Cowan’s Western and Historic Americana Auction Hits $1.57 Million
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Cowan’s Western and Historic Americana Auction Hits $1.57 Million
First Book of Western Expansion and John Brown Daguerreotype Top Two-Day Sale
CINCINNATI (December, 2007) – A long-lost John Brown daguerreotype garnered national attention before the auction, yet it was an exceptional copy of the Maxwell Code that topped Cowan’s Western and Historic Americana sale. The Maxwell Code is the first book printed in the Northwest Territories and fetched $103,500 on December 6, 2007. The sale took place December 6 and 7, 2007 at Cowan’s Auctions in Cincinnati and was comprised of over 1000 lots.
James Maxwell printed the "Laws of the Territory Northwest of the Ohio" in Cincinnati in 1796. Legal practitioners grew tired of the long name and began referring to it as the Maxwell Code in honor of its printer. The area known as the Northwest Territory was what is now considered Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, Illinois and portions of Wisconsin and Minnesota.
These laws served as legal code for the frontier and established precedent for when the territory was eventually divided up into states. The Maxwell Code’s antislavery clause was often cited in the years before the Civil War as proof that slavery was never intended to be allowed in the territories or states of the Union.
The copy up for sale was one of the few copies in known existence and even fewer copies not in an institutional collection. Ernest J. Wessen, one of America’s greatest book dealers, owned the copy briefly. It is clear from a letter written by Wessen in 1963 that he believed the book to be exceptional. "It will always remain the greatest item to have passed through my hands. It was not enough that we got this fine copy in what is the earliest binding, but with its superb provenance so beautifully tied up. It is without a peer."
Day one of the sale featured various items from the West. Photographs of American Indians were popular with the bidders. A large collection of photographs taken by Alexander Gardner sold for $86,250. This collection featured images of Red Cloud and his braves. Red Cloud was one of the most famous Sioux chiefs and also one of the most photographed.
A lot of ten photographs featuring William Clarke Quantrill and his "Raiders" beat out its pre-auction estimate of $6,000 to $8,000 and fetched $13,800. Quantrill is best known for his style of guerilla warfare that he developed during the Civil War. The Raiders harassed Union soldiers and Union sympathizers up and down the Kansas-Missouri border. Quantrill was killed during a raid in Kentucky in 1865.
Wild Bill Hickok was another legendary figure of the Old West to garner bidders’ interest. A fine cabinet card of Hickok by Forney also beat its estimate and sold for $9,775. Hickok was a lawman that fought for the Union Army during the Civil War. He was known for legendary shootouts and was killed while playing poker in South Dakota.
Day two of the sale had all eyes on the John Brown daguerreotype. A bidding war took place for the image and ended with a final price of $97,750. The daguerreotype was estimated to sell for $60,000 to $80,000. It had been passed down through descendants of the Brown family.
The image was taken by African-American photographer Augustus Washington in 1846 or 1847. Experts believe it was taken at the same time as the famous image of Brown displayed in the Smithsonian Institution’s National Portrait Gallery. Both were taken at Washington’s Hartford studio.
Brown was hanged by the state of Virginia for treason in 1859 after he orchestrated the raid on a federal arsenal in Harper’s Ferry, VA. He was a passionate abolitionist, yet President Abraham Lincoln called him a "misguided fanatic."
Another daguerreotype caught bidders’ interest on day two of the sale. The image of Philadelphia by William G. Mason garnered $18,400. Mason was one of America’s first daguerrieans and one of the first to use artificial light in creating an image. The scene depicted in this image is a view from Mason’s home in Philadelphia.
An atlas printed in 1823 grabbed bidders’ attention. Henry Tanner’s 1825 New American Atlas sold for $46,000. The atlas contained maps from several states of the North American Union. A Map of Carolina, Florida and The Bahama Islands circa 1734 by Mark Catesby tripled its pre-auction estimate when it fetched $16,100 during the auction. This particular map was bound in Catesby’s Natural History that included illustrations of plants, animals, birds, fish and insects of America. It is considered one of the most prized maps of the colonial South.
"We were very pleased with the results of this sale," commented Wes Cowan, owner of Cowan’s Auctions and star of the PBS TV series History Detectives. "Considering the uncertain economic climate today, the results just prove the strength of this market."
Cowan’s next Western and Historic Americana auction is slated for June 2008. For more information please contact Wes Cowan, 513-871-1670, email@example.com
Highlights of the Western and Historic Americana Auction, held December 6 and 7, 2007 at Cowan’s auction house in Cincinnati, OH include (prices include 15% buyer’s premium):
$103,500 PAID FOR FIRST BOOK OF WESTERN EXPANSION
Laws of the Territory of the United States North-West of the Ohio: Adopted and made by the Governour and Judges, in their Legislative capacity, at a Session begun on Friday, the xxix day of May, one thousand, seven hundred and ninety-five, and ending on Tuesday the twenty-fifth day of August following: With an Appendix of Resolutions and the Ordnance for the Government of the Territory. By Authority Cincinnati: Printed by W. Maxwell. M,DCC,XCVI. Page size 7 x 6.9", printed on laid paper, with chain lines one inch apart. With original brown stiff paper boards, inked manuscript inscription on cover upper right, Laws of the (illegible) Territory, and about the midpoint of the cover, (illegible) Jefferson County, State of Ohio. Inscribed on the inside of the front cover Robert McCleary, Esq., with the additional names of Peter M. Wilson on the title page above "Laws"; and across the right edge of the title page Francis Douglas’ Book May 16 ’98. With the bookplate of former owner Robert Aitchison of Wichita, Kansas, pasted down on the rear inside cover.
LONG-LOST JOHN BROWN DAGUERREOTYPE SELLS FOR $97,750
An oversized plate, housed in a pressed leather case, with a simple purple silk pad, stamped in black Washington Gallery. Hartford CT inside a ribbon surround, and below in block letters Washington Galery[sic]. Hartford, CT. The image framed by a heavy stippled brass, arch-topped mat; the preserver likely from a later 1860s-70s image. The plate itself marked "O" in one corner.
Provenance: Descended directly in the family of John Brown. Line of Descent: John Brown’s daughter, Annie Brown; to her granddaughter Bertha; thence to her grandson, Darell Robinson, and his wife Maxine, as a wedding present in 1949.
ALEXANDER GARDNER PORTFOLIO OF AMERICAN INDIANS GARNERS $86,250
Photographs of Red Cloud & his Braves taken during their visit to Washington, D.C., May 1872 for Trustees of the Blackmore Museum, Salisbury, England, Gibson Brothers Press, Washington, D.C. 34 albumen prints 5.5 x 4" (33 of which are masked to oval format; 1 rectangle) on 12 x 10" mounts with decorative lithographed frames, captioned on the mounts. Most in very good to excellent condition with occasional minor fading, staining and foxing. One (Red Dog, profile) was printed from a broken negative; four have mottled prints which are not negative flaws, and one (Red Cloud and Blackmore) has more extensive staining on both the print and mount. Loose as issued in red pebbled roan over beveled boards, panel stamped, gilt titled with attached ribbons. Lacks title and content sheets and one portrait (Lone Wolf, full-face).
$46,000 PAID FOR TANNER’S 1825 NEW AMERICAN ATLAS
Containing Maps of the Several States of the North American Union, Prepared and Drawn on a Uniform Scale.... Tanner, Henry S. Philadelphia: H. S. Tanner, , revised edition 1825. Atlas, leather over marbled paper boards, with William C. Rhinelander in gilt on front and small bookplates front and rear, 22 hand-colored double-page maps, with South America on two sheets (indexed as 2 maps in volume), and North America being quadruple (indexed as 4 maps), both with linen tape at attachments of separate sheets and reinforcing folds.
PIONEERING DAGUERREOTYPE OF PHILADELPHIA BY WILLIAM G. MASON FETCHES $18,400
Sixth plate, housed in an early leather case with a heavy stippled brass mat. A paper label on the rear cover identifies the scene: The rear of the house on the south side of Arch above 16th taken by W. G. Mason from his house on Filbert above 16th about 1846; another paper label on the lower edge of the case retains a partially legible inscription identifying the scene as Arch....1845. In this vertical plate, the camera looks out onto a rear yard of a large Federal style brick building. An arching trellis, covered by bare vines invisible in the foreground, and in the distance, a thin layering of snow covers a side yard. Trees bare of any vegetation imply the image was taken sometime during the winter or early spring.
GEORGE CLAPP PAPERS 1862-65, 37TH MASSACHUSETTS INFANTRY, CO. SELLS FOR $18,400
102 soldier’s letters. Many letters are eight, 12, even 16 pages in length, closely written, and sustained in their description of events, people, attitudes, and they often provide tidbits such as preparing a body for embalming and shipping home or mourning the loss of Sedgwick. The collection includes a small assortment of artifacts, including a miniature set of three dice and telescoping shaker set in a nice round leather case; a piece of shrapnel (possibly the shrapnel that shattered his right humerus); and two minute pen knives, at least one of which appears to be carved from a bone fragment (his own?). An educated young man, intelligent and strong minded, brave and drunken all at the same time, Clapp is memorable. This is a stunning collection of the size and sort that rarely comes on the market any longer.
AN AUTHENTIC NARRATIVE OF A VOYAGE TO THE PACIFIC OCEAN: PERFORMED BY CAPTAIN AND CAPTAIN CLERKE GARNERS $17,250
Rickman, John. 1783. An Authentic Narrative of a Voyage to the Pacific Ocean Performed by Captain Cook, and Captain Cerke, in His Britannic Majesty’s Ships, The Resolution, and Discovery, in the Years, 1776,1777,1778, 1779, and 1780... Philadelphia. Robert Bell.. 2 vols in one, 8vo, contemporary calf, raised bands on spine, gilt lettering in red morocco on spine. -96, 99-112; -229; ,[2ads]. Pencilled id on front paste-down, referring J. Roberts sale, 11/30/98 and V. Henklus sale, 1929; rear paste-down with inked Thomas Dewne(?). A very good copy of a rare American account of Cook’s third voyage.
$16,100 PAID FOR CATESBY’S MAP OF CAROLINA, FLORIDA, AND THE BAHAMA ISLANDS
With the Adjacent Parts, by Mark Catesby, circa 1734. This map was based largely on Henry Popple’s A Map of the British Empire in America with the French and Spanish Settlements adjacent thereto of 1733. This map was bound in Mark Catesby’s Natural History which dealt with illustrating plants, animals, birds, fish, and insects of America. This scarce map, embellished with a seaweed and seashell covered cartouche, is considered by many to be one of the most highly prized maps of the colonial South (Cumming No. 210). 18 x 24.5" (sight); 25.5 x 32.5 (w/frame).
GATHERING OF PHOTOGRAPHS OF W.C. QUANTRILL AND HIS "RAIDERS" SELLS FOR $13,800
Lot of 10: 8 tintypes, 1 ambrotype and 1 cdv. Including a ninth plate ruby ambrotype, eight cdv-sized tintypes, most in 1860s-70s paper mats, and a carte-de-visite, each identified either in pencil or typescript on verso. Collected by Charles Rosamond of Kansas City, Kansas, these images were used to illustrate Carl W. Breihan’s The Killer Legions of Quantrill (Breihan 1971). The group includes the following individuals, along with the page on which they appear in Breihan’s book: a paper image of Ted Sanders in Union uniform (p. 51); a tintype of Henry Clements (p. 51); a tintype of Nat Tigue (p. 51); a tintype of Thomas Little (p. 52); a ruby ambrotype of Bud Story (p. 51); a tintype of John Chatman (p. 57); a tintype of Gooley Robertson (p. 58); a tintype of David Tate (p. 58); a tintype of Tom Hunt (p. 59); and a tintype of Clark Hockensmith (p. 59). Because of their very nature, we cannot guarantee that the identifications are correct.
1859 ALBUM OF SALTED PAPER PHOTOGRAPHS OF THE 35TH UNITED STATES CONGRESS FETCHES $13,225
McClees, James, with photographic credit to his assistant Julian Vannerson, 1857-59. McClees’ Gallery of Photographic Portraits of the Representatives of the Thirty-fifth Congress, Photographed and Published by McLees and Beck. Washington, D.C., 8vo, with marbled boards and half calf, with raised ribbed spine with gilt title; frontis with lithograph of the capitol. Title page followed by one page Preface, and four pages of index, then 311 pages, each with a salted paper photograph in vignette of each member of the 35th Congress, with a facsimile autograph of the sitter printed below.
17 STAR U.S. NATIONAL FLAG GARNERS $12,650
Hand-sewn linen with canton having a larger six-pointed central star surrounded by a ring of eleven, five-pointed stars with two five-pointed stars in the corners at hoist and along the fly end of canton. The fly has only eight stripes, appears never to have had the 15 required by the Flag Act of January 13, 1794, or even the earlier and later 13 stripes; 32.25 x 67". Family tradition holds that this flag was used at Perry’s victory during the battle of Lake Erie. Includes letters between the family in which the flag descended and the National Museum of American History.
1864 ABRAHAM LINCOLN AUTOGRAPHED NOTE RELATING TO THE TRIAL OF FRANK WOLFORD SELLS FOR $12,075
1p, 5 x 8", entirely in Lincoln’s hand.
Sir The Sec. of War informs me that Col. Woolford [sic] will be put on trial this week & just as early in the week as this case can be prepared
Lazarus Whitehead Powell, was the Democratic Senator from Kentucky from 1859 through the war until 1865, and a mutual friend of Lincoln and Wolford.
$11,500 PAID FOR BROADSIDE ANNOUNCING AN INDIAN MASSACRE IN LOUISIANA TERRITORY
Murder by the Indians of a Mother and Ten Children At the Westward, Last Friday. Tall folio, 17 x 10.25" printed on laid paper, circa February 1810 signed in type William Bond; n.p. With a woodcut of a standing American Indian holding a bow and arrow, surrounded in the blank margins of the sheet by 11 coffins, each identified by the name and age of the victims, with two columns of text describing the circumstances of the murders, with the top of the column beginning with the following explanatory text: Extract of a letter from the unfortunate father to his brother, in Philadelphia, dated Upper Louisiana, Feb. 20, 1810. The body of the text describes how the family of William Bond was kidnapped, tortured, and ultimately murdered by Indians. Bond was able to escape after the Indians apparently became drunk. Bond is explicit in his descriptions, and gruesome in the extreme as he describes the near dismemberment by tomahawking of his unfortunate wife and children.
1883 TOMBSTONE AND TUCSON, ARIZONA TERRITORY DIRECTORY FETCHES $11,500
Tucson and Tombstone General and Business Directory for 1883 and 1884. Containing A Complete List of All the Inhabitants.... Cobler and Co., Daily Citizen Steam Printing Establishment. 1883. 8vo, original cloth spine and printed boards with advertisements on both front and rear, 224pp, errata, and index. An incredibly rare directory, with only four known locations nationwide (Yale, Newberry, Princeton and the University of Arizona). This copy collates with other known library holdings, as well as Streeter’s copy, save for an extra copy of the last leaf.
About Cowan’s Auctions, Inc.
As one of the nation’s leading auction houses with sales approaching $15 million, Cowan’s has been helping individuals and institutions build important collections for more than a decade. The company’s four divisions of Historical Americana, American Indian and Western Art, American and European Fine and Decorative Art, and Historic Firearms & Early Militaria hold semi-annual cataloged sales that routinely set records for rare offerings. Recent specialty auctions have featured dolls, toys, advertising, clocks, watches, shaving mugs and barbershop collectibles.
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