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    Auction Finds

    Black Americana ice cream mold

    I was wasting some time at the auction, not ready to call it a day, barely listening as the auctioneer started the bidding on more than a dozen ice cream and chocolate molds. I really had no use for them, but I figured I’d hang around in this room because very little of interest was happening in the other rooms.

    As he neared the end of a list of ice cream molds, a photo of a closed pair of them flashed on the TV monitor. From the outside, molds are a big blur; you usually have to open them up to see the image inside.

    The facial features on the inside front of the Eppelsheimer mold resembled an African American man.

    As soon as a photo of the inside of one of them showed on the screen, a voice inside my head quietly whispered “Black Americana.” The facial features of the image – especially what looked like deep-set lips – reminded me of an African American man.

    About the same time as the words formed in my brain, the auctioneer said them aloud. Darn, I thought. Those two words had alerted dealers in the room who would automatically bid against me on these pieces and jack up the price. Black Americana sells like crazy at auction, and I sometimes find myself paying more for some of the non-stereotypical pieces.

    Fortunately, I was only one of two bidders, and I hung in there tit-for-tat until the other auction-goer finally gave up. I got them at a price I could live with. I could’ve likely paid less had the auctioneer kept quiet, but I know that his job is to get as much money as possible for the consigner.

    A full view of the inside of the Black Americana mold.

    Was the image inside the mold African American? I don’t know, but I figured I’d buy it so I could check it out. When I opened the mold, I saw up-close the same facial features as shown on the TV monitor. I also saw that a pair of suspenders had been molded into the inside back.

    On the outside back was the marking “E & Co. NY” with a number that looked like 1052 (the last number was marred). The mold was hinged, and it measured about 4 ¼” tall and 2 ½” wide. The other mold was also a male figure, but the features were not as well defined. Both pieces were in good used condition.

    In Googling, I could find no other mold like the African American-like man, but I found many other E & Co. molds – both chocolate in tin and ice cream in pewter. The initials stood for Eppelsheimer & Co., one of two major U.S. mold makers at the turn of the 20th century. The companies made small molds for single home use and large ones that were sold to ice cream companies, caterers and bakeries for parties.

    The closed molds. The features are blurred and smooth.

    The molds were made in all shapes, including people (famous and otherwise), animals, flowers, Valentines, ships and golfers. One site estimated that about 2,500 mold designs were made. The makers marked their pieces with their initials along with numbers from catalogs they issued.

    The earliest were manufactured around 1832 by a French maker of ice cream and chocolate molds called Cadot, named after the maker Charles Cadot (and marked CC), according to several sites. In this country, Schall & Co. started making molds around the mid-1850s (the company later became known as Krauss).

    The exterior front and back of the second mold.

    The first person in this country to receive a patent for an ice cream mold was an African American named Alfred Cralle in 1897. He called it the “Ice Cream Mold and Disher,” but it looked more like an ice cream scoop. African American Augustus Jackson in 1832 created several ice cream recipes and invented a new technique for making the sweet concoction, and a woman named Nancy Johnson in the 1840s got the first patent for a small hand-cranked ice cream freezer.

    Ice cream molds are both collectible and affordable. Several sites recommended, though, that they be used for decoration only because they contained traces of lead.

    Up-close, the mold with the deep features looked very African American to me. What do you think?

    The exterior front and back of the Eppelsheimer mold.



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    1. Per my mid1930s catalog, E&Co.’s mold #1053 was simply called “Darkey.” The catalog has one other mold of African American interest: #1089 called “Darkey Stealing Turkey,” which features a youth holding the neck of a turkey in one hand, with a knife in the other. I have seen two of the latter sold on ebay this year. Have never seen #1053. Thanks for sharing.

      • Thanks for the info, Susan. I suppose the marred number is 1053 if there’s no 1052. Now I can attach a name to the mold.


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