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News-Antique.com - Aug 10,2008 - Santa Fe, Aug. 10 -- Standing vigil outside tobacco shops in towns and villages all over America in the 19th century was Samuel A. Robb’s cigar store Indians.
Like barber shop poles, these silent fixtures, fashioned mostly out of white pine from the odds-and-ends of ship spars or recycled railroad ties--are the art work of the everyday man. Today we call them folk artists.
Robb opened his Canal Street wood-carving shop in 1886 just across the street from what is now Chinatown in Manhattan, the largest shop of its kind in New York.
The first floor of his two-story building was a long room with dirt floors mixed with deep deposits of wood chips. Wooden squaws and unpainted baseball players lined the wall.
Paper and cardboard patterns were scattered around the floor and signs of shaping, carving and painting were everywhere. From the rafters upstairs hung a pulley built especially for raising and lowering dozens of wood advertising creations.
The cigar store Indian and the “Punch” figure are two examples of the types of advertising carvings chiseled each month. These sidewalk figures were made to catch the attention of passersby and let them know tobacco was sold inside. The Punch figure with his raised forefinger and dirty-old-men leer coaxed you into the store.
The average cigar smoker in America in the late-1800s couldn't read the words smoke shop or, for that matter, any other signage. So these cigar store figures pointed the way.
On April 18, Pook & Pook Auctioneers in Downingtown, Pa., offered a Punch cigar store figure attributed to the shop of Samuel Robb in its antique auction.
The 75 inch high polychromed decorated figure sat on its original base inscribed “Cigars Tobacco/Havana Cigars/Smoker’s Articles”. The late-19th century Punch was in remarkably untouched condition and sold for $187,200.
Read the entire article at www.LiveAuctionTalk.com