Rare Seminole shoulder sash is top lot in Cowan’s auction

CINCINNATI – Cowan’s American Indian and Western Art auction, held on April 4, 2009, in Cincinnati, attracted nearly 350 bidders from 37 states and seven countries. The auction realized $645,297 in total proceeds, with 159 successful bidders on 460 lots.

Danica Farnand, Director of American Indian Art, commented, “I am happy with the results of the auction. We had many lots that sold at and above their estimated values. There were several lots throughout the auction with very spirited bidding, both on the floor and on the phones.”
The highest-selling lot of the auction was a circa 1835-1838 rare Seminole finger-woven shoulder sash, which garnered $38,188, nearly doubling its $15,000-$20,000 estimate. The sash is exceptional both for its historic significance and for the rarity of its beaded frog motif. It represents an important moment in the history of the Seminole nation.

The Second Seminole War, about the time the sash was likely collected, is defined by the Seminole’s defiance against American troops, who attempted to force the Seminole to leave their Florida home for Western reservations. While most of the remaining Seminole had moved to reservations by the war’s end in 1842, some members of the tribe retreated into the Everglades and remain there to this day.

Another rare item, a circa 1885 Navajo Germantown six panel weaving, sold for $29,375. “This piece is one of only a few known examples of multiple-paneled weavings from this period. The brilliant colors and intricate pattern of this example, as well as its condition, made it desirable to collectors,” commented Farnand.

A circa 1880 Shoshone pipe tomahawk with beaded drop brought $23,325, well above its $10,000-$15,000 estimate. The piece was collected by Oscar Madden Reece (1842-1891), a Civil War veteran who became a railroad engineer on the Illinois Central; Marquette, Houghton and Ontonagon; Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe; and Denver and Rio Grande railways during the years 1870-1882. He likely collected the tomahawk during his railroad years, and the piece descended through the family.

The auction featured the collection of Daniel C. Beard (1850-1941), the founder of the Boy Scouts of America. Mostly comprised of Plains Indian artifacts, the collection was highlighted by several lots that attracted aggressive bidding. Two exceptional pairs of beaded hide moccasins from the collection, one Sioux and one Crow, far exceeded their $2,000-$3,000 estimates, bringing $7,638 and $9,400 respectively.

An Apache Bow and Quiver, signed by Geronimo and collected at the St. Louis World’s Fair, fetched $11,750, above its $6,000-$8,000 estimate. The piece was obtained by Herbert Stark, a St. Louis World’s Fair tour guide. He acquired it from a Navajo trader at the fair, and it descended through the Stark family until it was auctioned at Cowan’s.

Western art, represented by several lots, contributed to the success of the auction. One lot of note was a 1903 signed Edward Curtis photograph titled Walpi Man, which garnered $18,800. The condition of the photograph and its compelling subject contributed to the aggressive bidding it received.

The next American Indian & Western Art Auction will be held Sept. 12, 2009. For further information, call Danica Farnand at 513-871-1670 ext. 15, or e-mail  danica@cowans.com.

Prices include 17 1/2 percent buyer’s premium.