Gold fever breaks out at Cowan’s American ephemera sale

American ephemera

Half plate daguerreotype of a California gold mining. Sold for $36,250. Cowan’s image

CINCINNATI – Cowan’s American Historical Ephemera and Photography auction surpassed expectations achieving a sales total of $701,849 against a presale estimate of $409,700- $615,750. The Nov. 19 auction also saw 93% of the auction’s 414 lots sell with nearly a third selling above their estimates. Absentee and Internet live bidding was available through LiveAuctioneers.

“I am proud of all that the team at Cowan’s and Hindman have accomplished in a year filled with so many unique challenges,” said Katie Horstman, Senior Specialist of American Historical Ephemera and Photography. “This was the highest sell-through rate for a various-owner sale in my 13-year career – this is a great time to sell at auction.”

In the early photography category, an extraordinarily rare half plate daguerreotype of a California gold mining camp (above) more than doubled its estimate selling for $36,250. The photograph depicted six men posed around a large depression at the Angel’s Camp gold mine in Calaveras County, California. Daguerreotypes of gold mining scenes are rare to begin with, but adding to the desirability of the lot, the mining camp and miners themselves were identified.

The top lot of the day was an extensive archive of Medal of Honor winner and Civil War hero Lt. Gen. Nelson A. Miles (Lot 322). The Miles archive featured over 300 items detailing Indian Wars campaigns, including his interactions with Sitting Bull and Chief Joseph. The archive was consigned by a direct descendant of Miles, increasing its appeal and drawing a great deal of attention from prominent book and manuscript dealers from across the country. Ultimately, the archive sold to a private collector for $87,500 against an estimate of $30,000-$50,000.

American ephemera

The archive of 7th Cavalryman Philip J. Dieter included stereoviews of Native Americans. Sold for $26,250. Cowan’s image

Another archive of note from the auction was a collection of photographs and manuscripts from a member of the 7th Cavalry (Lot 328) serving under Lt. Colonel George Armstrong Custer. At the heart of the archive was a collection of stereoviews purportedly once owned by Custer’s wife, Elizabeth, that included never before seen views of Little Bighorn, Miles City and Fort Keogh. Estimated at $10,000-$15,000, the lot nearly tripled its estimate selling for $26,250.

American ephemera

Sixth-plate daguerreotype of bare-knuckle boxer John Morrissey. Sold for $15,000. Cowan’s image

Other notable lots from the auction include:

– Lot 247: A sixth-plate daguerreotype of bare-knuckle boxer John Morrissey, circa mid-1850s (est. $10,000-$15,000) – sold for $15,000.
– Lot 406: A 1903 letter written and signed by William F. “Buffalo Bill” Cody describing the battle of Warbonnet Creek and the killing of Cheyenne Chief Yellow Hand (est. $12,000- $16,000) – sold for $13,125.
–Lot 7: A 1776 letter from a Continental Army soldier to his father detailing the disastrous loss at the Battle of Long Island (est. $500-$700) – sold for $11,250.


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