Thursday, June 23, 2011

Wendell August Forge/auction photos

 Our first posting again relates to the July auction.

La Mirada ceramic on
Wendell August Pine
patterned holder
Bunilum cocktail shaker and teapot
with Lucite  handles
Toaster in wheat motif.
Wendell August

Arthur Armour trays &
magazine holder in World Map

Usually unmarked handbags, 2 types
if closures, lg. mum-like motif

Wendell August table with
what may be a sailfish motif

Wendell August lamp, tray & bowl
in an old motif

The auction catalog is ready for viewing and if I have been successful in transferring photos of the aluminum I will include them here for your viewing, Although many of us will not find it convenient to participate in the bidding, the photos give us an unique opportunity to see a great variety of aluminum wares.

Future plans for the Aluminist
The plan for future Aluminist postings is to present as many as possible of the old motifs of the Forge. These are the ones favored by collectors…a preference I share although I have not determined the exact reasons. Today’s beautiful work by the Forge will surely be a sought after collectible of the future. The same plan will continue for other companies.

Wendell August Forge....the first.

   The Wendell August Forge, the company name that brings aluminum collectors to full alert whenever they hear the name or spy a piece on a shop shelf, was not always a producer of the decorative giftware of today…or even yesterday.  Wendell 
August was a businessman, the great grandson of a Russian immigrant, and owned a coal mine and a blacksmith shop.

     Early in the ‘20s, August had the shop create door latches for his new home and
launched the shop into a new business of forging ornamental iron, a popular architectural decoration of the time although cast aluminum was becoming popular.
     Alcoa was planning its new research laboratory and as producer of aluminum, they planned to incorporate its use throughout the building. Wendell August thought that instead of the method if casting the molten metal, his forge could hand wrought the cold metal and had his workers create several examples. One story credits Natale Rossi, an Italian immigrant worker at the blacksmith shop, as being insistent that he could create such work and did so, impressing Alcoa with the beauty of the work and securing Wendell August the contract for making Alcoa’s ornamental gates.
     WAF also secured the contract for making the decorative aluminum panels for the elevator doors. Their striking design, made by the repousse method, so impressed the architect that he suggested that small mementos be made for Alcoa executives, which, in turn, led to Kaufmann’s Pittsburg department store requesting a line of small giftware items to sell in their store.
     Thus a new industry began, spawning numerous other forges and providing employment for many, until the need for aluminum in the WWll defenses closed the forges.