Auction of the Week: Cowan's American History Premier Auction, June 22, 2018



2018-06-07 12:31:14

Our featured sale this week is the American History Premier Auction at Cowan's Auctions, which takes place in Cincinnati on June 22. From Civil War relics to the Civil Rights movement, here are 10 remarkable lots on offer...

Confederate wooden canteen identified to Private Isaac M. Byram

Estimate: $2,000 - $3,000

This 19th century wooden canteen belonged to Confederate soldier Isaac Middleton Byram, who served as a private in Co. D, 28th Alabama Infantry during the U.S Civil war.

The patented flat-sided Gardner-Pattern canteen was used extensively by the Confederate Army, and was produced at the arsenals in Richmond, Montgomery and Selma using kiln dried cherry, cedar and/or Southern pine.

Byram was reportedly captured at Missionary Ridge on November 24, 1863, and later confined at Rock Island, IL. It's believed that his canteen was likely 'liberated' by a Federal soldier, who claimed it for himself as a war souvenir.

A.H. Bogardus & Sons trick shot circus poster

Estimate: $1,000 - $1,500

This beautiful lithograph poster features the amazing exploits of Captain Adam Henry Bogardus, one of America's most famous trick-shot artists of the 19th century.

Bogardus was a US and world champion trap shooter, who invented the first practical glass ball trap to replace live pigeons in 1877.

Along with his sons, Bogardus then devised a successful family act featuring their amazing shooting skills, and together they toured America with Buffalo Bill's Wild West show.

They later performed with the equally famous Sells Brother's travelling circus, during which time this poster was produced to advertise their show.

Black Panther Party poster, 'You Can Jail a Revolutionary, but You Can't Jail the Revolution'

Estimate: $1,500 - $2,500

This 1969 Black Panther poster features the famous words  "You Can Jail a Revolutionary, but You Can't Jail the Revolution. You Can Run a Freedom Fighter Around the Country but You Can't Run Freedom Fighting Around the Country. You Can Murder a Liberator, But You Can't Murder Liberation.'"

The quote was taken from a speech by the prominent Civil Rights activist Fred Hampton, a passionate community leader from Chicago who rose to become BPP chairman for the state of Illinois.

But his life was cut tragically short when, along with fellow activist Mark Clark, he was shot and killed by the Chicago police during a dawn raid on the Black Panther Party headquarters on December 4, 1969.

The rare poster celebrates his life's work, and includes the text "Fred Hampton Deputy / Chairman Illinois Chapter / Black Panther Party / Born August 30, 1948 / Murdered by Fascist Pigs / Dec. 4, 1969."

The deaths of the two men were later ruled unlawful in a civil lawsuit, and the federal government was forced to pay $1.85 million in compensation to a group of nine plaintiffs. In 2004, the Chicago City Council commemorated December 4th as Fred Hampton Day, in memory of the fallen activist.

Milton Bradley's Myriopticon Toy Theater featuring Civil War scenes

Estimate: $1,000 - $1,500

This delightful toy made by Milton Bradley in 1866 was known as 'The Myriopticon, A Historical Panorama of the Rebellion'.

Essentially a miniature theatre, the box is decorated to look like a proscenium stage complete with curtains and musicians. Within the box is a paper scroll decorated with hand-tinted engravings of important events from the US Civil War, which can be moved with a wooden winding key.

These toy panoramas were miniature versions of real travelling shows which were popular in the 19th century. Showmen would present huge painted scenes from history, which moved across a stage accompanied by music and tales of heroism and tragedy.

The interest in the US Civil War, which ended just a year before this toy was produced, made it and others like it highly popular, and allowed children to put on their own shows for their friends and family.

Alcatraz prison guard memorabilia collection identified to Fred Freeman

Estimate: $3,000 - $5,000

This rare collection of memorabilia originally belonged to Fred Freeman, a former prison guard at the infamous Alcatraz island penitentiary.

Freeman lived with his family on the island from 1958-1963 and worked for the Federal Prison Service for 25 years.

His collection includes his Guard's hat and Prison Gun Check, a small handwritten notebook featuring notes on prisoners who were likely in Freeman's section.

The collection also features the original registration cards for seven prisoners, including details of their Sentence, Offense, Received, Release Date, Name, Custody, Race, Religion, and Work Assignments.

Amongst these are three of Alcatraz's most famous inmates: John William Anglin, Clarence Anglin, and Frank Lee Morris.

The trio of bank robbers are believed by many to be the only prisoners to ever successfully escape from Alcatraz, using a life raft made from raincoats to cross the San Francisco Bay back to the mainland in 1962.

No bodies were ever recovered, and the official line is that the men drowned, but letters later surfaced suggesting they may have fled to Brazil.

Apollo I astronauts autographs from a Dean Martin Show in Las Vegas

Estimate: $700 - $1,000

This autograph captures a remarkable moment in time in US history, as NASA prepared to launch the first manned Apollo space mission in an effort to beat the Soviet Union to the moon.

Less than a year before the planned mission, the three chosen astronauts - Virgil "Gus" Grissom, Roger Chaffee, Ed White – were enjoying some downtime along with their fellow astronaut Rusty Schweickart.

In April 1966 the four men were taking in a Dean Martin show at the Sands Hotel, Las Vegas when they signed this drink coaster from the Copa Room.

Nine months later on January 27, 1967, Grissom, Chaffee and White were tragically killed in a cabin fire during a launch rehearsal test at the Cape Kennedy Air Force Station Launch Complex. Schweickart went on to fly in the Apollo 9 mission in 1969, and became the first person to perform an EVA outside the command module.

Studio portrait of 'Wild Bill' Hickok, 'Texas Jack' Omohundro and 'Buffalo Bill' Cody, circa 1873

Estimate: $8,000 - $10,000

This rare albumen photograph features three legendary figures of the Old West: 'Wild Bill' Hickok, 'Texas Jack' Omohundro, and 'Buffalo Bill' Cody.

The portrait was taken in New York circa 1873, whilst the three men starred together in a stage show entitled 'Scouts of The Plains'. Although the show was successful, it was short-lived, due to the erratic behaviour of Hickok who hated acting and left the tour after a few months.

Cody however was a natural showman and in 1883 he formed Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show, which brought him international fame as he toured the world for 30 years performing for royalty and heads of state.

This photograph, which is said to document the origins of that famous Wild West Show, originated from Cody's personal collection.

Daguerreotype of two dandies playing cards

Estimate: $8,000 - $10,000

The studio portrait depicts two 'Dandies' – fashionably dressed men of the era – playing cards on a tablecloth, with their cheeks tinted red and their hair carefully coiffured.

It might not feature anyone of historical importance, but this antique daguerreotype photograph is still a unique and wonderful 19th century relic.

Rare anti-slavery broadside, 'A Crusade Against Slavery'

Estimate: $4,000 - $6,000

This exceptionally rare anti-slavery broadside was published in Boston in 1850, in the wake of the Fugitive Slave Act which required that all escaped slaves to be returned to their masters upon capture, including those now living in free states.

The broadside's incendiary language includes lines such as "Slavery combines all the abominations which are known on the earth; it has turned men into monsters, christians into infidels, and human beings into beasts of burden...

"This nation has been warned like the nations of old, still a vast majority slumber and sleep, as it were, over a volcanic fire. Slavery, with a mountain weight, in all its forms, is carrying the country down to destruction."

The broadside also foresaw the U.S Civil War that slavery would eventually spark just 11 years later: "The time is not far distant when the system will go down in a cloud of blood mingled with fire, unless the wisdom of the North timely prevents."

Just one other copy of this broadside is known to exist, as part of the Houghton Library Collection at Harvard University.

US Cavalry officer James McLean Steele's Indian Wars campaign diary

Estimate: $30,000 - $50,000

This leather-bound handwritten diary belonged to James McLean Steele, who served as an Officer with the 19th Kansas Volunteer Cavalry under the command of Lt. Col. George Custer.

The diary offers a valuable insight into Custer and the nature of his leadership, along with a striking portrait of life in the US Army during the mid-19th century.

The diary contains detailed descriptions of Custer’s 1868-1869 winter campaign, including the November 1868 Battle of Washita and his pursuit of the Southern Plains Indians.

It also documents deepening divisions in the 7th Cavalry, the brash nature of Custer’s leadership style, and the controversial treatment of Native Americans at the hands of the Army.

Having passed down from Steele's descendents into the hands of a long-time collector, this remarkable first-hand account is a rare and historically valuable addition to the body of literature surrounding General George Custer.

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