Rare Hubley Bulldog could put a bite on bidders' wallets Apr. 29 at Morphy's Rarer than any breed you'll see at the Westminster Dog Show, the only known circa-1928 Hubley cast-iron bulldog garden ornament could fetch as much as $25,000 in Morphy's Apr. 29-30, 2011 auction.
News-Antique.com - Apr 04,2011 - DENVER, Pa. – Looking for a watchdog who’s low maintenance, never naps on the job and won’t jump the fence? That’s a tall, but not impossible, order to fill. Just such a dog will cross the auction block during the opening session of Morphy’s April 29-30 sale of toys and antique advertising. It’s an imposing, life-size cast-iron bulldog garden ornament and the only one of its type known to exist.
Standing 18 inches high and 27 inches long, the beautifully formed bulldog was made around 1928 by the Hubley Manufacturing Co., of Lancaster, Pa. – a company best known for its early-20th-century production of metal toys, trains and cap guns.
According to the Ron Rittenhouse book Metal Goods – Hubley Price Guide, which quotes the 1980 memoir of a former Hubley employee, the dog figure was inspired by a canine belonging to Joseph L. Brenneman Sr., Hubley’s treasurer in the late 1920s. As the story goes, a California artist who spotted the dog asked Brenneman if he could use the muscular pet as a model. Brenneman agreed, and a deal was struck for Hubley to produce figures from the artist’s original.
At the “sitting,” the artist asked Brenneman to place his bulldog on a table and hold him in a particular stance. The artist then proceeded to sculp a realistic, life-size plaster-of-Paris figure in the bulldog’s likeness. The prototype was cured then sent off to the Hubley factory.
Two painted-lead sample dogs were produced from the artist’s mold, with the intention being to market further dog figures at $35 apiece to a wealthy clientele for display in their gardens. Unfortunately, the stock market crash of 1929 and subsequent Great Depression put a damper on Hubley’s plans, and production of the expensive animal ornament was scrapped.
With the war effort ramping up in the decade to follow, one of the two dogs was broken down and melted for metal content. The other dog, which had been shipped back to Hubley’s Pennsylvania factory, was subsequently purchased by Alvin Koser, who provided the written history of the bulldog design for the Rittenhouse book. Both the plaster-of-Paris mold and pattern were destroyed.
The last of its breed, Hubley’s one of a kind bulldog lawn ornament will be offered in Morphy’s 1,645-lot auction with a pre-sale estimate of $20,000-$25,000 – and of course, it comes with all its papers.
All forms of bidding will be available during the sale, including live via the Internet through Morphy Live or LiveAuctioneers.com. For additional information, call Morphy's at 717-335-3435 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit Morphy's online at www.morphyauctions.com.