President Eisenhower Mechanical ‘Walking’ Elephant

Looking for a 20 foot high, walking, mechanical elephant? An interesting release from what looks like an an eclectic auction house – Red Baron based in Atlanta, Georgia .

The description of the company: “Red Baron, in its fourth decade of business, is widely regarded as the premier auction house in the Southeast (United States). The firm holds just three sales a year, all of them themed extravaganzas. Auctions in the past have featured ice sculptures, dwarfs in costume and armed guards protecting some of the more valuable lots. Restaurant Hospitality Magazine described Red Baron as “a three-ring circus gone mad.”

Their latest auction – an elephant and guitars:


(Atlanta, Ga.) An enormous ‘walking’ mechanical elephant that was ridden by President Eisenhower at the 1952 Republican National Convention, plus a half-dozen rare vintage guitars – a 1959 Gibson Les Paul and five D-series Martins, collectively worth more than $1 million – will be sold the weekend of February 17-18 by Red Baron, the premier auction house in the Southeast.

The guitars originally belonged to a high-profile country artist who sold them to a wealthy Nashville couple that added them to their collection. But when the couple got tangled up in a nasty divorce battle, the guitars became available. Bob Brown, the owner of Red Baron, purchased the group for about $1 million. “I expect they’ll all together sell for up to $1.5 million or more,” Brown predicted.

The elephant – a colossus by any measure, at about 20 feet tall – was the brainchild of Frank Stuart, an English visionary and inventor who built three of the forward-propelled pachyderms in the years following World War II. One is permanently housed in a museum in Austria, one is in a private museum in Chicago, and the third (the one being sold) comes directly from the Stuart family.

The elephant ‘walks’ with the help of a four-cylinder, Chevy-powered engine and an elaborate network of hydraulics neatly tucked inside the body cavity. It literally skates along, at speeds of up to 20 mph, and has been featured over the years in publications like Popular Mechanics, Popular Science, Forbes and Architectural Digest Motoring. It has also been in numerous parades and festivals.

“Its crowning achievement came in 1952, when Dwight Eisenhower rode it to the Republican National Convention, in front of a hoard of reporters, cameras and well-wishers,” Brown said. “The elephant is smiling, and it’s hard not to smile back when you look at him. It is truly among the most unique mechanical collectibles ever sold at auction.”

The guitars represent two of the most revered names in the industry: Gibson and Martin. And all six instruments offered are models coveted by collectors. The 1959 Gibson Les Paul, in the case (Serial # 92044), is a Sunburst guitar. These were made for only three years (1958-60) and in very limited quantities. In 1959, only 643 were produced. The one to be sold is in outstanding condition.

The C.F. Martin Company, based in Nazareth, Pa., has been designing and building some of the finest acoustic instruments in the world since 1833. Throughout the years, none has enjoyed more popularity than Martin’s line of Dreadnoughts (or “D”-sized) guitars. The very first Dreadnoughts were manufactured in 1916 and were actually named for a class of World War I battleship.

The Martin guitars to be sold by Red Baron include:
– 1937 Martin D-18, in the case (Serial # 72366) – It wasn’t until the 1930s that the Martin Company began producing Dreadnought guitars with the Martin name. The D-1, a mahogany body instrument, eventually became the D-18. In 1934, the D-18 was offered with a 14-fret neck, which most consider to be standard today. The example to be sold is in excellent overall condition.
– Three models from 1942 — a D-28 (in the case, Serial # 81124); a D-41 (in the case, Serial # 254444); and a D-45 (in the case, Serial # 80748). The latter two have the extra ornamentation and premium woods that typify Martin’s prestigious 40-series. And the D-28, first unveiled in 1931, has remained the standard by which all large-bodied, steel-stringed acoustic guitars are measured.
– 1969 Martin D-45 (in the case, Serial # 81578) – The most recent in the group, but no less desirable as a collectible. The headstock is inlaid with the traditional “C.F. Martin” logo, and the many fine appointments include a multi-colored mosaic backstrip, tortoise pick guard and polished, low-profile neck. Hand-scalloped bracing and superior tonewoods produce a deep, clear, resonant tone.

The auction also includes some vintage automobiles:
“Vintage and one-of-a-kind vehicles to be sold at the Feb. 17-18 sale include a Rolls Royce once owned and driven by silent film star Mary Pickford; a 1956 light blue and white Chevrolet Bel-Air convertible, V-8, fully restored; a 1957 red Thunderbird hardtop; a 1949 Willys Overland Jeepster; and a 1936 Rolls Royce retrofitted as a Moxie Cola Horsemobile.”

For more information:
Visit the firm online at To consign an item, estate or collection, you may call them directly, at (404) 252-3770. The e-mail address is Red Baron is located at 6450 Roswell Road in Atlanta.

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