An album of carte de visite photographs of Abraham Lincoln’s funeral procession was the top-selling lot at Cowan’s December 9, nearly tripling its $8/10,000 estimate by selling for $27,025. Comprised of 97 CDVs, the album featured images of three of the nine cities on the funeral route— Columbus, Ohio, and Chicago and Springfield, Illinois. While valuable for its rarity as a whole, the album includes several cartes de visite which are exceptional individually, including an image of the processional arch in Chicago, and an image of Lincoln’s bedroom in his Springfield home. Additionally, several photographs are not illustrated in Twenty Days, Kunhardt and Kunhardt’s comprehensive 1965 account of Lincoln’s assassination and funeral.
A rare quarter plate daguerreotype of Seneca Chief Governor Blacksnake by artist F.C. Flint of Syracuse, New York, realized $22,325, well above its $10/15,000 estimate.
Born near Seneca Lake about 1753, this important Seneca war-chief was known to his people as Chainbreaker; to Whites he was Governor Blacksnake. A young warrior, Chainbreaker/Blacksnake was influential as a Seneca leader during the American Revolution, Indian conflicts at the end of the 18th century, and the War of 1812. He was also at the center of one of the great transformational events in Seneca history: the formation of the Code of Handsome Lake, which incorporated elements of Christianity and traditional Iroquois culture. Reproduced in several publications, this image that represents seminal events in American history garnered spirited bidding from collectors.
Western photography and ephemera made up a significant portion of the auction, with several lots represented in the top-selling items.
The Julia Tuell collection of 19 Plains Indian photographs brought $21,150, exceeding its $12/15,000 estimate. Tuell (1886-1960) settled in Lame Deer, Montana, with her husband, and became a keen observer of Northern Cheyenne daily life through her photographs. The collection offered by Cowan’s was comprised of several significant images, including photos of the Cheyenne Sun Dance and Animal Dance.
A California and Oregon Stage Line broadside on coated stock, circa 1866, described in Cowan’s catalogue as “a cornerstone piece for any Western transportation collection,” drew significant interest from collectors. Rare for its early vintage and compelling image, the broadside sold for $14,100.
A comprehensive archive of the California Gold Rush, complete with gold nugget, garnered $11,750, within its $10/15,000 estimate. Featuring approximately 175 items, including manuscripts and documents, the archive from an Ohio family provides a glimpse into the lives of Americans during the late antebellum years, when the great national issues of sectionalism and slavery met with an unprecedented mobility.
Not everything sold above estimates. A uniformed oil portrait of Stonewall Jackson sold below its $3,000-$5,000 estimate and seemed a bargain at $2,100. Reputed to have hung in the South Carolina capital building; this painting appears to be based upon Jackson’s Chancellorsville portrait, taken by a photographer from the Richmond Studio of Minnis and Crowell at Spotsylvania County Farm on April 26, 1863, seven days before being mortally wounded at the Battle of Chancellorsville.
Auction proceeds totaled $665,000, with 508 bidders from 6 countries vying for 400 lots.
“Overall, I was very happy with the results of the auction,” commented Wes Cowan, Director of American History. “Though we offered fewer lots than we have in past American History sales, the quality of the merchandise was elevated, as evidenced by the high per-lot average.”