DEARBORN - Now, the search for “The Garden Shop” is on.
The company that purchased Lot No. 20 in the 1951 Ford estate auction, a piece described as a "cut glass punch bowl” is one of the most recent leads in the search for the missing punch bowl trophy Henry Ford received as the prize for winning a race against the World’s Fastest Man, Alexander Winton on Oct. 10, 1901, 110 years ago today.
The victory, thanks to a car he named “Sweepstakes”, was a key event in building the confidence of investors and lined up the support he needed to form Ford Motor Company 20 months later in June, 1903. That historic race car is part of the Racing in America collection at Henry Ford Museum.
But the trophy he received for the win 110 year ago has gone missing, and the Ford family has recently re-launched efforts to claim the historic icon.
The curators at The Henry Ford recently completed another round of investigations, and discovered some interesting new leads, including what is believed to be the purchaser of the punch bowl, The Garden Shop. But first, an examination of how far the search has come:
The curators started with what they had, a photograph of a punch bowl with several glasses and a ladle. Was this the punch bowl? They set out to be sure.
They discovered another photo, likely taken some time between 1930-50, of the original photo of the punch bowl in question, taken at the Ford’s Hendrie Street House in Detroit, Michigan some time after 1901 but before 1905.
Upon closer examination of the more recent photo, they discovered what was believed to be a negative number in the lower right corner. When matching the number to the negative logs, entry 909 reads:
“Date: 8-23-29. Henry Ford File Description: Antique Cut Glass.”
In 1929, the Ford Engineering Photographic Dept. began numbering negatives and prints separately from their FMC photographs and referred to this group of negatives and prints as the Henry Ford File.
This was when Greenfield Village first opened and these photographers documented any and everything that Henry Ford was interested in and collected for his historical village and museum.
The other key piece from the entry is the word “antique.” If the entry was written in 1929, and referred to as “antique,” that would mean it would likely be a few decades old, putting it around the timeframe of that famed day in 1901.
And what about the design of the bowl? Surely that would lend some clue as to whether it’s the punch bowl in question. According to the curators: “The decorative pattern in the bowl in negative 909/P.O. 3140 is known in the scholarly and collector literature as the Strawberry-Diamond and Fan pattern. It was produced in cut and pressed glass throughout the late nineteenth century and into the early twentieth century by many American makers.”
According to Bill and Louise Boggess in Identifying American Brilliant Cut Glass., (1984) ‘Although every company cut the Strawberry-Diamond and Fan pattern, only (T.G.) Hawkes (& Company, of Corning, New York) seems to have signed it.’”
With those factors in play, the curators at The Henry Ford believe they do indeed have a photo of the actual Winton/Sweepstakes Race trophy. The curators’ predecessors in the 1950s, who had access to individuals present in 1929, state that it was indeed the trophy. However, to date, no written corroboration has been found.
And that’s where “The Garden Shop” comes in.
After Clara Ford, Henry’s wife, passed away, a cut glass punch bowl from Fair Lane was auctioned by Parke Bernet Galleries in New York. As part of the estate auction, all glassware was auctioned on October 17, 1951. Listed at lot No. 20, is a cut glass punch bowl.
It is believed lot no. 20 was purchased by The Garden Shop. Unfortunately, no address or other contact information is available of the business.
But wouldn’t there be some type of designation on the auction catalogue if that was indeed the famed trophy? Not necessarily.
The curators at The Henry Ford theorize that because the auction took place in 1951, it’s conceivable that none of the living individuals would have been around for the historic day, and perhaps not known the significance of the artifact.
And for now, that’s where the path ends.
“We’re a step closer in the search for the Punch Bowl, yet this fascinating artifact still eludes us,” said Christian Overland, Executive Vice President of The Henry Ford. “Our research has led us to The Garden Shop and the hunt for any record of contact information for this auction house. It’s a key piece in finding this trophy.”
Serving as a potential glimmer of hope, there was a recent discovery of a trophy, awarded to Alexander Winton for setting the world’s fastest mile time earlier that same day in 1901, at the Crawford Museum in Cleveland, Ohio. But no punch bowl.
As the calendar peels away to reveal the 110th anniversary of Henry Ford’s monumental victory, the search for one of racing’s greatest missing artifacts continues.
You can help in the quest for the punch bowl. If you have any information about the trophy, The Garden Shop (perhaps based in New York in the 1950s), or any other information that could lead to the discovery of the punch bowl, please contact:
Benson Ford Research Center
The Henry Ford
PO Box 1970
Dearborn, MI 48121-1970