Issue #96  11/1/2005
Cowan's Announces Fall Blockbuster Auction

Cowan's Auctions, Inc. of Cincinnati, Ohio will hold their semi-annual auction of Historical Americana over a three day period between November 16-18. Most photograph collectors will be interested in the offerings on Days II and III.

Wes Cowan and his staff always manage to come up with exciting 19th-century material, and this sale is no exception. Highlights include three portfolios of American Indian photographs taken for the Englishman William Blackmore between 1872 and 1873. Two of these were taken in the Washington studio of Alexander Gardner, one was taken in New York by Jeremiah Gurney. Only one--"Red Cloud and His Braves" by Gardner, has appeared on the market in the last quarter of a century. When it appeared at the Frank Siebert sale of American Indian literature at Sotheby's in 1999, it fetched $129,000.

The albums are part of a veritable cornucopia of American Indian photographs that will be sold, many of which were consigned by Wes and Leon Kramer of The Kramer Gallery in Minneapolis, MN. Some of our readers might know the Kramer Gallery as a purveyor of fine American paintings. But fewer know that over a number of years the Kramer's amassed a collection of more than 500 photographs of American Indians, including portraits by Huffman, Jackson, Soule, Bell, and other 19th century notables, along with pictorialist images by Roland Reed, Frank Rinehart, George Fiske and others.

A large group of large format paper images taken by Salt Lake City photographer Charles R. Savage is also included, along with a number of large-format Dakota Territory images by Grabill. This sale is particularly strong in photographs of the American West, and many gems can be found by perusing the catalogue. There are no less than 14 images of the mercurial George Armstrong Custer, along with many of the men who died at the Little Bighorn. A rare carte-de-visite of Wild Bill Hickok, along with autographed images of his 1873 stage mates Ned Buntline and Texas Jack Omohundro, and a group of original collodion negatives of dead members of the James/Younger Gang's 1876 raid on the bank at Northfield, MN, for example, are only highlights.

An exceptionally rare image of Senator Sam Houston of Texas is also included, descended through the family of the Rachel Donelson Jackson, wife of Andrew Jackson. Likely taken sometime in 1858-59 while Houston was a Senator, the tintype splendidly captures the defiant nature of the Texan.

A sixth plate daguerreotype of Vice President of the United States and Confederate general and cabinet officer John C. Breckinridge will be sold on Day III along with hundreds of Civil War paper images and cased photographs. The Breckinridge image was recently discovered curbside in Lexington, KY, discarded along with other household items thrown out in an estate.

Cowan's rarely strays from the 19th century, but this sale does include a marvelous vernacular album containing nearly 500 silver gelatin images of cowboys and the workings of La Cananea, the northern Mexican ranch of Copper Baron Charles Greene. The images are, according to Cowan's some of the best examples of the cowboy genre they have handled in their 10 years of existence.

For more information about the auction and to view descriptions and photographs of each lot in the entire auction, you should visit Cowan's website at: http://www.cowanauctions.com or catalogs may be purchased for $30 by contacting the firm directly at Cowan's Auctions, Inc., 673 Wilmer Ave., Cincinnati, OH 45226; phone: 1-513-871-1670.