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Totem pole set to fetch upto £100,000 at Dorchester auction
11:28am Saturday 9th February 2013 in News
A NATIVE American totem pole that was used as a coat stand for 30 years is set up to £100,000 at auction in Dorchester.
The 6ft 7ins tall sculpture was purchased by a wealthy entrepreneur, John Allen Hughes, almost 100 years ago and passed down to his granddaughter.
Unaware of its potential value, she kept it in a back room of her Dorset home where it was strewn with coats and scarves.
But the item has now been identified as a rare native American totem pole from the early 20th century by an auctioneer who stumbled upon it when he visited the house.
It will go up for auction at Dukes in Dorchester on February 14.
John Holmes, manager at Dukes, said: “John Allen Hughes was a very wealthy man and in the 1920s he did a tour around North America.
“It seems like he bought the totem pole and shipped it back to the UK as a memento of the trip.
“The photograph pictures him with one of the tribes on his trip and would have been taken in central Northern America.”
He added: “It was passed down to his granddaughter who had kept it in a back room of her farm house and used it to put her coat on.
"It's a rare item to come up at auction because there aren't many in private ownership and we are far away from the native area.”
Although the totem pole is estimated to sell for up to £10,000 pounds, a model also from the Haida natives fetched more than £100,000 pounds at an auction in New York in 2008.
Mr Holmes said: ““The totem pole would have come from an area like the Pacific North West, Washington, and British Columbia.
"They have been thought to have a religious context but they are actually more of a representation of the status of the tribe, used to show lineage, or to tell a story.
"This totem pole is most likely to represent family lineage and features a whale, bear, and beaver below the eagle.
"The Haida spiritually believed that they were descendents of the eagle which is why it is at the top.”
“Smaller totem poles were also sometimes used as a support for buildings and would create a small doorway, which forced people to bow as they entered the room.”