Monumental Torcheres, Estate Furniture and Art Await Bidders in Don Presley’s June 25-26 Auction The sale will also feature prototype examples of two “canned laughter” machines used in early television shows.
News-Antique.com - Jun 16,2011 - ORANGE, Calif. – Exquisite antiques, fine furniture and objets d’art from several southern California estates will merge with the final offering of Continental furniture and decorations from the Steven Thomas antiques firm at Don Presley’s June 25-26 auction. In addition, the 1,100-lot sale will shine a spotlight on two technological inventions that dramatically impacted American pop culture – the original machines created to produce “canned” laughter and audience applause for Hollywood’s booming television industry of the 1950s.
Two talented inventors, CBS sound engineer Charles Rolland Douglass and I Love Lucy’s creator/producer Jess Oppenheimer, simultaneously created canned-laughter and applause machines intended for use during the taping of TV sitcoms. In 1953, Douglass filed for the patent on his “Laffbox” while Oppenheimer attempted to secure a patent for his “Jayo Laugher.” Douglass prevailed, and his “LaffBox” went on to provide taped laughter and applause for more than 20,000 TV shows over several decades to follow, including The Beverly Hillbillies, The Munsters, The Brady Bunch and The Andy Griffith Show.
Both machines are prototypes and will be auctioned as separate lots in Don Presley’s sale. The Jayo Laugher has been consigned by Jess Oppenheimer’s son and daughter, Gregg Oppenheimer and Jo Oppenheimer Davis, with all proceeds (including the auctioneer’s commission) to be donated to the Motion Picture & Television Fund.
The sale’s principal estate collection comes from a magnificent home in Belmont Heights, an oceanfront enclave in Long Beach, California. Auctioneer Presley explained that the owner has sold his residence and is relocating to his country property – a 500-acre ranch in Santa Barbara where he raises rare Peruvian horses.
Towering over the featured collection is a pair of majestic cast-iron figures, classically formed as a Native-American man and woman holding torches aloft. The imposing torcheres dominated a reception area that also held a Steinway grand piano and what auctioneer Don Presley calls “some of the finest French furniture [he has] ever seen.”
But at 92 inches tall and of a weight so substantial it takes four strong men to move even one of them, the statues will not be making the move to the country.
“The consignor’s Santa Barbara home is no less spectacular than the one he is leaving, but the décor is very different,” Presley said. “It’s a ranch house that doesn’t really suit these pieces, which belong in a grand setting.”
The torcheres stand on Doric pedestals, each bearing a tag inscribed with the manufacturer’s name: Fonderies du Val d’Osne, 58 Bd. Voltaire, Paris. Established in 1836 by Jean-Pierre Victor Andre, the Val d’Osne foundry distinguished itself throughout the Victorian Era with its award-winning designs of both functional and ornamental cast iron.
Presley has estimated the torcheres – which will be offered as a single lot – at $40,000-$70,000. Those numbers could prove conservative, however. On May 5, Sotheby’s auctioned a comparable pair of Val d’Osne Native-American figures for $86,500. The only differences were in height and base motif – the Sotheby’s figures stood 9 ft. tall and had