January 22, 2010

A bit of Racine history goes for $710 on eBay

Too late!

Or, in the words of local historian Gerry Karwowski, "It's terrible how our heritage ends up on eBay."

Karwowski sent me a link to a just-ended eBay auction of an "Antique 19th Century Important Oil on Canvas Portrait Painting of Civil War Capt. Gilbert Knapp's wife, by Thurston Black."

We don't know Black, but we sure do know Gilbert Knapp, who founded the settlement of Port Gilbert at the mouth of the Root River in 1834. The "Gilbert" name never took, and we became Racine a few years later.

The 10-day auction got only 17 bids during its first nine days, reaching only $205. But bidding got spirited today, with 16 more bids, with the portrait finally selling for $710 as two bidders dueled it out with bids in the final 12 seconds.


  1. Interetsing, since Gerry has a warehouse full of Racine history in his own home. I know, I've been there. If Gerry had the money to bid on that painting, he would've bought it himself, guaranteed. Not totally knocking Gerry, but let's be realistic in our commentary.

  2. Come on --- a warehouse full?

    Now who's being realistic?

    I find that hard to believe anybody has a warehouse full of things like this old painting.

  3. Gerry is one of the only people who is interested in preserving this kind of history with his own money everyone says these things should be saved but very few are willing to do so at their own expense.
    Gerry thank you for collecting and for opening your home when you do.

  4. its just a painting,who cares?

  5. A touch of Gerry's museum take a look. DFS

  6. Where should our heritage end up? And who is to support it?
    eBay helps prevent our heritage from being tossed into the garbage. One man's treasure is another's trash.

  7. A few years ago I visited the Chatham, MA Museum / Historical Society inquiring on Capt. Gilbert Knapp. The staff had no idea who he was and did not have immediate record of him. That was very interesting as the Library is well stocked of historical information dating back to the 1700's. They did have information on the home that I have stayed in for a number of years that dates to 1741 when part of the house used to be a dance hall to a hotel frequented by sailors, pirates and 'lady friends'.

    It has always been stated in Racine that Capt. Knapp's home was Chatham, MA (Cape Cod) - especially on the North Beach placard.

  8. Bob: interesting story. I never saw the placard but it almost sounds as if Racine was his "true" home.

    Gerry has a nice place but I also kinda disagree with him on this, ebay is the best market for the audience and gives many many people a fair share at owning some history of their own. No different than a good score at rummage or salvation army/navy.
    I'm sure Gerry's acquired a few of his treasures in such a manor.
    Neat place full of Racine history he has out there.
    As an American Industrial Era and real Racine fan I really feel that I missed what I consider Racine's best days when visiting his place and looking at other historical Racine pictures.

  9. There are a few people in the Racine area that collect and save our history from being tossed out or shipped to some collector far away. Gerry is not the only one...I know of someone on the southside that has perhaps the largest private collection of Racine memorabilia than anyone in the area, including Gerry. My compliments to anyone who
    is preserving our heritage for future generations to enjoy!

  10. The bidding on ebay is anonymous so there is no way to know if someone from Racine bought the painting! As mentioned before, there are a handful of rabid Racine collectors searching ebay daily for new items and will bid crazy amounts to beat the others for the item. Certainly Karwowski could have bid on the painting and/or collected money to buy it for the Historical Museum as a donation. Not much in the way of historical items gets past this group of collectors so I wouldn't be too surprised if this painting shows up around here someday.

  11. This is interesting. Let me get this right!

    If bidding on Ebay is anonymous, and there's no way to know who the bidders are or who won it.

    How can you assume that this Karwowski guy wasn't bidding? Or that he didn't win it?

    This was your statement

    "Certainly Karwowski could have bid on the painting and/or collected money to buy it for the Historical Museum as a donation."

    My question is how do you know he didn't bid? or buy it? Unless you know who the anonymous bidders were.

  12. You think the painting was high? Look at this old Racine soda bottle that sold for over $2,000. Take a look!

  13. I don't know what other collectors in the area have? I found Gerry's web site and all I can say is WOW! Never heard of it before.


  14. I've gotten most of my books and all of my postcards on Racine history on Ebay:


  15. Let's not forget my friend Dennis Tully's site!


    Thank you for posting the story.