CINCINNATI – Cowan’s once again proved itself as a leader in the categories of early photography and Civil War memorabilia with its November American History Live Salesroom Auction. Those two categories accounted for more than half of the Nov. 17 sale’s $596,000 total (including the buyer’s premium). Absentee and Internet live bidding was available through LiveAuctioneers.
The top lot of the day was an extraordinary album containing photographs of Mormon Elders, American Indians, Salt Lake City and stage stations. The grouping was made up of approximately 130 CDVs and cabinet cards collected by the Bigland family of England while living in St. Louis and Ontario in the 1860s to 1890s and sold for $32,400.
“The album provided a quintessential look at the American West in the late 1800s, but what really made this such a desirable piece of history was the rare look it provided at the early days of the Mormon church,” said Katie Horstman, Cowan’s director of American History. “In addition to photos of Brigham Young and other Mormon Elders, the album contained rare topographical views of Salt Lake City as well as photographs of Mormon immigrants that we weren’t able to find records of anywhere else. It really was a stunning collection.”
The American West was one of the preferred subject matters when it came to early photography. Other highlights included an exceptional album and archive documenting Rev. W.C. Roe’s Mission to Fort Sill (below), featuring several photos of Geronimo, and Quanah Parker, which sold for $16,800; a Carleton Watkins set of 32 Yosemite Valley photographs for $4,800; an extraordinary quarter plate tintype of Jesse Gray, noted Indiana frontiersman, Indian fighter, and War of 1812 veteran for $4,500; and an Annie Oakley cabinet card by Wood for $4,500.
Not surprisingly, Civil War era photography was in high demand all day. The highlight of the group was a CDV album assembled by an abolitionist family that featured 110 images including slaves, views of Port Royal, S.C., and portraits of prominent abolitionists and Quakers. Identifications and content in the album point to the likelihood it was compiled during and soon after the Civil War by a member of the Parrish family, prominent Quakers in Philadelphia. The album sold for $19,200.
“When I brought this album to the annual show of the Daguerreian Society, collectors were marveling over the unique subject matter of some of the photographs,” said Horstman. “I wasn’t at all surprised by the level of interest it drew.”
Rounding out the early photography highlights was the personal photograph collection of Hamilton Lanphere Smith, a photography pioneer best known for patenting the tintype, which sold for $15,600. The lot consisted of 155 photographs as well as extensive research on Smith, his family, colleagues, career and the subjects of his photographs.
The biggest bidding war of the day came between two phone bidders who vied for several minutes over the Mary Andrews Suffrage Collection, which eventually sold for $26,400. The lot featured seven items associated with Andrews, a Warren, Ohio, suffragist, including a Carrie Chapman Catt ALS, parade jacket, blouse, and “Justice” and “Morality” sashes.
A group of Alfred R. Waud paintings and sketches proved to be one of the most desired collections of the day. Waud was a British-born artist and illustrator who became well known for his depictions of Civil War battlefield scenes.
The top lot from the group was a watercolor and gouache of General McClellan at Malvern Hill, V.A., posting the battery, which sold for $14,400. Other Waud highlights included a pencil sketch of the Battle of Savage Station in Virginia that sold for $6,600; and a pen and ink sketch attributed to Waud of Union soldiers raising the American flag over the Old State House in Columbia, S.C., for $6,600.
A French & Indian War orderly book recorded by Capt. Nathaniel Perry from 1755-1756 was the top lot from the Colonial period selling for $19,200. Other highlights from the founding of the nation included a John Hancock document signed from 1784 that sold for $3,900; a rare Liverpool jug featuring a fine, large portrait of John Adams surmounted by a small Federal eagle for $3,998; and a Thomas Jefferson and James Madison signed land grant for a parcel sold through the Cincinnati Land Office in 1806 for $2,460.
Miscellaneous highlights from the day included a rare proclamation to the people of Texas dated July 1863, announcing the fall of Vicksburg and calling for 10,000 volunteers to help defend the state from the “Vandal hordes of the North,” which sold for $10,200; a Confederate pass signed by Capt. William C. Quantrill for $9,600; an archive of the first encampment of the Kentucky State Guard in 1860 for $9,000; and a 15th Texas Regiment Confederate battle flag for $7,200.