Provenance, or the history of ownership, is of great importance at M.S. Rau Antiques, and we encounter many pieces with an impressive history behind them. Such items are quite uncommon, but even more rare and valuable are those antiques that build a compelling history after they leave our store.
In March of 1942, during the early days of World War II, U.S. Army Air Corps soldier Charles Bryant visited New Orleans with his unit while awaiting orders. The unit, from Des Moines, Iowa, spent three weeks in the Crescent City, at which time Bryant shopped at M.S. Rau Antiques. Bryant purchased a very special music box from the late 1800s and a gold Victorian wedding band for his wife Janet, hoping she would fall in love with the pieces he had selected for her.
Bryant’s unit was soon deployed to Corozal, Panama, a staging area before heading to Europe. Sadly, while on a search operation, Bryant went down in a plane crash with three other officers. Three of the four, including Bryant, were killed on April 13, 1942.
Following his death, the trunks containing Bryant’s belongings were sent home to his wife. When one of the trunks was opened, music was playing from the music box, which was tucked inside of Bryant’s uniform. Also enclosed was a card from M.S. Rau Antiques and a note stating that the music box was purchased there. Later, Janet received a letter written from a fellow soldier, which mentioned the gifts.
The music box remained for many years in the entryway of Janet’s home. Her daughter and granddaughter tell the story now – of the Bryants’ romance and their family adoration for the music box purchased at Rau in 1942.