A rare and significant half-plate daguerreotype portrait of Capt. Samuel H. Walker is estimated to bring $75,000 to lead the 343-lot John N. McWilliams Texas Ranger Collection September 21 at Heritage Auctions. Meticulously collected to represent 100 years of Texas Ranger history, the collection documents the birth of the Wild West and contains historically important manuscripts, autographs and rare images pertaining to Texas’ greatest early figures.
The focus of the collection is in two parts: The 1840s-1850s-era, which would be the Jack Hayes and RIP Ford era. The second portion of the collection, which is equally as important, is the frontier battalion era, which is dating from the early 1870s until about 1900.
The collection is heavy on photographs, original manuscripts and original daguerreotypes, including a circa 1858 half-plate ambrotype of Capt. John S. “Rip” Ford, which is estimated to bring $60,000. Ford was a well-known and influential Texas Ranger who claimed a victory during the Antelope Hills Campaign at the Battle of Little Robe Creek against Comanche Indians and images of him are scarce. An unusual half-plate daguerreotype of two Rangers dressed as Mexican Vaqueros may fetch $50,000 and a scarce half-plate ambrotype featuring five armed men, taken circa 1858-1860, may cross the block for $15,000.
Among the rare and historically important manuscripts, an extraordinary journal book holding an eyewitness account of the death of Texas Ranger Samuel H. Walker, made complete with watercolor illustrations of the scene, is estimated to bring $25,000. Walker, a Texas hero before the Mexican War, gained national distinction during the war for his work under General Zachary Taylor, his collaboration with Samuel Colt on the development of the Colt Walker, and his heroic death at the Battle of Huamantla.
A highly anticipated muster roll for Capt. Benjamin McCulloch’s Company of Spies, a group of 26 battle-hardened volunteers assembled after the Battle of Monterrey during the Mexican-American War, is estimated to bring $15,000. The group spied on General Santa Anna’s advance, which helped Gen. Zachary Taylor land a victory at the Battle of Buena Vista in 1847.
A cabinet card, taken circa 1888, which depicts the only-known original print of an iconic group portrait of the Company “D” Rangers at the height of their notoriety, is estimated to bring $7,000. Among the Rangers pictured are Captain Frank Jones, Bass Outlaw, J. Walter Durbin, William “Tink” Durbin, Cal Aten, and Frank Schmid. The card, which has been extensively published, was previously in the collections of Robert W. Stephens and George Jackson.
Among the collection’s collectibles is a coin silver cup gifted to John Coffee “Jack” Hays and inscribed “Presented to Buffalo Hump Hays.” It is estimated to bring $5,000. Also among the collectibles is an important Mexican bone-carved chess set, circa 1860s, which may fetch $4,000 and a telescope given to Col. Francis M. Wynkoop, commander of the 1st Pennsylvania Volunteers during the Mexican War, which may sell for $4,000.