CINCINNATI – Despite years of reports to the contrary, the paper collectible market proved itself to be alive and well in Cowan’s Eric C. Caren – How History Unfolds on Paper Auction. The September 8, 2017 sale, with Internet live bidding through LiveAuctioneers, featured some exceptional pieces of American History from the Eric C. Caren Archive, the single-most significant private collection of historic documents in the United States.
“Collections that thoroughly cover an entire era of American History are a rarity in this business, but the list of collections that span colonial times through the modern day has just one name on it: Eric Caren,” said Katie Horstman, Cowan’s director of American History. “This collection is the envy of every collector in the market and the results today bare that out.”
The top lot of the day was a powder horn (shown above) depicting the end of the Siege of Boston in March 1776, which sold for $15,600 (including a 20% buyer’s premium). Having arguably the earliest known representation of the stars and stripes together on an American flag, the powder horn also has the patriotic slogan, “Leet All Our Hearts United Bee in the Defence of Liberty,” inscribed on it along with the dates of the Siege of Boston and the name of the carver, Barnabas Webb, a private in the Continental Army.
The hottest category of the day was items from the Civil War. Topping the group was a large-format photograph (shown below) of Abraham Lincoln and his son, Tad, which sold for $14,400. The last formal photo of the president, it was taken at Alexander Gardner’s studio in Washington, D.C., on Feb. 5, 1865 and is housed in an exceptional folk art frame with carved features that include a representation of the Emancipation Proclamation and a broken chain that symbolizes slavery.
Other highlights from the Civil War were a Mathew Brady original photograph maquette, Union Cavalry Leaders & Raiders, shown below, which sold for $13,800; a bound volume of Confederate newspapers for $7,800; a full page poster display from the Albany (NY) Journal proclaiming “General Lee and his Army Have Surrendered! Slavery and Treason Buried in the Same Grave!” for $3,240; and a Civil War hand-colored maze game by Charles Magnus for $3,240.
The auction prominently featured a collection of baseball collectibles from the early days of the national pastime. Selling for $6,600, the top lot of the group was the January 6, 1920 issue of The Boston Post (shown below) with the headline “Babe Ruth Sold to the Yankees,” capturing one of the most significant moments in American professional sports. The auction also featured an illustrated Boston Sunday Post account of Babe Ruth’s major league debut that sold for $3,300.
Other baseball highlights included a scorecard from the infamous 1919 World Series between the Cincinnati Reds and Chicago White Sox in which the White Sox were paid by professional gamblers to lose the series, which sold for $5,100; an 1881 scorebook signed by Harry Wright, the father of professional baseball, for $3,690; and an 1890 photograph of an African-American baseball team from Middletown, New York for $2,400.
The Wild West was also well represented in the sale highlighted by a poster maquette from Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show that sold for $8,400. Other top western lots included an imperial-size cabinet photograph of western legends “Wild Bill” Hickok, “Texas Jack” Omohundro, and “Buffalo Bill” Cody for $7,800; and a hat attributed to outlaw Crawford Goldsby, also known as “Cherokee Bill,” with accompanying photographs for $2,880.
The auction featured one of the most impressive collections of newspapers to hit the market in years, highlighted by a 1718 issue of the The Boston News-Letter, the first continuously published American paper, which sold for $7,200. Other top lots from the category included a December 1763 issue of The Providence Gazette describing Pontiac’s War that sold for $4,080; and an 1831 issue of the Cherokee Phoenix & Indians’ Advocate, the first American Indian newspaper for $2,091.
Other miscellaneous highlights from the auction included a lengthy signed letter to James Monroe from Mordecai M. Noah, Jewish-American editor and journalist, dated May 1823, which sold for $14,400; a photograph of the Jicarilla Apache delegation’s visit to the Corcoran Gallery of Art in 1880 for $3,997.50; a ninth plate daguerreotype of a transvestite for $3,997.50; an 1837 Kirtland Safety Society banknote signed by Mormon Founder Joseph Smith for $3,480; and the 1902-1904 run of issues for the world’s first science fiction periodical, Frank Reade Weekly Magazine, for $3,120.