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THE HARRODS-SELFRIDGE WAGER PRIZE 
A GEORGE V SILVER CIGARETTE BOX IN THE FORM OF AN ARCHITECTURAL MODEL OF HARRODS DEPARTMENT STORE
THE HARRODS-SELFRIDGE WAGER PRIZE A GEORGE V SILVER CIGAR BOX IN THE FORM OF AN ARCHITECTURAL MODEL OF HARRODS DEPARTMENT STORE

MARK OF RICHARD WOODMAN BURBIDGE FOR HARRODS LTD., LONDON, 1927

Details
THE HARRODS-SELFRIDGE WAGER PRIZE
A GEORGE V SILVER CIGAR BOX IN THE FORM OF AN ARCHITECTURAL MODEL OF HARRODS DEPARTMENT STORE
MARK OF RICHARD WOODMAN BURBIDGE FOR HARRODS LTD., LONDON, 1927
Each facade realistically modelled to scale, the roof under the central dome hinging open to reveal a cigarette compartment lined in wood, all upon a stepped stained-wood base, marked on base and roof
24 in. (61 cm.) wide; 21 ¼ in. (54 cm.) long; 6 7/8 in. (17.5 cm.) high
Provenance
The winner’s prize for a private wager made on 4 January 1917 between the managing director and later chairman of Harrods, [Richard] Woodman Burbidge (1872-1945) and Harry Gordon Selfridge (1858-1947), the owner of Selfridges.
Commissioned by Sir [Richard] Woodman Burbidge 2nd Bt., chairman of Harrods, in 1927 from the Harrods silver workshops, Trevor Square, the cost of £400 being met by the loser Harry Gordon Selfridge.
Sir [Richard] Woodman Burbidge 2nd Bt., and then by descent.

Literature
Harrods: A History of British Achievement 1849-1949, London, 1949, pp. 44-45, illustrated.
A. H. Williams, No Name on the Door, A Memoir of Gordon Selfridge, London, 1956, pp. 83-84
J. Ferry, A History of the Department Store, New York, 1960, p. 219.
R. Pound, Selfridge, A Biography, London, 1960, pp. 147-147.
G. Pottinger, The Winning Counter, Hugh Fraser and Harrods, London, 1971, p. 82.
A. Jenkins, The Rich Rich: The Story of the Big Spenders, New York, 1978, p. 105.
T. Dale, Harrods: The Store and the Legend, London, 1981, p. 43.
S. Callery, Harrods Knightsbridge: The Story of Society’s Favourite Store, London, 1991, pp. 60-61, illustrated.


Exhibited
London, Harrods, The Chairman’s Room, 1927-circa 1960.
London, Selfridges, The Diamond Jubilee Exhibition, March, 1969.
London, Harrods Banking Hall, 1981-2014.

Condition Report

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Lot Essay

The Wager

The exact wording of the wager is recorded in Harrods: A History of British Achievement 1849-1949 which was published by the store on its centenary. It was in the form of a letter signed by Gordon Selfridge.

“Jan. 4th, 1917 Wagered Mr. Woodman Burbidge that within six (6) years after declaration of peace we would overtake and pass Harrods Ltd. in annual returns. The stake is to be a silver miniature replica of the loser’s store.
H. Gordon Selfridge.”

It was to be some time after the end of hostilities that the wager was finally settled. In 1927 Richard Woodman Burbidge, now chairman of Harrods and the holder of the baronetcy awarded to his father, wrote to Mr. Selfridge to claim his prize, however, he asked that the wager might be varied slightly. Although he had great admiration for his competitor’s store he preferred a model of his own. Gordon Selfridge acquiesced to this request but asked if Sir Richard would have the model manufactured himself and the account sent to him for payment. The model was duly commissioned, being made in Harrods’ own silver workshops in Trevor Square. The immensely detailed 1:285 scale model depicts the whole store as it appeared in 1927. The central section of the Brompton Road façade conceals a wood lined compartment for cigars with a hinged cover beneath the famous terracotta dome. The model graced Sir Richard’s desk and that of his son Sir Richard Grant Woodman Burbidge (1897-1966) who succeeded his father as managing director in 1935 and chairman in 1945.

The Model

The architecturally detailed model has intricately cast and chased facades. It is conceived as the store appeared in 1927. Harrods was the masterpiece of the C. W. Stephens, architect of Claridges Hotel. The massive building evolved over many years but the primary period of building stretched from 1894 to 1912 with work taking place when funds and land acquisitions allowed. The main Brompton Road façade, faced with Doulton terracotta tiles, rose up over four years, the staged process allowing the store to remain open and trading. The lavish interiors, also decorated with Doulton tiles, were the work of the designer Frederick Sage and his studio The House of Sage.

Harrods and the Burbidge Family

The founder of the store was a draper, Charles Henry Harrod (1800-1885) who entered into business with a Knightsbridge grocer Philip Burden in the mid 19th century. 1849 is traditionally believed to be the year of foundation. The business was bought by the founder’s son Charles Digby Harrod in 1861 and flourished until sold in 1889. The late 19th and 20th century success story of the store was created by three generation of the Burbidge family, the first of whom, Sir Richard Burbidge 1st Bt. (1847-1917), joined the company in 1891. He turned the store around after poor trading in the late 19th century. He had come to London from Wiltshire in the 1860s. First apprenticed to a grocer and wine merchant he showed great promise and was soon the owner of his own business. He later gained considerable experience in three London department stores before he was hired to take the helm of the newly floated Harrods. He was not only known for his hard work and dedication to the business but also for his firm but kind treatment of his staff. During his time hours of work were reduced and many benefits provided for the employees. His son, Sir [Richard] Woodman Burbidge 2nd Bt. (1872-1945), joined Harrods in 1893 and succeeded his father as managing director on the latter’s death in 1917. Sir Woodman saw the company through the difficult years of the Depression. He continued to innovate, installing lifts and rebuilding part of the store in the latest Art Deco style.


Harry Gordon Selfridge

Selfridges opened in 1909, the year that Harrods celebrated its 50th anniversary. It was owned and managed by Harry Gordon Selfridge (1858-1947), a native of Wisconsin who had arrived in London in 1906, having revitalised Marshall Fields department store in Chicago. He had wanted to expand their operations overseas, opening stores in Europe. Mr. Field disagreed so Selfridge resigned and left for Europe arriving in London in 1906. He found a site on Oxford Street, engaged Waring and White to build a state of the art store and lured employees with higher than average wages. His costs for advertising alone topped £36,000 in 1909. Although the store was a great success the tough trading conditions of the 1920s meant he was unable to expand sales at the rate needed to win the wager. His lavish lifestyle meant he was heavily in debt when he was forced to resign from the board in 1939. He died in greatly reduced circumstances in 1947.

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