Three important collections are expected to headline an offering of historical Wild West photography featured in Heritage’s Political, Western Legends & Americana Memorabilia Signature Auction. The diverse and expansive photography collections include real photo postcards, cabinet photos and images descended through famous families and are offered in conjunction with a fine selection of political and presidential memorabilia Dec. 11-12 in Dallas.
“We are extremely fortunate to have not just one, but three highly significant photo consignments for our December 11 auction,” said Tom Slater, Director of Americana Auctions at Heritage. “Among Western collectors, there is no more popular — and valuable — category than lawmen and outlaws, and they are well represented.”
One collection brings more than 4,000 19th century Western photos and real photo postcards to market. It was amassed by Las Vegas collector E.F. ‘Al’ Mueller, who specialized in Native Americans (1,500 images) and stagecoaches (500 images). Among the rarities in Mueller’s collection are a rare period carte de visite portrait of ‘Wild Bill’ Hickok, expected to bring $8,000+ and a circa 1870s albumen Stereoview card of a Salt Lake Stagecoach leaving Ohir from Charles R. Savage, expected to bring $2,000+.
“There are also numerous real photo postcards of Western locales as well as significant transportation subjects, including many railroad and steamboat images,” Slater said. “Because of its size, the Mueller collection will be offered in several installments, running at least through the end of next year.”
Another important photo consignment comes from the family of Ed Goodman, a nephew of William F. “Buffalo Bill” Cody. Goodman was actively involved in the Wild West show, as well as the founding of the town of Cody, Wyo., from the 1880s through the early 1900s. From his family comes an extraordinary collection of over 125 cabinet photos and a number of larger format photos, all dealing with Cody-related subject matter, including a circa 1885 cabinet photo of Sitting Bull, expected to bring $4,000+ and a circa 1887 cabinet photo of Annie Oakley, expected to bring $2,000+.
“This is a truly important ‘find’ for Buffalo Bill collectors and scholars,” Slater said. “This consignment was cataloged by Paul Fees, longtime curator of the Buffalo Bill Historical Center in Cody, and nearly half these images were ones that he had never seen before.”
The photographs of Edward S. Curtis are also featured in the auction including four goldtones in their original frames. Among them are the highly sought after “Before the Storm”, expected to bring $24,000+, and “At the Old Well of Acoma”, which may bring $12,000+. Also presented is one of Curtis’s most sought-after photogravures, Canon de Chelly — Navajo, an example of Curtis’s most iconic image located in Northeastern Arizona which is expected to bring $18,000+.
But the pièce de résistance is a historic complete set of the 20 Volumes of Curtis’s The North American Indian, which may bring $900,000+. “This is perhaps the most important and desirable such set in private hands,” Slater declares. It came down through the family of fabulously wealthy railroad magnate Edward H. Harriman, an early Curtis patron.”
The West’s most famous lawmen and outlaws are also well represented in this auction: rare cabinets of the Dalton gang, one showing the gang laid out in coffins following the Coffeyville Raid (estimate $4,000+), a rare original photo of the Younger brothers gang (estimate $7,000+), and the family photo album of famed Tombstone sheriff John Slaughter, with C.S. Fly images of the lawman and wife Viola (estimate $10,000+).
Photographs of legendary Indian fighter George Armstrong Custer are always in demand, and the auction contains several, including a highly important large half plate ambrotype of Custer taken from life, which is estimated to bring $30,000+.
“One other image from that sitting is known,” Slater said, “and it is a cracked specimen in the Smithsonian’s collection. This is surely one of the most significant Custer images in private hands.”