Two Important Collections of Historical Americana Each Bring Six Figures
A group of archives spanning the career of Maj. General Thomas H. Ruger and the Thomas Minckler collection of western Americana were the highlights of Cowan’s June 24, 2009 American History Auction, with each grossing six figures. The success of these important collections, as well as a rare grouping of S.J. Morrow’s Native American Stereoviews and relics from the life and execution of controversial Confederate sympathizer Champ Ferguson, helped bring the sale total to just over $1 million. Overall, the auction drew 495 bidders from six countries, with 191 successful bidders on 789 lots.
General Ruger’s extensive collection, which chronicles his illustrious 40-year career through manuscripts, personal letters, official documents, petitions, battle reports, and other correspondence, ultimately grossed nearly $275,000 over the course of this auction and Cowan’s Spring Firearms Sale in April. The American History Auction’s highest-selling lot, an archive from Ruger’s years overseeing military and Indian affairs in Montana and the Dakotas, realized $47,000, well above its $10/15,000 estimate. Comprised of 417 items dated from 1878 to 1891, the archive defines a turbulent period in the history of the West when Ruger acted as departmental commander of the military division of the Montana Territory and as the commander of the Dakota Territory.
A second Ruger archive realized $32,900, well over its $15/25,000 estimate. It begins with letters involving Ruger’s experience as a student at West Point in the 1850s and continues through the Civil War.
Other Ruger highlights include four rare maps related to the Wounded Knee Massacre that realized $9,400, above their $4/6000 estimate. All four maps, made on sheets of polished cotton dyed a brilliant blue, detail the Sioux reservation country, wagon routes, railroads, towns, agency offices, and military establishments.
The Thomas Minckler collection of western Americana, a wide-ranging group of western photography, archives, manuscripts, letters, and official documents related to the expansion and development of the west, garnered an impressive $127,682 in total sales. An exceptionally rare ca 1879 Bundy and Train group portrait of the men who were to eventually found the Society of Montana Pioneers was the highest-selling lot of the collection, realizing $9400. The photograph features such important figures in Montana history as Granville Stuart, an early vigilance committee member who would become president of the Territorial Council in 1883; Conrad Kohrs, Montana’s largest rancher who held a monopoly in the Territory’s beef industry; Matt Carroll, who established the E.G. Maclay and Company freight transportation company; and W.W. DeLacy, an engineer who is credited with laying out the town of Fort Benton.
Other high-selling lots of the collection include an exceptionally rare rubber stamp from the Tombstone and Patagonia Express Line / J.D. Kinnear, Proprietor. from the Arizona Territory, which realized $4994; a Rare Brand Book of the Cherokee National Stock Men’s Protective & Detective Association, 1882, which brought $6294; and a 1884 Carson City, Nevada, Wells Fargo receipt book that details the incoming and outgoing goods and their values which sold for $3055.
A collection of American Indian stereoviews, S.J. Morrow’s documentation of North-Western tribes, realized a total of $29,000. The group included images of Sioux, Blackfoot, Ponca, and Yanktona tribesman and villages. The highest-selling lot of the collection, several stereoviews of the Santee Sioux Indians, realized $5,581, well above its $1000/1500 estimate. The success of this image and others in the collection can be attributed to their incredible rarity and near-perfect condition. [quote from Wes]
Also featured in June 24th’s auction were several items associated with notorious so-called “terrorist” Champ Ferguson (1821-1865), one of the only two Confederates formally tried and executed for “war crimes.” Ambrotypes of Ferguson and his wife, autographed CDVs of Ferguson, the last letter he wrote before his execution, and the iron rings used at his hanging realized over $29,000 in total sales.