Simanaitis Says

On cars, old, new and future; science & technology; vintage airplanes, computer flight simulation of them; Sherlockiana; our English language; travel; and other stuff


BOB AND PAUL MILHOUS knew how to collect neat stuff. And, back in 2012, Bob, then 75, and his brother Paul, 73, also knew how to bring pleasures of their collection to others, through a grand auction.


Bob, left, and Paul Milhous had been avid collectors for 50 years. A principal event came in February 24 – 25, 2012, with the RM/Sotheby’s Milhous Collection Auction. These and other images from the auction catalog.

I’ve already written about two contrasting categories of more than 550 lots sold jointly by two major auction houses, RM and Sotheby’s. These were the collection’s gravity clocks and a Cretors Popcorn Wagon. I’ll leave the classic and race cars for another day. In the meantime, here are three other treasures that caught my eye.


Walking Beam Live Steam Engine, plaque inscribed Thomas Meikle, 1880, 19 x 12 x 19 inches.

The catalog suggests that this engine may have been built by Thomas Meikle in 1880. It is believed to have powered a sewing machine of a Parisian cobbler.

The earliest sewing machine patents date from the mid-1700s. Typical machines of the 1800s and later were foot-operated by treadle, with Isaac Singer credited with the best design. However, an Illustrated London News woodcut from 1854 shows rows of women operating banks of sewing machines run by a steam engine through belts. Like early machine shops, perhaps these belt drives used Möbius twists to lessen belt wear.


La Meuse, Bières de la Meuse Affiche, by Alphonse Mucha, lithograph, c. 1897, 48 x 67 inches.

The Milhous brothers’ art included a work by Alphonse Mucha, Czech painter and decorative artist. Mucha’s opulence of color and circular line, beautiful young women and delicate floral patterns were precursors of Art Nouveau.

Bières de la Meuse, Beers of the Meuse, has been called “Perhaps the most beautiful beer poster ever created, demonstrating, once again, the unmistakeable genius of Alphonse Mucha.” The Meuse region of northeastern France is renowned for its wheat, barley, oats and breweries.


Baroness L, yacht model, built by Duncan S. Parker of the U.K., 59 x 22 x 15 inches.

British modeler Duncan S. Parker scratch-built the Baroness L. Features of the model include electric power and internal lighting. The Baroness L is patterned after the yacht Aria, custom-built for Bob Milhous in 2001.

The full-size counterpart is a 154.2-ft. motor yacht, last refitted in 2010 and now rechristened the Lady Anastasia. She’s available these days for charter with details at


Lady Anastasia motor yacht. Image from

In 1967, Bob and Paul Milhous bought a used printing press and co-founded Treasure Chest Advertising Company. Specializing in advertising circulars, the firm grew rapidly. Within five years, Treasure Chest was operating six U.S. plants; by 1993, 15 plants. That year, the brothers sold Treasure Chest for about $235 million. Today, its successor, Vertis Communications, is the leading U.S. supplier of advertising inserts, newspaper supplements and other advertising products.

The Milhous Collection had occupied a 39,000-sq.-ft. building in Boca Raton, Florida. To put its size in perspective, the median supermarket is only a bit larger, at 46,000 sq. ft. Though the collection was never open to the public, the brothers would play host to charity fund raisers and private tours.

A tally of the Milhous Collection Auction came to $38.3 million. However, this likely represents only small change compared with the entertainment value Bob and Paul savored over a half-century of collecting. ds

© Dennis Simanaitis,, 2016

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