Pieces from the Batsel collection in a 2016 exhibition.
 Although this headdress is one of the most dramatic pieces in the collection, its origins and intended purpose remain unknown. While we can speculate that it may have originally served some ritualistic function, Batsel’s notes on the piece tell us only its time period (“C. 1780s”) and those materials that he believed may have composed the object: “Kudu horn, wood, mud daub (?) [sic], unidentified.” Batsel’s assertion that the piece was once used in an Imperial Russian Ballet performance is almost certainly unfounded. While it may have been worn in a promotional photograph for the Ballet in the late 19th century, no dancer’s neck could have supported the weight of the headdress for any extended period.  Unfortunately, very few parts of the headdress are original. The horns and skull piece, while damaged by the storm, were intact and recoverable; the woven cloth ropes have been replaced with facsimiles based on samples of the original textiles. The headdress base has been reconstructed modelled after a surviving fragment of the “mud daub” texture, now located under the left set of horns.
 Over the years, Oliver Robert Batsel handed many clothing items down to his son, Kurt. Two of these items, originally purchased and worn in the 1930s through the early 1950s, appear in some of the few extant photographs of Batsel as a young man. In his early days as a collector, Batsel posed for a photograph with his Ford Model A wearing both the eight-panel cap and the suit jacket exhibited here. The cap – or one very similar to it – also appears in an earlier photograph of Batsel at work selling cigars as a teenager.  Under the care of Batsel’s son, these garments evaded not only the ravages of Hurricane Ivan, but also the wear and tear of everyday use. Today, they appear much as Batsel might have worn them nearly eight decades ago.
 This tintype, taken in the early 1890s, remains the only known photograph of Peregrine Lander (left), known best as Empyreal Trading Company figurehead Carbuncle Pip. An explorer, naturalist, and anthropologist by trade, Pip gained a cult following after appearing in at least 23 short stories in  The Boy’s Own Magazine , a serial newspaper for British youth. In his stories, Carbuncle Pip is a swashbuckling adventurer, captain of the  Empyrean , skilled hunter, and discoverer of both obscure artifacts and uncontacted peoples.  In reality, Peregrine Lander’s accomplishments are poorly recorded. The heavy promotion of his nickname, which honors his discovery of a massive red gem (or “carbuncle”), suggests that the Company was more concerned with projecting an image of wealth and luxury than it was with Lander’s actual exploits.  In 1895, Carbuncle Pip perished in a shipwreck when a sudden storm drove the  Empyrean  into a rocky reef off the coast of Senegal. Cargo from that doomed voyage washed up on shores around the world, and much of it ended up in Batsel’s collection. Pip’s famous red carbuncle, which the Company encouraged him to wear as a part of his public persona, has never been recovered.
 [LEFT]  Thaumatrope Spinning Toys  1890s (facsimiles 2016)  These paper toys were included in certain copies of  The Boy’s Own Magazine  to promote the Carbuncle Pip stories. When held by the strings and spun, the image of explorer Carbuncle Pip appears to push through leaves in a dense jungle. While Batsel did have an original thaumatrope in his collection, it did not survive the storm; these facsimiles were produced using scans of the original toy provided by the Museu Marítim in Barcelona.  [RIGHT]  Ribbon Rosette  1890s  Produced as a promotional item by  The Boy’s Own Magazine , in which the Carbuncle Pip stories were published, this wearable pin bears the Empyreal Trading Company motto: ad terminum terrae, or “to the ends of the earth.” While the center is original, this pin’s ribbons have been replaced after storm damage.
 The Empyreal Trading Company sponsored only a single chartered ship, the  Empyrean , but its reputation for securing strange and exotic curios for its wealthy clientele – at whatever the cost – distinguished it from its much larger competitors. One of those clients, either a shareholder of the Company or simply a well-connected patron, commissioned this fur collar in the late 1700s.  The  Empyrean  brought the white pelt used in the collar’s construction from the Arrowan islands to England, where it was sewn into this one-of-a-kind garment. The Empyreal Trading Company had an almost exclusive trade relationship with the native Arrowansi, whose low-volume and inconsistent markets were not lucrative enough to catch the attention of larger companies. Embroidery depicting a fantastical stag creature adorns the right side of the piece; on the left is the Company’s distinctive crest.  Hurricane Ivan irrevocably damaged the collar’s original lace and nearly disintegrated its embroidery. In 2014, the piece underwent extensive repairs; it has been restored to its present-day condition largely through reference photographs and written descriptions of the pre-damage garment.
 Batsel sent postcards and letters for every special occasion. Many of these contain references to his collection, like the one at left: "I'm bringing back a souvenir for you from up north - and one for me, too!"
 In his teens, Oliver Robert Batsel spent his summers selling cigars in southern Florida.
 By the time he reached his early twenties, Batsel had already built a home in northern Florida and purchased a car of his own.
 A rare photograph of Oliver Robert Batsel (with wife, Carole, left) behind the Florida home in which he kept his collection. 
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