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Lot 102

Acme Traffic Regulator

Sold for $40,250

125 in. x 24 in. x 24 in.

Patented in 1917 by Frank J. Husbands of Los Angeles, California, the Acme traffic signal was unique among all traffic signals with its red and green Corning heat-resistant glass lenses, lettering, semaphore arms, and blinking amber light. By the late 1920s, there were nearly 1,000 Acme Traffic Regulators around LA. Yet, despite their ability to relieve traffic congestion, the traffic regulators had several drawbacks. Perhaps one of the most common hindrances was their ineffectual location on street corners, which made them difficult to spot behind vehicles waiting to turn. They were also difficult to maintain, as birds would nest in the slots of the semaphore arms.

Following a series of replacements and upgrades beginning in 1931, most of the Acmes were simply discarded in local junkyards. The last functional example, located at the corner of LA’s Main Street and Sunset Boulevard, was removed by workers in December 1956. A few survivors made their way into private collections and persist to this day; others exist in public collections, such as the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C., and the Deer Park Winery and Automobile Museum in Escondido, California.

This meticulously restored example is believed to be one of only 11 surviving original examples. While the pole and base are modern reproductions, all of the internal operating gears and mechanisms have been preserved and fully restored, including the original Corning Glass lenses and indicator blades. The manufacturer’s tag remains affixed to the base and reads, “MFG DATE 4-12-37 Acme Traffic Controls.” With no notable flaws or imperfections, this attractive and very presentable example is a fascinating and extremely rare part of automobile history. The operating mechanism has been updated with a self-contained computer and remote control to cycle the signal through its various functions.

This is the first time that RM Sotheby’s has had the opportunity to offer a restored semaphore signal at auction, and it may well be a generation before a similar signal is offered for sale again.

Alexander Weaver

+1 864 313 6844
California, United States

Alexander Weaver joined RM Sotheby’s in 2011 as a Car Specialist after graduating from Furman University in South Carolina. Born... read more

Augustin Sabatié-Garat

+44 (0) 74 1511 4179
United Kingdom

Augustin Sabatié-Garat joined RM Europe in 2012 as a Car Specialist after more than a decade in the collector car hobby. Gradua... read more

Barney Ruprecht

+1 203 912 7168
Ontario, Canada

Barney’s interest in classic cars began at an early age after being introduced to his father’s all-original 1965 Porsche 911. Barney l... read more

David Swig

+1 415 302 2247
California, United States

David Swig joined RM Sotheby’s West Coast division as a Car Specialist in May 2015. David is a life-long automobile enthusi... read more

Don Rose

+1 617 513 0388
United States

Don joined RM in 2006 after several years of professionally trading sports and classic cars, and after earning a reputation as a noted... read more

Donnie Gould

+1 954 566 2209
Florida, United States

Donnie Gould joined the RM team in 2002 as a partner and Car Specialist after more than two decades in the vintage automobile auction ... read more

Gord Duff

+1 519 352 4575
Ontario, Canada

Gord Duff began his journey with RM Sotheby’s in 1998. Since then, he has gained an intimate knowledge of a variety of marques a... read more

Jake Auerbach

+1 310 559 4575
California, United States

Jake Auerbach got his start in the automotive industry at an early age, spending his summers during high school working at a classic c... read more

Kurt Forry

+1 717 623 1638
California, United States

Having worked for Bonhams’ Automobilia department for over 10 years, Kurt Forry joined RM Sotheby’s with more than a decad... read more

Matt Malamut

+1 805 231 6410
California, United States

A long-time car enthusiast and Southern California native, Matt studied Automotive Technology at San Diego Miramar College and complet... read more

Michael Squire

+44 (0) 20 7851 7070
United Kingdom

Michael Squire joined RM Sotheby’s European Division in the summer of 2016. He comes to RM with a prestigious racing background ... read more

Mike Fairbairn

+1 519 352 4575
Ontario, Canada

As one of the three founding partners of RM Sotheby’s, Mike has a long-standing interest in the classic car industry. Graduating... read more

Oliver Camelin

+44 (0) 75 0110 7447
United Kingdom

With an extensive background in exotic sports car history and sales, a particular passion for American curves, and fluency in three la... read more

Paul Darvill

+44 (0) 20 7851 7070
United Kingdom

Paul Darvill joined the RM Sotheby’s European team at the beginning of 2015. Paul holds a degree in French and Politics from the... read more

Pete Fisher

+1 519 784 9300
Ontario, Canada

Pete Fisher was first introduced to antique cars in high school, working for Classic Coachworks in his hometown of Blenheim, Ontario. ... read more

Shelby Myers

+1 310 559 4575
California, United States

Shelby Myers grew up with the classic car industry infused into every aspect of his life. He had the unique opportunity to watch the R... read more

Tonnie Van der Velden

+31 653 84 19 60
United Kingdom

Tonnie Van der Velden joined RM Sotheby’s European division in September 2015 as a Car Specialist. A lifelong enthusiast, Tonnie... read more