A definition of a “Renaissance man” if there ever was one, native Hoosier Earl Townsend Jr. was an attorney, pioneering broadcaster, philanthropist, collector, and historian. In addition to being Gerald Ford’s roommate at the University of Michigan and announcing the first televised broadcast of the Indianapolis 500, Townsend was also inducted into the Council of Sagamores of the Wabash and the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame. An artifact collector from 1920 onwards, Townsend’s passion ultimately resulted one of the largest and most significant collections of prehistoric North American stone artifacts, with particular interest in birdstones, flints, and bannerstones.
Birdstones were Townsend’s primary object of interest, collection, and study; so much so, he published the preeminent reference book on the subject, Birdstones of the North American Indian, in 1959. His personal collection of birdstones exceeded 600. The Townsend Collection 2 will feature “The Smithsonian Bird,” a prehistoric porphyry granite birdstone that is considered the finest so far discovered. This birdstone acquired its name while being held by the Smithsonian National Museum in Washington, D.C., from whom Townsend acquired the piece in the 1950s.
“The Smithsonian Bird”, part of the Townsend Collection 2 artifact auction.
Birdstones are renowned for their simplicity and beauty, and the Townsend Collection 2 exemplifies both qualities. In addition, an air of mystery permeates the strangely smooth surfaces of the birdstones, whose true purpose still remains shrouded in history, along with the methods used to create them.
The collection also holds many bannerstones, flints, pipes, effigies, and other prehistoric stone pieces. Not only do they represent a diverse catalog of objects, but the size, coloring, and pre-sale auction estimates also provide a wide spectrum of the prehistoric stone art world. Townsend’s long history as a collector and archeological historian, together with his eye for color and artistry, results in a catalog that is not only extensively thorough, but filled with fantastically large and colorful pieces, a truly singular and significant collection in the world of prehistoric North American stone art.
Large Morse Knife from the Townsend Collection 2.
Scheduled Saturday, June 23rd, reserved seats for the sale day are available online now, via Antique Helper. Professionally designed and printed catalogs are also available for purchase before and during the auction. Seating is limited, and the ticket will also admit the holder to the preview on Friday, June 22nd. Paying by phone or check is possible by calling Antique Helper at (317) 251-5635.
Founded in 2001, some of Dan Ripley’s Antique Helper Auctions most successful sales included North American artifacts: The Walter Nelson Artifact Auction, the collection of Dr. Greg Woodham and the Burnworth Collection. Based in Indianapolis, Indiana, Antique Helper specializes in selling antiques, modern design, collectibles and fine art. Antique Helper is a pioneer in the field of online auctions that run simultaneously with the traditional live setting.