Horses

Auction of high-class carriage collection draws hundreds to Lexington

Barry Dickinson, left, of Blythewood, S.C., and Harley Chandler inspected the 1910 pony road coach made for Alfred Gwynne Vanderbilt. In 1915, the coach brought $425 after Vanderbilt died when the Lusitania was sunk by a German torpedo. Saturday it sold for $140,000.
Barry Dickinson, left, of Blythewood, S.C., and Harley Chandler inspected the 1910 pony road coach made for Alfred Gwynne Vanderbilt. In 1915, the coach brought $425 after Vanderbilt died when the Lusitania was sunk by a German torpedo. Saturday it sold for $140,000.

The auction of an extensive collection of horse-drawn vehicles and related items drew hundreds of people from across the country to Lexington on Saturday, and a marquee item — a 1910 pony road coach — sold for a sale-topping $140,000.

Misdee Wrigley Miller of Bourbon County bought the coach, made for Alfred Gwynne Vanderbilt so he could drive it in the National Horse Show at Madison Square Garden. (The show made its Kentucky Horse Park debut earlier this month.)

Miller, the great-granddaughter of chewing-gum magnate William Wrigley Jr. and his wife, Ada, collects carriages. She was not at Saturday's auction but was represented by an agent.

The auction contained hundreds of items, including more than 60 horse-drawn vehicles and harnesses, Persian style rugs, coach lamps, top hats and umbrella stands. A holly whip sold for $450, a sleigh brought $3,600,and a Brewster Stanhope Phaeton light carriage went for $12,000.

The items were part of the collection of Elizabeth and Dinwiddie Lampton Jr. He was president of American Life & Accident Insurance Co. in Louisville and owned Lexington's Elmendorf Farm. All the items were selected by Dinwiddie for Elizabeth. The Lamptons both died in 2008, and his sons Mason and Dinwiddie III were selling the collection Saturday.

A "mud wagon," or stagecoach, in the auction was a piece of Hollywood history. It appeared in the 1940 movie Virginia City with Errol Flynn, Humphrey Bogart and Randolph Scott.

But the black, red and cream-colored Vanderbilt coach with black striping was the star of the show. It was built in England and brought to the United States by the Lusitania, a ship that later would be torpedoed and sunk by a German U-boat. Alfred Gwynne Vanderbilt went down with the ship in 1915.

The coach was owned at one time by Whitney Stone of Charlottesville, Va., and still bears the initials "W.S." on the side doors.

"In all our years of selling and knowing the business, this is only about the third or fourth pony coach with historical value or even a high-brand name, that I know of, since about 1973," said Paul Z. Martin Jr. of New Holland, Pa., the manager of Saturday's auction. "It's a very desirable coach."

Bids on the coach started at $25,000 and escalated quickly. When Martin announced "sold at $140,000," applause and whistles erupted from the crowd of about 200 in the sale tent. They applauded again when Martin announced that Miller was the buyer and would keep the coach in Kentucky.

The entire sale brought in about $400,000, Martin said.

Vehicles parked at the sale site on Newtown Pike bore tags from Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, North Carolina and Ohio.

Some tags indicated that these were serious horse people. One Ohio tag read, "WHOA PLZ," and one from Wisconsin read "4INHAND." That's a reference to a carriage drawn by a team of four horses in which the reins are rigged so the carriage can be driven by a single driver.

Leon Stutzman of Nappanee, Ind., was among several Amish who attended the sale. He closely inspected several harnesses.

"I've always wanted to go to an auction like this" to see what kind of prices that items fetch, Stutzman said.

Also among the curious was Barry Dickinson of Blythewood, S.C., an expert in all things dealing with carriages.

Dickinson doesn't restore carriages, but he advises those who do on the proper colors and "where does this stripe go, and how does this go, and how does that go?"

George IV Phaeton carriages such as one Dickinson inspected at the auction "ride fabulously," he said. "Of course, when you're very rich, you don't want a bumpy ride. They float."

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