Atlanta, GA, USA, February 15, 2022 — Items from the estate of Robert W. Woodruff (1889-1985), the American businessman and philanthropist who served as president of The Coca-Cola Company from 1923 to 1955, will come up for bid on Saturday, February 26th, by Ahlers & Ogletree, starting at 10 am Eastern time. Items from Woodruff’s wife Nell, who was a Red Cross nurse, will also be sold.
The more than 400 lots will include portraits of Mr. Woodruff by Norman Rockwell and Thomas Stephens, a portrait of George Washington by former President Dwight Eisenhower (Woodruff’s longtime friend and golfing partner), a Thomas C. Molesworth “Jack Rabbit” stand, custom and Tiffany diamond jewelry worn by Nell, Coca-Cola items, furniture items and decorative objects.
Also featured will be items pertaining to Woodruff’s longtime friendship with legendary golfer Bobby Jones (including a birthday letter from Bobby Jones and Eisenhower to Woodruff, plus golfing books written by Jones and inscribed “to Bob”); items relating to cigars and pipes, two of Woodruff’s passions (including the custom cabinet made for Woodruff by Dunhill, housing his personal pipe collection); and various intriguing rarities, including a shoulder-mount elk shot and tagged in 1942; and the only known remaining Robert W. Woodruff monogrammed golf club.
There will be no in-person bidding for this auction due to Covid, but bidders can register and bid right now on LiveAuctioneers.com, Invaluable.com and Bidsquare.com. All registered bidders can also bid in real time as lots sell on auction day, starting at 10 am. Interested parties will be able to preview all lots in person in Ahlers & Ogletree’s Atlanta showroom at 700 Miami Circle.
The Woodruffs led a full and exciting life, and the items in the auction reflect that zest for living. They were pulled from the couple’s four homes: Windcrofte, their opulent primary residence on 16 acres of prime real estate in Atlanta; the TE Ranch in Wyoming, the 8,000-acre onetime home of the legendary Buffalo Bill Cody (1846-1917); a two-story River House complex on 52nd Street in Manhattan; and Ichauway, a vast, 29,000-acre working-hunting plantation in South Georgia.
The portrait of Mr. Woodruff by the American artist-illustrator Norman Rockwell (1894-1978) shows Woodruff as a young man. The charcoal on paper, in a 26 ½ inch by 21 ½ inch frame, is artist signed (estimate: $20,000-$40,000). The portrait by Thomas Stephens (British/N.Y., 1885-1966) depicts an older Woodruff in a waist-up rendering. He’s holding his trademark cigar. The signed 40 inch by 30-inch (sight, less frame) oil on canvas work should realize $10,000-$20,000.
Who knew Dwight Eisenhower was a painter? And not a bad one, as it turns out. His Portrait of George Washington, after Gilbert Stuart (Mass., 1755-1828) is signed lower left and comes with a plaque that reads, “To Nell and Bob from their friend Ike” (estimate: $10,000-$20,000). Also, a personal (or informal) 1958 Christmas card from the Eisenhowers to the Woodruffs, depicting Ike and Mamie in whimsical Santa suits, one of only 200 made, should finish at $500-$700.
Speaking of Christmas cards, up for bid is a complete set of 44 Christmas cards produced for the Woodruffs from 1941-1984 by Athos Menaboni (Italian/Ga., 1895-1990), depicting birds and flora from the TE Ranch and Ichauway (estimate: $3,000-$5,000). Also for sale is a red leather-bound birthday memorabilia book from Mr. Woodruff’s 70th birthday party in 1959 given at the Capital City Club in Atlanta, attended by many friends and luminaries (estimate: $200-$400).
One of the attendees was Bobby Jones, who, like Eisenhower, was a close friend and golfing buddy of Woodruff’s. Two sterling silver nut dishes, engraved with Jones’s name and that of sportswriter Grantland Rice, will be sold as one lot (estimate: $150-$300). The furniture category will be led by a large and beautiful British 19th century George III-style mahogany breakfront bookcase with glazed doors, 92 inches tall by 97 ½ inches wide (estimate: $4,000-$6,000).
Personal jewelry items from Nell Woodruff will include the stunning, vintage platinum and diamond engagement ring given to her by Robert, with a 4.61-carat marquise brilliant cut center diamond, F-color, SI1 clarity (estimate: $80,000-$120,000); and an early 20th century Black, Starr and Frost Art Deco vanity case (or compact), made from 14kt yellow and white gold, rose cut diamonds, jadeite jade, enamel and Bakelite, with a mirror (estimate: $4,000-$6,000).
The Thomas C. Molesworth (Wyo., 1890-1977) “Jack Rabbit” sculpture from 1938, unmarked, made from painted wrought iron, is 36 ½ inches tall and comes with a typed poem by Mrs. Molesworth (estimate: $10,000-$15,000). Also sold will be a patinated bronze sculpture by Franz Bergmann (Austrian, 1861-1936), aka Nam Greb, titled Mameluk Warrior, with a foundry mark and “Real Vienna Bronze,” on a marble base, 24 inches tall (estimate: $5,000-$10,000).
An 18th century seven-piece George III neoclassical Adams sterling silver oval epergne centerpiece, with the marks of William Pitts and Joseph Preedy (London, active 1791-1799), inscribed to Mr. Woodruff, has an estimate of $6,000-$9,000. Also, a five-piece sterling silver tea and coffee service in the “Duncan” pattern by Fisher Silversmiths (American, founded 1936), with Nell Woodruff’s monogram, weighing a total of 81.71 ozt., should sell for $3,500-$4,500.
There is some Coca-Cola memorabilia in the sale. This includes two of Mr. Woodruff’s personal advertising lighters, one a Hadson “Blue Bird” musical lighter with Woodruff’s initials and a Scripto Vu-Lighter with his name (estimate: $150-$300); and an early 20th century graduated drink glass and metal holder, both showing the Coca-Cola company logo, mentioned in Cecil Munsey’s book, The Illustrated Guide to Collectibles of Coca-Cola, 1972 (estimate: $50-$100).
To learn more about Ahlers & Ogletree and the sale of the estate of Robert and Nell Woodruff on Saturday, February 26th, at 10 am Eastern time, or to join their email list for information on upcoming sales, please visit www.aandoauctions.com. Updates are posted often.