Gold Rush-era daguerreotypes of a miner and his claim captured the moment at Hindman

One of two 1852 daguerreotypes of miner William J. Jewell and his California Gold Rush claim, which together sold for $48,000 ($62,400 with buyer’s premium) at Hindman.

CHICAGO – Billed as American Historical Ephemera & Photography, Hindman‘s November 30 sale was all about vintage cartes-de-visite, ambrotypes and daguerrotypes, with some amazing performances captured for posterity. Complete results are available at LiveAuctioneers.

As anticipated, buyers surged to the pair of daguerrotypes of miner William J. Jewell (1818-1885) in the California gold fields of Poverty Bar (in Calaveras County, of Mark Twain’s jumping frog fame). Bidding started at $7,500 against a presale estimate of $15,000-$25,000, but kept climbing until leveling off at $48,000, or $62,400 with buyer’s premium.

Walking into a Victorian parlor of the late 19th century, visitors would be greeted by fascinating displays of cartes-de-visite (visiting cards, similar to the American cabinet card) – small, inexpensively produced photographs that were collected and traded. Often, the subject matter was the famous names of the day, but many other examples survive of lesser-known people and things.

Jose Maria Mora (1847-1926) was a well-known New York City cabinet card photographer whose hallmark was using theatrical backdrops to depict exotic locales for his photographic subjects. This collection of 228 Mora CDVs reads like a list of forgotten 19th-century celebrity culture, which clearly caught bidders’ attention. Estimated at only $500-$700, the lot hammered for $6,000 ($7,800 with buyer’s premium), a very surprising result indeed.

A quarter-plate ambrotype of the Randolph & Bridgewater Railroad’s flagship 4-4-0 steam locomotive with single-truck, six-wheel tender sent rail photography enthusiasts into a bidding war, pushing the lot to $6,000 ($7,800 with buyer’s premium), double its high estimate. Captured in the late 1840s at the R&B locomotive shed in South Braintree, Massachusetts, the locomotive type is an extremely early version that would be refined throughout the Civil War period, culminating in examples like that made famous in Buster Keaton’s 1926 silent classic The General.