Monday, September 12, 2022

Contents of the 1974 Auction of the Veblen's Possessions

In preparation for traveling to England this month, where I'm hoping to meet relatives of Elizabeth Veblen, I am collecting everything I've found about Elizabeth and the Richardson family into which she was born. 

Originally appearing in the July 25 Town Topics, below is a list found on Papers of Princeton of items that were auctioned off from Veblen House after Elizabeth died. She had continued to live in the house after Oswald died in 1960. The auction was held on August 1, 1974. I was once told that entering the Veblen House was like returning to the 1920s. This list gives a rich portrait of a house filled with beautiful rugs, furniture, and china, much of which was likely acquired during their many trips to Europe. 

The list also includes "trunks of Einstein" -- further evidence of Veblen's close friendship with Einstein. A trunk is also mentioned in an interview later on of Veblen's close colleague, Deane Montgomery:
"at the time Mrs. Veblen died I was the executor of the estate. I didn't go to the auction of the effects, but one of them was some old second-hand trunk with the name Einstein on it that he'd left in their place in storage." 
Also on the list is mention of the Charles Oppenheimer paintings, which we had previously thought were to be left with the house. Elizabeth's will states, "I give and bequeath all of my pictures, radio receivers and phonograph records to the said County, to be kept by it in the house herein devised as a part of the proposed library and museum of Herrontown Woods." The pictures the will refers to may be photographs Oswald took later in life, documenting Elizabeth's beautiful gardens. It clearly didn't mean the paintings. More on the Oppenheimer paintings in a previous post.

Below is a transcription of the 1974 notice in the paper: 

Fine Antiques — Beautiful China and Glass
Estate of Mrs. Oswald Veblen 
Many of the late mathematician
Italian American Sportsman Club, Princeton, N.J.
500 Terhune Rd. (off N. Harrison St.)
Thurs. Aug. I—9 AM 
Exhibit Wed. July 31
1790 Mahog. Grandfather's clock; 18th century tilt, card and drop leaf tables; good 1790 slant top desk; Chippendale shaving mirror and desk; 2 sets Sheraton chairs; rare 1675 oak storage bench; 1790 Am inlaid hunt board; lovely small 1790 English sideboard; early mahog. 2 pedestal dining table; good 1780 Butlers bureau; early stands; Vict, bureaus, stands, loveseat and towel rack; Jenny Lind bed; rosewood tea caddy; lovely custom reproduction furniture; Jacobean chest; 25 fine old oriental rugs; 10 Mexican rugs; Charles Oppenheimer paintings; rare old prints and engravings; scholar's library ineluding good leather bound; antique fire tools; Bayre lion Bronze; lovely cut, Bohemian and Venetian glass, important Copenhagen, Satsuma. Wedgewood, Irish Belleek, Minton, Brookwood. Chelsea, old Paris gold band and other beautiful china; etc!! Interesting attics contents ineluding trunks of Einstein and other memorabilia! 

Lester and Robert Slatoff - Auctioneers 
Trenton (609) 393-4848

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