Gettysburg museum to auction off wax presidents and first ladies

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GETTYSBURG, Pa. -- A piece of history could be yours if you bid the right price.

A museum in Gettysburg will auction off its collection of wax figure presidents and other historical figures. The Hall of Presidents and First Ladies closed in November because of a drop in attendance, and now everything inside will be sold.

Max Felty, the president and owner of Gettysburg Heritage Enterprises Inc., said, "The costs keep rising and visitation goes down, so unfortunately we had to make that decision. And we've been thinking about it for a few years, but it was time this year."

Officials hoped more people would be inspired to visit the wax museum this year because of the presidential election. But that wasn't the case.

Felty said, "Today's visitors we think are looking for something different than what the Hall of Presidents has to offer."

The museum at 789 Baltimore Street is home to a complete wax collection of presidents and their first ladies, along with photos and murals.

Now these pieces of history are going to be auctioned off and more than likely separated.

Felty said, "The museum came about in an era where there were tons of new attractions and activities coming into Gettysburg and we had enough visitors to support it."

Randy Dickensheets, the president and auctioneer for Pa. OnSite Auction Co., thinks people just aren't interested in exhibits like this one anymore.

Dickensheets said, "More of a hands-on type of group of kids coming up. So for them it's kind of boring. For us older guys, we love it."

The life-size figures are the exact same proportions as the 44 presidents. Over the years, some of the older figures have had their hands and even their heads replaced.

"These are pretty unique in that these earlier ones were hand-sculpted and then put the wax. So it was an art form. Today it's a little different how they do things," Dickensheets said.

The first ladies are 1/3-size replicas of the first ladies in their inaugural gowns.

The auction is scheduled for Saturday, January 14 at 10 a.m. at the 1863 Inn of Gettysburg, 516 Baltimore Street. Auctioneers are curious to find out which president will be the fan favorite.

"Will a Republican beat a Democrat or vice versa?" Dickensheets said, "Or one of the early Whigs? It's going to be interesting to find out and see which one brings in the most. I'm kind of excited on that end too to see which one will bring in the most money."

Museum officials hope they can find good homes for the historical figures.

Felty said, "We hope the public can continue to see them and learn from them."

Dickensheets said there are now only a handful of museums dedicated to presidents and first ladies left in the United States.

Previews of the collection will be held on January 8 and January 12 at the museum's location on Baltimore Street.

For more information about the auction, click here for their website.