Past Auction

Property from the Collection of Marion B. 'Joe' Carstairs

Wed, Jan 27, 2016 at 10am EST |
New York
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Property from the Collection of Marion B. 'Joe' Carstairs Soars Past Estimate!

  • Property from the Collection of Marion B. 'Joe' Carstairs Soars Past Estimate!
  • Collection of the 'Queen of Whale Cay' and 'Fastest Woman on Water' Auctioned at Doyle on January 27, 2016
  • Sale Featured Lord Tod Wadley's Engraved Calling Cards, Bespoke Clothing, Accessories and Companion Dolls

On January 27, 2016, Doyle New York auctioned property from the Collection of Marion Barbara 'Joe' Carstairs (1900-1993). She is perhaps best remembered for the colorful life she lived alongside her companion doll, Lord Tod Wadley, on Whale Cay, the island she owned in the Bahamas, as chronicled in her 1997 biography, The Queen of Whale Cay: The Eccentric Story of ‘Joe’ Carstairs, Fastest Woman on Water, by Kate Summerscale.

With competitive international bidding from the salesroom, the telephones and the Internet, the collection far surpassed its estimate of $10,800-16,400, achieving a stunning $74,250, with 100% of the lots sold.

The top lot of the collection was a large archive of over 100 photographs that fetched a staggering $21,250. The archive contained images of Carstairs throughout her entire life, as well as images of family members and various women connected to her, as well as many photographs of Carstairs' property at Whale Cay.

Also attracting a great deal of attention was an extensive archive relating to Joe Carstairs' doll, Lord Tod Wadley. Competitive bidding sent the lot soaring past its estimate to achieve a surprising $8,750. Included in the material were two of Lord Tod Wadley’s companion dolls, his Cartier calling cards and stationery, bespoke clothing, monogrammed miniature cigarette case and lighter, photographs, audio tapes and other related objects.

Joe Carstairs

The British-born Marion Barbara “Joe” Carstairs inherited a great fortune as a granddaughter of Standard Oil founding partner Jabez Abel Bostwick, and this wealth facilitated a life of adventure and accomplishment, as she cast aside traditional barriers that society had hitherto placed on women.

Carstairs drove a Red Cross ambulance in France during World War I and later started X Garage, a car hire and chauffer service driven only by women. She shunned long hair and women’s clothing for tailored men’s suits, and her circle of friends comprised a wealthy, intellectual and often wild coterie that included Dolly Wilde (Oscar’s niece), actress Gwen Foster, Tallulah Bankhead and the German actress Marlene Dietrich, with whom Carstairs would have a brief but tempestuous liaison. Fascinated by speed, Carstairs’ greatest early achievement was as a speedboat pioneer, a sport in which she invested vast sums and competed against men at the highest level.

In London in the 1920s, Carstairs was given a boy doll, which she dubbed Lord Tod Wadley. She commissioned for Wadley, whom she personified as an ersatz Old World gentleman, Saville Row suits and Cartier calling cards, and he accompanied Carstairs everywhere, the bond becoming so deep that Wadley was cremated with Carstairs when she died.

In the early 1940s, Carstairs purchased Whale Cay in the Bahamas and transformed the wild island into a prosperous place, employing hundreds and hosting among others the Duke and Duchess of Windsor during the Duke’s tenure as Royal Governor of the Bahamas in World War II. As Carstairs aged, she spent less time on Whale Cay, and she converted an old PT Boat into a house that she would use for trips to Miami, eventually settling there permanently.

Never one for self-celebration, Carstairs recorded portions of her life story on audio tapes, but never published a memoir. Fortunately, in 1993, Kate Summerscale, an Obituary Editor at London’s Daily Telegraph, recognized the value in Carstairs’ story and published a biography of Carstairs. Doyle gratefully acknowledges the valuable assistance provided by that this fascinating biography.

The Estate of Jacqueline F. Rae was the consignor of property from the Collection of Marion Barbara ‘Joe’ Carstairs. It comprised property that was given to Jacqueline in life or bequeathed upon her death.

 All prices include the buyers' premium.

Consignments are currently being accepted

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