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    Auction Finds

    Readers ask about Teenie Harris photo & Selma Burke scholarship

    Friday at Auction Finds is readers’ questions day. I try to guide readers to resources for them to determine the value of the items that they own. I’m not able to appraise their treasures, but I can do some preliminary research to get them started. So, these are market values, not appraisal for insurance purposes that I suggest for items that have been determined to be of great value.

    This week’s questions are about a photograph by Teenie Harris and a scholarship in the name of artist Selma Burke.

    Photographer Teenie Harris

    Photographer Teenie Harris (in inset at left), along with a photo of people practicing on a voting machine, circa 1944-1945.


    I have a photo that is approx. 16.5″ X 20.5″ of John F. Kennedy on the pulpit speaking to a crowd in Monessen, Pennsylvania, October 13, 1962, by Charles “Teenie” Harris. This photo is signed by “Teenie” Harris in the lower right corner. I was wondering what value this photo may have due to the provenance of both Charles “Teenie” Harris and John F. Kennedy.


    I can’t offer any value on your photograph by Teenie Harris, whom I wrote about in a blog post more than a year ago. His works were on exhibit until April 2012 at the Carnegie Museum of Art in his hometown of Pittsburgh. The exhibit of 1,000 of photographs stopped in Chicago and Birmingham, AL, last year, and is scheduled for a stay at the Atlanta University Center Robert W. Woodruff Library from Jan.  20-April 13, 2013.

    For more than 40 years, Harris’ works appeared in the Pittsburgh Courier, showing off all manner of black people living their lives normally in images that were missing from the mainstream newspapers. He captured them getting married, going to church, going to school, having a good time, and attending political events. He also photographed famous black celebrities, along with Negro Leagues baseball teams.

    As for your photo, please read my blog post on how to research the value of your items. You could also consider checking major auction houses in your area or nationally. Two that come to my mind are Freeman Auctioneers and Appraisers in Philadelphia, one of the oldest in the country, and Swann Auction Galleries in New York, both of which have photography departments with experts who can help you.

    Check their websites and give their photog experts a call or drop an email, and describe what you have. Some auction houses have days where they’ll eyeball an item for free or reduced price. You can find that info on their websites.

    If you plan to have the photo auctioned, keep in mind that you’ll have to pay for the service.

    artist Selma Burke

    Artist Selma Burke, circa 1950s. Photo from the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts site.


    Could you please provide more information on the Selma Burke scholarship at PAFA?


    I got this question from a reader who came across a blog post I had written about African American artist Selma Burke, who died in 1995. The Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts has created an annual scholarship of $12,500 in her name.

    Burke’s name is associated with the embossed image of Franklin Delano Roosevelt on the dime. She and others felt that John Sinnock, the U.S. Mint’s chief engraver, had gratuitously copied her design for the coin but she was never credited with creating it. Sinnock was said to have lifted a design by John Frederick Lewis for a 1926 Benjamin Franklin half dollar.

    In 1943, Burke won a competition to sculpt Roosevelt, and the result was a bronze relief plaque of the president in profile that was completed in 1944. The 3 1/2-by-2 ½ -foot piece hangs in the Recorder of Deeds Building in Washington.

    As for the scholarship, I have no more info, but I found the PAFA website by searching “Selma Burke scholarship” via Google. That’s always a first step: Go straight to Google, use the right search words and go for it.

    Here’s a link to all of the scholarships at PAFA, along with registration info for enrolling at the school. The Selma Burke scholarship is listed there. You can call the school for more info (phone numbers are listed on the page).




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