What does an avid collector do when he learns he must vacate the apartment he has called home for 20 years and find new digs? If the collector is Carnival historian and author Henri Schindler, he gets to work.
“I admit that I was a little panicked by the idea of moving — I was so comfortable where I was,” he said. “But now I am very happy in a place on Royal Street over the Gallier House gift shop. Getting to this point, however, wasn’t so easy.”
Like any collector, Schindler had a lot of, well ... stuff. So after friends and professionals helped clear things out (“The Occasional Wife took away two truck loads,” Schindler commented), he called Katie Hovas at Neal Auction about some of the remaining treasure.
“The auction house held part one of the sale a couple of months ago, and part two will be on the 19th,” Schindler said, referring to Sunday. “There are 55 lots of Carnival-related items from my collection.”
The lots range from parade bulletins (Momus, Comus, Proteus and Rex are all represented), to invitations, admit cards and dance cards, to ball favors — many of which appeared in the books Schindler authored on the Golden Age of Carnival published in 2000 by Pelican Publishing.
“It’s hard to overestimate the importance of the items that Henri contributed to the auction,” said Hovas. “Because of his knowledge and the fact that he designs floats for some of the krewes, what he has offered are among the oldest items we’ve seen, some dating to the 1880s, and some of the finest. And they were cared for impeccably.”
Perhaps that is why the colors remain brilliant even today.
“Some were designed here and printed in France,” said Hovas. “The art work is exceptional.”
But printed matter from Carnivals past isn’t all that is included. There are original costume designs (by Charles Briton, Bror Anders Wikstrom, and Ceneilla Bower Alexander) as well as French papier-mâché masks from the Comus parade in 1878. The Genevieve Club, The Falstaffians, The Continental Guard, The Krewe of Yami, and other groups that have faded away are represented, but so are Mithras, Nereus and Oberon.
“I think my favorite is the grandma mask from Comus,” Hovas said. “We see her in an illustration in Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper of March 16, 1878, and it’s amazing to be able to make that connection.”
Schindler's items are some of a total of more than 1,300 lots offered in the “Louisiana Purchase Auction,” a three-day event that begins on Friday, Nov. 17, and ends on Sunday, Nov. 19. For complete details of the auction, go to nealauction.com.