Boston, and Christies NY do have globes come up for sale on a fairly regular basis. I like most people associate these places with million dollar art and antiques, and yes that is their stock in trade, but they do sell many items that are much more accessible.
     You may ask is $3250 accessible?  Yes if you're in the hunt for a Wilson globe, this is a very doable proposition.  I've been asking myself would I have tried to acquire this globe, hind sight tells me yes I would have liked o be in the mix.

On a closing note: to the purchaser of this globe, whomever you are congratulations, and well done!!

Friday, August 15, 2014

Taking a globe apart, a learning experience

     Today I took one of my globes apart, something I don't do too often, it's not a thing that should be done especially because I really don't know what I'm doing. It did not spin well and I wanted to clean the metal parts so that it could spin freely again, mission accomplished. Well as with most things getting it apart was easy, putting it back together.......well I just made it without any damage. Now wiser and more humble I want to share a discovery:
1930 Rand McNally 8 inch orb 

Now two things I have learned from this picture

1. This globe should undergo a professional cleaning, very typical of most globes the northern hemisphere has picked up considerable dirt over it's 85 or so years. More on that later.

2. More striking the time dial affixed to this globe protected a small circle from dirt, AND sun exposure, notice the small red area part of northern Canada this island is red,  this is a fairly common Rand McNally globe, and in every example I've ever seen there is not a speck of red left.

Globe makers have always had trouble with red pigments, this color has a hard time standing up to the sun and is very prone to fading. In fact it is completely gone from the surface of this orb. I was shocked to discover it! I had until today thought that this globe was produced with monochromatic land masses, a bit unusual, but now I see it was not.
     I can sit at this picture and imagine what this globe looked like when it was newly purchased, it actually looked a lot like  globes sold today, perhaps the ocean was a different shade but other than that they are extremely similar.

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Sunday, August 10, 2014

A conversation with Kimberly Soerensen, owner of Omniterrum

     I discovered the lure of antique globes quite by accident, purchasing my first globe on a whim.  After that first globe I was hooked so I set out to educate myself, and of course acquire more globes, the second, third and fourth globes I ever purchased came from Omniterrum, an antique and vintage globe dealer in Lynchburg VA.  Omniterrum is owned by Kimberly Soerensen a globe collector turned dealer who is at present one of only 3 or 4 globe specific dealers in the entire US.
     I have had the benefit of meeting Kim early in my collecting, and her knowledge and advice over the years has helped me avoid costly mistakes, and helped me build a better collection than I could have otherwise. Kim is patient and generous with her time something not all antique dealers can claim, especially with new collectors.  I want to pass some of those benefits on to the viewers of this blog in the form of a conversation with Kim:
1. You are one of the few dealers in the United States that specialize in globes,  how did you get started?, and why not maps? 

Kim:    Maps are easy to store , collect and ship, yet they cannot provide me with the satisfaction I receive from exploring the 3 dimensional display of earth, a globe.
My passion for globes is a fusion of two of my greatest interests: design and political history.  I find globes to be the perfect merger of form and function.
     A terrestrial globe is a superb representative of its time. It does not share what the world looked like politically whit its display of countries, empires and areas of exploration, but can also share the progress of technology of its time by the products used to create a terrestrial globe.
For example, one can follow the advancement of print technology on a globe as early globes had been hand drawn and colored, followed by one color print (black ) and then hand colored up to the mid 1800s to eventually multi color plate prints and now digital.
     The same can be said for the mounts (bases). From simple to ornate, Victorian to Deco and Mid Century Modern mounds, one can follow the cultural evolution of society, design and manufacturing.
 It had never been my intention to be a “globe dealer”, it was a hobby that had grown out of proportion!
I started collecting and trading globes about 10 years ago. In 2005 I obtained original NASA documents and proof read gores to the very first Lunar Globe based on actual photographic cartography from the Apollo 10 Mission. The cartography included the dark side of the moon, never to be seen from earth. Understanding the importance of this Space Race merchandise I decided to donate it to ensure it remains in public domain.
     While none of the institutions and museums in the US returned calls, the Austrian National Library took advantage of the opportunity and obtained the artifacts.
I have to add, I am bi-lingual, fluent in German in addition to English. This was of interest to the director of the National Library of Austria as he intended to expand their vast collection of Globes and related planetary items to include US models.
     I was invited to become a “scout”, search for and obtain objects for them.
Eventually, by word to mouth, my clientele increased to several other National Libraries, museums and other institutions, including among others Cambridge University and the German National Library. Meanwhile our private clientele has grow quite a bit and ranges world wide. At the beginning of Omniterrum roughly 60% of purchasing was done by institutions. Meanwhile, due to the economy their budget cuts and the growth of private clients, only 30% of artifacts are sold to institutions.

2.  What is your best advice to a new collector

Kim: Advice to new collectors:   If you purchase purely for looks, purchase what you like. 
     Obtaining a globe can be viewed like obtaining a piece of art.
If you intend to view it as an investment and ensure your artifact is authentic, educate yourself on the subject. We have dedicated several pages on our website to share our knowledge of how to date and authenticate a globe.
     Or purchase only from respected globe dealers as they have the knowledge and will make sure the item is authentic and worth the investment!
     Ebay, Etsy, Fist dibs, and on line auction houses are a hit or miss. Often the auction house  does not have the knowledge required or purposely misleads. Here is a typical example:
Globe looks old, maybe 1800s? Great condition. …and you receive a 1980s plastic globe, made to look old.
     There are several reputable auction houses throughout the world that provide annual scientific instrument auctions (including globes) and have experts evaluating the objects. I would suggest to follow them.
 Investment value:
Strive to obtain an object in the best possible condition. At the end, that is what increases value. Depending on age, some globes can be restored but this is a very costly option and has to be done correctly. Newer globes, by which I mean post WW1 globes are often not worth the expense of restoration or have been produced in a non-restorable, modern technology.

3. What mistakes do you see new collectors make when starting out?

  Kim:   The biggest mistake to globe collectors is buying every globe they see, regardless of condition. Especially on-line. Collecting globes is a slow process…
I must confess, it has been quite an expensive learning curve for me, especially in the early years. This is why we provide our globe guide on line.
    Make sure the base of the globe  and the globe itself belong to the same manufacture. If the base is not original, the globe has lost all value. It would be like placing a ford door on a 57 chevy…
     Lately Ebay has been infused with sellers placing globes on candle-holders and other similar items….     Your best “weapon” is knowledge.

4. If you had to pick one globe as your favorite what would it be?
   Kim:  Asking me which globe is my favorite globe is like asking a parent which is their favorite child. I regret selling one specific globe though. It was not too old, a 1961 Columbus special edition illuminated floor globe with all its documents. It had a 24 inch diameter glass orb and a mid century modern styled v form base. I purchased it from the Columbus family directly and had it shipped to the US. I also received documents, showing the globe with Mr. Ostergaard, the owner in 1961, which I kept. Since I sold the globe I had only one opportunity to obtain another one, which was destroyed in shipping. That globe I would like to find again, and if I do, it will not be for sale.

5. How has globe collecting changed ( if at all ) since you started

  Kim:  Collectors are no longer mostly individual hobby historians, interested in old maps. Now globe collectors include people who have a passion for art and design, collecting globes as individual art pieces. There has also been an increase in purchasing the artifacts as investments and heirlooms to pass down to future generations.

6. Would this hobby exist without the Internet?
   Kim:  No

7. Globe collecting in America seems a fairly young hobby, is it more established in Europe? 

   Kim:  Yes, especially in the UK. That being said, Globes had been produced in Europe much earlier than the US even existed. Being scientific instruments they had been purchased and remained in families for generations. Eventually someone began to collect…
Furthermore Geography and History are still being taught in Western European countries as individual subjects. 
With that limited exposure to the subjects related to globes, it will more likely not awake interest in globes or globe collecting

As always lets discuss please feel free to comment, below! Or e-mail me 

P.S. If you ever find yourself in Lynchburg VA  I highly recommend the Craddock Terry Hotel.  The hotel was so nice I'm trying to find a reason to return! 

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Tellurions, Orrerys, Planetariums..........wait....what?.....I'm confused.........

Planetarium: A type of mechanical model designed to portray the orbital motions of the planets and their moons. Made for teaching and exhibition

Orrery: A model of the solar system, sometimes it is mechanical,  named for  Charles Boyle the 4th earl of Orrery

Tellurion: An instrument that shows how day and night and the seasons result from the tilt of the earth, its rotation on its axis, and its revolution around the sun

Alright, all 3 terms are similar, and related, but tellurion most accurately describes this device: 
1905 Trippensee Tellurion, with original case

    So what is a tellurion, and should I own one?  Let me explain, and yes, start shopping AFTER I buy mine!  
      Ok think back to ninth grade earth science, this was probably your first encounter with a tellurian, it most likely plugged into the wall and the "sun"  lit up, and you watched as your teacher rotated the gears and explained the moon phases, the tilt of the earth, winter and summer, ect.  
     Pictured above is an exceptional example of a Trippensee tellurion, complete with it's original case. Trippensee tellurions will be by far the most common devices found for sale, they manufactured these in varying forms for 100 years.  
     The company got it's start as the Laing Planetarium company, patented in 1897 by Alexandar Laing, and manufactured in Detroit Michigan early devices will bear this name, also the earliest of these machines will have string instead of metal chain mechanisms, In 1905 Ownership changed and the company was re-names the Trippensee Planetarium company independent until 1999!  
     It's not surprising that a fair number of these devices still exist even after 100+ years, if you think that schools bought them by the thousands. Most desirable ( and expensive) will be tellurions of wood, and brass, in their original cases.  Much less expensive to acquire, but still desirable are examples from the 1930's and 1940's such as this one:
1930's Trippensee tellurion
     This is an nice example of a tellurion manufactured in the 1930's  Bakelite, and other plastics replace most of the wood and brass the earth globe is still a detailed model, really a nice device, it will display well and is much more easily found.

     Sometime in the 50's these devices were electrified,  and another change in materials was made, with a clear eye towards cost, and ease of manufacture  this example is from the 1950's and marks the newest I would consider collectible, these are readily available and nice examples should not be hard to find, notice below the globe is very basic, what could be made of plastic is, but still perfectly functional, possibly more so with the electrification. 
1950's Trippensee tellurion

    I have to confess I  don't own any of these wonderful objects, certainly not for a lack of trying, I've passed up several great opportunities for purchase and have thus far been unsuccessful.  Tellurions appeal to me on several levels, they are scientific,  sculptural, as well as historic.  I especially love the look of the oldest Trippensee models, as I've said before there's just something about wood and metal in an objects construction that just seems to scream history!
     Finally, I have focused on Trippensee tellurions here, but these devices were made by many other manufactures here and in Europe, some of the earliest European models will have a candle for the sun, these are hard to find in any condition, Also Gilman Joslin produces a successful tellurion in the 1860's that sometimes comes up for sale,  it is pictured to the right from a catalog listing.  As always, lets discuss!  
** The color pictures in this post were used with the permission of Dee Wiemer, she owns a great Etsy store called Upstarts ( please see my links section) , the 1905 tellurian is currently available on that site, the other two are sold** 
**Historical research:,, and**