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UNIQUE (one-of-a-kind) 1800's Mechanical Masonic (?) Steampunk (!) Inkwell

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    Posted 6 years ago

    (40 items)

    The moment I spotted this remarkable antique one-of-a-kind mechanical inkwell I knew I just HAD to have it. I don't collect Masonic stuff, not do I collect steampunk, but this simply blew me away because, to me, it's definitely the oddest and coolest inkwell I have ever come across.
    No idea who made this, but he was obviously an amazing artisan! The original (worn) felt is on the bottom and "maybe" there' something inscribed under it, but I don't want to mess with this in any way.

    It's a museum de-acquisition mechanical inkwell with applied miniature tools and gears. The inkwell is very heavy nickel plate over brass. It weighs almost 3 pounds. A press-down, gear-driven lever opens the top helmet-shaped chamber smoothly and easily. The inside is fitted with its original glass insert. The bottom of the insert has an embossed “13.” The tools have a masonic look and feel, and they include a compass, triangle, hammers, T-square, closed and open wrench and more. It sits 5 1/4” high by 5 1/4” wide and the bottom diameter is 4 3/4”, and came from the private collection of the renowned early 20th century (very wealthy and eccentric) collector Margaret Woodbury Strong.

    Broke the budget on this one (yikes!), but I don't regret it for a moment...
    Thanks for looking!

    Unsolved Mystery

    Help us close this case. Add your knowledge below.

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    1. Recordmantime, 6 years ago
      Very cool..........
    2. blunderbuss2 blunderbuss2, 6 years ago
      "Wha a 'ting, mon" ! This is just simply GREAT !
    3. pops52 pops52, 6 years ago
      Congrats on this great piece, totally amazing! I would have jumped all over this given the chance!
    4. kyratango kyratango, 6 years ago
      Incredible piece, can fairly well understand you broke the limits to get it!!!
    5. thegatherer thegatherer, 6 years ago
      Coolest thing ever ! ;)
    6. PhilDMorris PhilDMorris, 6 years ago
      I love steampunk gadgets and always have. I bought a lot of books on the subject, some good and some bad. Sometimes there is some here and another site I like. but not much. This has a great steampunk patina to it !
    7. Hyp-storian, 6 years ago
      Thanks for all your kind comments folks- much appreciated !
    8. Efesgirl Efesgirl, 6 years ago
      This is fabulous!!! There's a Steampunk shop not far from me...and you can find my nose prints on the window....
    9. Hyp-storian, 6 years ago

      I always thought certain steampunk items were kinda cool but never collected any-
      mostly because they're too "new" (though often using older components), but this inkwell was actually MADE in the (late?) 1800's, and that totally blew my mind!
      That, and the fact that it is truly one-of-a-kind...

    10. blunderbuss2 blunderbuss2, 6 years ago
      I have my doubts that this is all that old.
    11. Hyp-storian, 6 years ago

      I spoke to the museum director where it came from, and it is DEFINITELY from
      the late 1800's to the 1910's at the latest. The original owner (Margaret Woodbury Strong) was a filthy rich and famous collector who traveled all over the world buying very special antiques, and donated all of her extensive collection PLUS $77 million to her museum. Look her up on Google...

    12. Dizzydave Dizzydave, 6 years ago
      SAME ONE?
    13. ho2cultcha ho2cultcha, 6 years ago
      i love this piece and am surprised that people are questioning the age of it so much. of course it looks like steampunk, but even steampunk has a history which harks back to Victorian times. i think of William Harnett who painted odd assortments of objects at the time.
    14. ho2cultcha ho2cultcha, 6 years ago
      oops! i meant to say that inkwells were made to honor all sorts of things back in the late 1890s, and not so much at later times. this makes me think that it is from that time too.
    15. Dizzydave Dizzydave, 6 years ago
      Its all a Learning experience, this is what Collectors do, pick apart what We have to find its True Origin and Age. Sometimes it take a Village to come to a conclusion. I would love someone to come on and say YES, its 19th Century no doubt here's the proof. But untill then We truck on and hope for more info.

      Hyp, did You get something in writing from Museum as to its History? They should have plenty of paperwork on this if it once was in their hands??
    16. Dizzydave Dizzydave, 6 years ago
      Peel the felt back??
    17. Hyp-storian, 6 years ago
      Hey DizzyDave,

      Same one- I'M the one who won that auction (LOL), and the seller was the person who told me where it came from (museum), and the museum director (who I called even before the inkwell arrived) told me all about its origin- which I described here in my original post!
    18. pops52 pops52, 6 years ago
      It's the real deal, I have no doubt! I found other info on this and other photos. The screws are in the same position as Hyp's. It also goes on to say

      Description: C. 1900.

      Condition Report: Some wear to plating, otherwise very good.

      Provenance: Property of the Strong, sold to benefit the museum's collections fund.

      Dimensions: Ht. 5"
    19. pops52 pops52, 6 years ago
      Great piece Hyp!
    20. Hyp-storian, 6 years ago
      Hey again DizzyDave,

      I specifically called the museum director (or rather, "director of the collection(s)) to get all available info, and there was no "paperwork" because Margaret Woodbury Strong had, in her lifetime, amassed a HUMONGOUS collection of over 300,000 items (that is NOT a "typo"!). She started collecting at age 7 (also NOT a "typo", and her parents were fabulously wealthy and allowed here to buy ANYTHING she desired. Google her name and see for yourself what an amazing and eccentric collector she was. Anyway, the museum is actually devoted to "play" (toys, dolls, games, etc., etc.), and THAT is why this inkwell from her private collection was sold off- because it didn't fit in with their theme.

      As for peeling off the (clearly antique) felt at the bottom of the base- not gonna mess with it. If I knew for CERTAIN that there was something inscribed under it I would, but there might be nothing there, and I'll never be able to restore the original (very worn and thin and fragile) felt.

    21. Recordmantime, 6 years ago
      Hey bidder # 2333 thought it was worth $ You done good I would say...'-))
    22. Hyp-storian, 6 years ago

      Yep, that's the same exact one- sold by the "Strong Museum of Play" because it didn't fit the theme of the museum.

      In the past I've been fortunate enough to be able to buy other incredibly rare items and/or books that were sold off by museums or libraries because they didn't have a place for them in their collections. I'm sure some of you folks have had the same experience too!

      Thanks for providing that additional clue (which I wasn't able to find on my own).
      Are you a private detective Pops?

    23. Hyp-storian, 6 years ago

      Thanks (LOL). I was hell bent on winning this, and spent about $200 more than I was originally planning on bidding, but I couldn't be happier!

    24. pops52 pops52, 6 years ago
      Nope! Just like snooping the web!
    25. pops52 pops52, 6 years ago
      The only problem I have is that it's a one of a kind, and I want one!
    26. Hyp-storian, 6 years ago

      Well, you're obviously way more capable than I am, because I spent almost 2 hours trying to find the original auction description and had no luck...

    27. Recordmantime, 6 years ago
      good for you Hyp ... I would say the room loves it as well...good luck...
    28. Hyp-storian, 6 years ago
      Thank you kindly Recordmantime- I can assure you that it ended up in a loving home and will be well cared for until it's my turn to take the "long dirt nap"......
    29. Dizzydave Dizzydave, 6 years ago
      I read all about Her and She did have a extensive collection of Inkwells. Collections that large some things are remembered differently. It would be hard for Museum Director to say He knows for sure when this was made, because She had no papers kept and as You said over 300,000 items, no one but Mrs Strong would know the true History, where She bought it and from Whom, when did She buy it ? Museum Director wouldn't have these answers no more than We do now. If Director said I have a receipt or a letter stating this to be fact, then we got a winner! I just can't believe that Musuem would remove this from Collection ? Did He tell You why? It's a guessing game but keeps things interesting on "CW" Babies!! lol
    30. Hyp-storian, 6 years ago

      Yep, she told me why: "because it doesn't fit the theme of the museum", which is all forms of "play" (toys, games, dolls, etc.).
      Their loss, my gain.
      Oh yeah!
      ; - )

    31. blunderbuss2 blunderbuss2, 6 years ago
      At this point, I wish I had never brought up my doubts !
    32. antiquerose antiquerose, 6 years ago
      It has some funk to it !!! Funky Neat !!!
    33. Dizzydave Dizzydave, 6 years ago
      Thats a serious loss! lol I've bought many things from Museums over 35 yrs, but most time they have too many of simular items, This seems to be a one off, I would have canned the director! lol
    34. Dizzydave Dizzydave, 6 years ago
      Seems the seller loss money on this inkwell.
    35. Dizzydave Dizzydave, 6 years ago
      Strange? Sold at another auction?
    36. Hyp-storian, 6 years ago

      Nope, the seller I bought it from on ebay on July 10th, bought it at the Cottone auction on May 20th (3 weeks earlier). He apparently won it for $633, and I won it from HIM on ebay for $524 (free shipping too). So after deducting ebay & Paypal fees and the shipping, he actually lost close to $200 on this.
      Hey, that's what can happen "on any given day" at ANY auction!
      Win some, lose some.
      On July 10th I was lucky enough to be a big winner!

    37. pops52 pops52, 6 years ago
      Don't forget buyer’s premium, the amount above the hammer price that is paid as part of the total purchase price.
    38. pops52 pops52, 6 years ago provides an online gateway between auction houses (e.g.Cotton & Associates Auctions), and bidders worldwide using proprietary software applications.
    39. Dizzydave Dizzydave, 6 years ago
      LOL, I would have been heartbroken losing $ on something this kewl.
    40. courtenayantiques courtenayantiques, 6 years ago
      This is fabulous! thanks for sharing
    41. Hal2pro, 2 years ago
      It’s been 4 years since you posted this, Hyp-Storian. Hopefully you can answer this question. I just found and purchased one like this on eBay, but without the glass insert. Could you please give me the size of your glass insert? In metric, the max width of the base just under the rim, and the max rim width. Or if it’s easier, the max width of the hole the glass insert fits into. Thank you very much!!!
    42. Hyp-storian, 2 years ago

      Can you add a link to photos of yours (or else give me the ebay item #) so I can see it for myself? Unless I'm certain it's pretty much identical (which would be highly unlikely seeing as how mine looks to be a one-of-a-kind piece) I don't want to have to go get mine from storage in order to measure the insert. IF yours IS the same, I'll be happy to do so for you.
    43. Hal2pro, 2 years ago
      Fantastic! Your still following this thread. Thanks!
      Or if its easier, item number 153866952084. Im still waiting on this to arrive from Argentina. It was initially delayed due to Covid19 restrictions their Gov placed on postal and stay at home orders. That finally lifted for them on the 2oth, so its now on the slow boat up to my home. No hurry on my request, im just glad your giving it your consideration.
    44. Hyp-storian, 2 years ago

      Congratulations- this is a spectacular item and I'm amazed that there was actually another one out there...!!

      The original glass insert has a diameter (the uppermost "lip" which rests on the edge) of exactly 38 millimeters (3.8 centimeters).
      Best regards
    45. RightWing, 11 months ago
      i miss seeing this around here so cool ...
    46. Hal2pro, 11 months ago
      Ive done alot of researching on this to identify the maker and origins. No luck yet. I now know of 5 of these. All with the same construction, but of different finishes.
      1. Hyp-Storian, from the “The Strong National Museum of Play” c1874
      2. Me (Hal2Pro) I now own 2. One from Brazil, the other from New York
      3. The “Missouri Historical Society”, awarded to Chief Engineer James B. Eads in 1872.
      4. Otto, Prince of Bismarck. On occasion of his 80th birthday in 1895.

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