American History

American History is a semi-annual Live Salesroom Auction featuring everything from 19th century photography, political campaign ephemera, historical textiles, items associated with slavery and abolition, Lincolniana, the Civil War, social history, books, manuscripts and autographs, to flags and historical relics. Online-Only American History auctions also occur throughout the year.

We are always accepting consignments for upcoming American History auctions.Click here for our online consignment form.

Department Director

Katie Horstman, Director
Specialist

Contact Information
Contact Katie at 513-871-1670 x236 or email historic@cowans.com

Katie Horstman is a graduate of The University of Cincinnati with a Masters degree in Art History, where she explored the work of New York photographer, John Oliver Bowman. Working closely with Wes Cowan, Katie has been successfully leading the American History department for the past five years.

don't miss

an opportunity to bid. You can't win if you're not in.

sign up to bid

what's it worth?

ask the experts

sell your item

start selling
J. Evetts Haley, Texas-Born Political Activist, Signed Political Pamphlet
Lot # 83 - J. Evetts Haley, Texas-Born Political Activist, Signed Political Pamphlet
Haley, James Evetts, Sr. (1901-1995). Texas historian, writer, and political activist. A January 15, 1968, Texans For Ronald Reagan political newsletter featuring an article titled "Is This the Rockefeller Blueprint designed to destroy the Reagan Movement in your state?," by Rosalind Frame, edited and annotated by Haley; signed in red ink by Halet, along with the signatures of Frame and the printer/designer of the newsletter, Carl Hertzog.
> Item Details
Civil War-Era Drumsticks
Lot # 153 - Civil War-Era Drumsticks
Pair of Civil War-period, wooden drumsticks, each decorated with bone, 16.75 in. ln.
> Item Details
<i>The Soldier's Trust. A Discourse Addressed to the Putnam Blues</i>, 1862, Plus Civil War-Era Photos
Lot # 32 - The Soldier's Trust. A Discourse Addressed to the Putnam Blues, 1862, Plus Civil War-Era Photos
Lot of 4, including A Soldier's Trust, with inked inscription on inside back cover, Savannah Ga., Jany. 14th 1865 (?), Will to Betty Rohr(?), accompanied by gem-sized tintype on paper mount, which was found tucked inside booklet by consignor, although the connection between the gentleman in the portrait and the Civil War-period book is unclear. Also included is sixth plate tintype of a young man wearing military-style jacket housed in book-style case, and a CDV of a copy of an engraving of General D. Sickles with facsimile signature.
> Item Details
Civil War Sixth Plate Tintypes of Union Soldiers, Some Armed
Lot # 117 - Civil War Sixth Plate Tintypes of Union Soldiers, Some Armed
Lot of 7 cased sixth plate tintypes of Union soldiers, including two soldiers armed with muskets, a corporal, a soldier posed with his wife, and a close-up headshot of a young soldier.  All housed in pressed-paper cases
> Item Details
Actors and Actresses from the 20th Century, 23 Autographs Incl. John Garrick, Ellen Terry and Ralph Richardson
Lot # 186 - Actors and Actresses from the 20th Century, 23 Autographs Incl. John Garrick, Ellen Terry and Ralph Richardson

A collection of 23 signatures from stars of the 20th century stage and screen. Includes famed London Shakespeare actress, Ellen Terry (1847-1928); vaudeville and film actor, John Garrick (1902-1966); the first Chinese-American movie star Anna May Wong (1935-1905); Ralph Richardson (1902-1983), an actor who dominated the British stage and silver screen during his career; American actress, writer, and monologist Helen Howe (1905-1975); Hilda Spong (1875-1955), an English stage actress and film star who toured around Europe, Australia, and America; American actress Jeanette MacDonald (1903-1965), famous for her musical films with Maurice Chevalier and Nelson Eddy; film, television, and Broadway star Muriel Kirkland (1901-1907); Ernest Torrence (1878-1933), often the villain, acted alongside some of the greatest actors of all time such as: Gary Cooper, Theda Bara, and Colleen Moore; popular actor Van Johnson (1916-2008) who frequently starred as a soldier or pilot with "boy next door wholesomeness;" stage actress Natalie Hall; actress Florence Day; Norwegian-born actress, Mary Sunde (1908-1994); Minna Gombell (1892-1973), an actress for the Fox Film Corporation and acting coach; Paul Kelly (1899-1956), an actor whose personal life was just as tumultuous as some of the characters he played. He was convicted of manslaughter after bashing in the head of his wife's lover, causing it to hemorrhage. He served a year and a month in San Quentin prison, but continued to act afterwards. Also included are signatures from: popular Western and film nior actor, Alan Ladd (1913-1964); and John Hodiak (1914-1955). Despite being born in the United States, Hodiak had a heavy eastern European accent which hurt his early career. He stared in a few minor rolls until Alfred Hitchcock cast him in Lifeboat (1944). His preformance catapulted his carreer until it went sour in 1949. He turned to Broadway and regained stardom with his part in The Caine Mutiny. Before he could make a serious return to the screen, he died of a sudden heart attack at the age of 44. More signatures include: the "Turkish delight," Austrian-born actor, Turhan Bey (1922-2012); signer, stage, and screen actor, Oscar Shaw (1887-1967); actor, Ezekiel Leavitt; South-African born actor, Louis Hayward (1909-1985); stage actress, Ada Rehan (1859-1916); stage and film actress, Edith Barrett (1907-1977); and more.

> Item Details
Abraham Lincoln Souvenirs, Including Log Cabin Ceramic Still Bank, Letter Opener, and Bust
Lot # 272 - Abraham Lincoln Souvenirs, Including Log Cabin Ceramic Still Bank, Letter Opener, and Bust
Lot of 5, including: still bank in form of log cabin, marked on base: House in which Abraham Lincoln was born./ Van Dyk/ Teas/ Our Own Stores Everywhere. 4 x 2.75 x 2.25 in.

Cast iron letter opener featuring profile of Lincoln at top, 7 in. long.

Miniature, shoulder-length bust of Lincoln, identified at base Abraham Lincoln, 1809-1865, 5.75 in. tall.

Small commemorative plaque featuring profile portrait of Lincoln at top, plus the following quote from Lincoln address at Independence Hall, February 22, 1861: "I have never had a feeling politically that did not spring from the sentiments embodied in the Declaration of Independence." 2.5 x 3.5 in. 

Printed card featuring Lincoln's famous letter to Mrs. Bixby regarding the death of her five sons during the Civil War, produced by the Western Bank Note & Eng. Co., Chicago, matted and framed, 6.75 x 9.75 in.
> Item Details
Civil War Partial Diary Written by Union Surgeon's Assistant
Lot # 86 - Civil War Partial Diary Written by Union Surgeon's Assistant
Handwritten assemblage of 4 dated entries written by anonymous surgeon's assistant, dated 1862-1864, in Mississippi, Tennessee, and Arkansas. 2 attached to a leather-bound folder, 9.5 x 6.5 in, two bound together at the top with string.

The earliest entry in this small collection, dated Nov. 22, 1862, and titled A Wounded Rebel, provides a powerfully touching, highly descriptive encounter between the Union surgeon's assistant and a Rebel who was severely wounded during the battle of Corinth. The Confederate soldier was brought to the surgeon by ambulance wearing nothing but a secesh soldiers shirt. The surgeon describes his physical state as follows: A ball...or what is more likely a fragment of an exploded shell, had taken away most of the forehead, so that the brain was oozing out slowly, both eyes were carried away, and also the root of the nose. His face was besmirched with blood and dirt, part of one of the torn orbs lying on one cheak, and altogether he was the worst looking specimen of a wounded man that I had ever saw still breathing. With the thought that this Rebel's case appeared utterly hopeless and beyond the reach of surgical aid, the surgeon explained that he ordered him laid in the shade of a friendly tree till death might release him, which I supposed would not be long. However, the wounded soldier continued to live naked and on the ground, with little or no attention being paid to him, with the exception of some food and an occasional drink.

The surgeon provides a vivid description of the rebel's unforgettable death, which occurred on the fifth day: A man...living five days, naked and lying on the ground...and then first as his spirit was about to take its flight, sing Nellie Gray with a voice so clear, beautiful and touching as to affect his listeners even to tears, is an anomaly among wounded men, such as a war so extensive as this even seldom produces. Death in his case was a thing to be desired; and it was more than once suggested that the administration of something to terminate his life and suffering would be an act of humanity. But then no one wished to become the executioner, and so the poor fellow's life was allowed to ebb slowly away, and like the dying swan sing his own such requiem. The graphic, yet touching nature of this surgeon's entry exemplifies the struggles that these men faced when tending to those that were wounded or fell ill during the war, regardless of what side they were on.

In a series of entries written in Jackson, TN from Feb. through April 1863, the surgeon discusses setting up a room in a southern church parsonage as his hospital, adding Our sick will undoubtedly do better in dry warm rooms, than they did in tents saturated with moisture from rich damp soil beneath their beds. However, in the coming weeks, the surgeon received several orders to vacate the church, but he was not quick to follow the wishes of a rebel church and society, declaring Were I commander, rebeldom would receive no mercy in any spot or place where I could infuse them in accordance with the usages of civilized warfare. With each order he received, the surgeon became more determined to hold on to the parsonage until the regiment left its camp, explaining This putting our sick soldiers to inconvenience to accommodate rebels I DON'T BELIEVE IN, not even to accommodate pious rebels. By early April, he received an order from the Post Commander to remain in the parsonage, and he stated that he would occupy the house as long as they remained in Jackson, adding that the minister would have to find somewhere else.

In the last entry in this assemblage, written from Brownsville, AR, on Oct. 30, 1864, the surgeon explains that he will be leaving to go North. He writes, I part, perhaps forever, with my fellow soldiers, to many of whom I have become strongly attached, more strongly because of the trials and deprivations incident to a military life. He continues, it is felt by all that the charmed circle is broken, and the service in the future will be anything but pleasant. I hope & trust the boys may find more active service in some healthier department, closing with a farewell to Arkansas and the Old Third. This remarkable collection was discovered in a box in Paw Paw, MI.
> Item Details
Extremely Rare Anonymous Letter Concerning Senator John Randolph Challenging Senator Daniel Webster to a Duel
Lot # 208 - Extremely Rare Anonymous Letter Concerning Senator John Randolph Challenging Senator Daniel Webster to a Duel
Unsigned letter, 2pp, written by a friend of Massachusetts Senator Daniel Webster, resolving Virginia native-John Randolph's challenge to a duel. No date, likely ca 1825-1826.

Eccentric politician John Randolph (1773-1883) of Roanoke was a strident speaker, infamous for his hot temper. Many times his passionate orations stirred equally fervent opposition within the Senate and Congress. His rage often flared and, like many gentlemen and politicians of his time, resulted in challenges to duels. 

John Randolph challenged the venerated Congressmen Daniel Webster to a duel twice. Once in 1816, when Randolph felt scorned by the words Webster spoke in a debate over sugar duty in the House. The second in 1825, occurred after Randolph seethed for eight months over Webster denying Congressmen Crawford “the fullest opportunity to answer the charges against him.” (Register of Debates, 18th Congress, 2nd Session, 56-58) Unable to contain his fury any longer, Randolph exploded and challenged Webster again. In the second challenge, Senator Thomas Hart Benton delivered the dare by Randolph to Webster while the House was in session. Mutual friends intervened on both challenges and attempted to resolve the matters as quietly as possible. Historians believe that Benton played an important role in resolving the second conflict between the feuding congressmen. Randolph withdrew both challenges; however, in 1826, as a result of seriously insulting Secretary of State Henry Clay on the Senate Floor, Randolph accepted Clay's challenge to a duel, which subsequently took place but concluded with a handshake. 

Research indicates that the letter offered here, authored by a friend or politician from Massachusetts, pertains to Randolph's second challenge to Webster. The letter reads: 

Mr. R sent Mr. W. a challenge, thro’ Mr. B. 

Mr. W. wrote an answer, to this challenge, and was prepared to send it, thro. Genl Wool, of the Army. 
This answer, is the one alluded to, or spoken of, in the newspaper publication, of which Genl. B. has a manuscript copy.
At this stage of the transaction, whether brought about by the agency of third persons, or otherwise, I now can scarcely recollect a private interview, and, indeed, more than one, took place between Mr. W and Mr. B. at these interviews, it was finally arranged; 

1.That Mr. R. should withdraw the challenge 
2.That Mr. W. should destroy his answer, and keep no copy. 
3.That, therefore, Mr. B. should be at liberty to say that Mr. R. that Mr. W. did not intend, in what he said, to impeach Mr. R’s personal veracity. 
4.That neither party should make, or authorize any publication, respecting the transaction. 

Genl. Brechenridge may be assured that the forgoing is an accurate short statement of the agreement. My copy of the writing is at Boston- 
I destroyed my letter, according to agreement; I left no copy. From that day to this; I do not know that I have spoken of its contents to friends. As contents were known to Mr. Lloyd, then Senator of Massachusetts, Genl Wool, and one other Gentlemen. I principally conferred, in relation to the whole transaction, in all its stages, with Mr. Lloyd. I have scrupulously fulfilled my part of the agreement, be to not authoring every publication.  
 
Beyond their titles as Senator and Congressmen, John Randolph became the Minister of Russia and served in the House of Representatives four times, while Senator Daniel Webster became a very adept US Secretary of State and was hailed as the greatest to ever hold the position. He formed part of the "Great Triumvirate," a political group who opposed Andrew Jackson. 

For more information about the duel, refer to Daniel Webster: The Man and His Time by Robert Vincent Remini (1997). 
> Item Details
Cast Metal Steer Head Faucet
Lot # 224 - Cast Metal Steer Head Faucet
Early 20th century. A cast metal steer head, mouth is the water spout, has trademark on handle; mounted on a custom made steel display; ht. 3.5 in.
> Item Details
Colored Charcoal Enlargement of Two Asian Women
Lot # 103 - Colored Charcoal Enlargement of Two Asian Women
Colored charcoal photographic enlargement, 11.5 x 19.5 in., housed in octagonal frame under convex glass, 15 x 23 overall.
> Item Details
Sixth Plate Occupational Tintype of a Blacksmith with Tools of the Trade
Lot # 162 - Sixth Plate Occupational Tintype of a Blacksmith with Tools of the Trade
Sixth plate occupational tintype of a bearded blacksmith displaying his tongs in one hand and raising his hammer with the other.  He wears a work apron with intricate floral suspenders underneath.  Matted under glass and housed in a damaged partial case.
> Item Details
Stereoviews of African Americans, including Racist Captions and Poses, Lot of 49
Lot # 78 - Stereoviews of African Americans, including Racist Captions and Poses, Lot of 49
Lot of 49, including curved mount views by Keystone, Underwood, H.C. White, etc., plus lithographed views and copy views.  Mostly "humorous" staged scenes with captions in dialect, some featuring white actors in blackface.
> Item Details
Masonic
Lot # 69 - Masonic "W. Lewis" Folk Art Canes
Lot of two folk art canes carved by W. Lewis. The first contains several Masonic symbols. On the lower third is a carved alligator with a carved spiraling serpent leading up to the Masonic compass, the Knights of Pythias emblem, and a carved shield reading Emporia Lodge No. 12. Above is carved F & AM for "Free and Accepted Masons" over a carved keystone with the letters HTWSSTKS in a circle, symbolic of the Masonic mark of the ancient grand master, over an unknown symbol, several bell shapes with a carved "L." The top part of the cane contains the artist's carved initials W. Lewis and the date carved October 18 1892 with another Masonic compass and a carved M and A within an S, possibly for the Masonic service association; lg. 34 in.

The second cane has a beautifully carved wrapped leaf pattern leading up to the artist's carved initials W. Lewis. Below the top of the cane is a carved lizard and naked woman wrapped around; lg. 34.75 in.
> Item Details
California and Nevada Mining Company Documents & Correspondence, Incl. Savage Mining Co. Report Signed by G.W. Bell
Lot # 448 - California and Nevada Mining Company Documents & Correspondence, Incl. Savage Mining Co. Report Signed by G.W. Bell
Lot of 9 including: a log of the amount of silver gathered at Swausea Mill in San Francisco, 1863; an ANS on U.S. Treasury Department stationary to George, initialed by A.G.R.; a Carson & Colorado Rail Road Company receipt, 1892; an ALS from W.E. Murphy on the Office of the Attorney General stationary to George Lyons concerning a certificate valuating the Countess Mine, 1882; an ANS from the Mono Gold Mining Company speaking about a receipt, 1890; 1900 Wells Fargo receipt to Bullein(?) & Exchange;  document confirming shares levied to T.R. Hofer Caslein(?) for the Ophir Silver Mining Company, 1895; an ALS from Excelsior Powder Company, 1882, for a sample of their powder to a company; and a later copy of a map of the principal quartz mines in California, 1879.


> Item Details
Quarter Plate Tintype of Pvt. John Streeter, Co. I, 4th Vermont Infantry, Fought at Battle of Gettysburg and KIA at Battle of the Wilderness
Lot # 1 - Quarter Plate Tintype of Pvt. John Streeter, Co. I, 4th Vermont Infantry, Fought at Battle of Gettysburg and KIA at Battle of the Wilderness
Quarter plate tintype, housed in a geometric thermoplastic case, of a soldier identified as private John Streeter with a modern inked identification. Streeter stands at attention in front of a tent scene with a hand-colored American flag. Research indicates the backdrop may  be from a studio in Brattleboro, VT, but this cannot be confirmed.  

Streeter was a resident of Townshend, VT and enlisted as a private on August 15, 1862. He mustered into the 4th VT Inf. Co. I. He fought in many major battles including: Antietam, Fredericksburg, and Gettysburg. In a lesser known battle, the battle of the Wilderness, VA, Streeter and his regiment suffered the largest amount of casualties by any Vermont regiment in one battle or by any infantry regiment in a single engagement during the Civil War. As a result of the battle, 41 were killed including 7 officers. Eleven officers were wounded, one of whom later died of his wounds. Two hundred twenty-three soldiers were wounded, 43 mortally, and four were missing, making the actual death loss 84. Streeter was one of the many casualties in that engagement. He was killed on the battlefield on May 6, 1864. 
> Item Details
42-Star American Flag
Lot # 212 - 42-Star American Flag
32 x 56 in. All cotton. Machine-sewn. No hoist (there are two small strings in corners on that side). This flag has been backed with cotton. Stars in six rows of seven stars each.

42 stars was never an official flag. Five stars were added on July 4, 1890: North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana, Washington (42nd state Nov. 1889) and Idaho (July 3, 1890). Very likely many of these were made to celebrate Washington's statehood, not knowing that Idaho would be admitted at the last minute!Someone has penned "1889 Wash." on the lower left (last) star.
> Item Details
Samuel Larkin Warner, Connecticut Congressman, Grouping of Cased Images
Lot # 88 - Samuel Larkin Warner, Connecticut Congressman, Grouping of Cased Images
A grouping of 7 images of Connecticut Congressman Samuel Larkin Warner and his family, including the following: an exceptional half plate daguerreotype of Warner's wife, by Silas Holmes, New York City, housed in full case separated at hinge; half plate ambrotype of Warner and his wife (wedding portrait), housed in full, push-button case; sixth plate daguerreotype of Warner, housed in full case; early sixth plate daguerreotype of Mrs. Warner; 3 cdvs of Warner, all taken by Alexander Gardner, but featuring Mathew Brady Studio backmarks.

Born in Wethersfield, Hartford County, Connecticut, Samuel Larkin Warner (1828-1893) attended Wilbraham Academy in Massachusetts, as well as the law department of Yale College. He graduated from Harvard University's law department in 1854 and began practicing law in Portland, Middlesex County, Connecticut one year later. In 1860, Larkin moved to Middletown, subsequently serving as mayor from 1862-1866. He was a delegate to the Republican National Convention in 1864, 1888, and 1892. Larkin was elected to the 39th Congress as a Republican, serving from March 1865 - March 1867, but was not a candidate for renomination. Larkin resumed practicing law and died in Middletown, Connecticut in February of 1893.
> Item Details
Quarter Plate Daguerreotype of Young Woman by Plumbe, Plus
Lot # 118 - Quarter Plate Daguerreotype of Young Woman by Plumbe, Plus
Lot of 4, including: quarter plate daguerreotype portrait of a middle-aged woman resting her arm on a book placed on the table at left, her cheeks lightly tinted pink and her jewelry highlighted in gold, mat stamped Plumbe. Housed in pressed paper case with surface and edge wear. Some scattered spots on plate, with tarnish ring along perimeter.

Quarter plate daguerreotype portrait of a young, bearded gentleman, housed in pressed paper case separated along hinge. Surface wear to case exterior. Some spots on plate.

2 ninth plate tintypes of young women housed in pressed paper cases.
> Item Details
Japanese WWII National Flags, Lot of Three
Lot # 235 - Japanese WWII National Flags, Lot of Three
Lot of three flags, two are in black wooden frames and the third is unframed. First flag measures 42 x 28" and is signed by the Americans that captured it. Second measures 31 x 27" is a prayer flag with Japanese wishes of good luck. Third is a Japanese national flag measuring 28 x 40".
> Item Details
Yukon Territory Photographs by Goetzman
Lot # 399 - Yukon Territory Photographs by Goetzman
Lot of 5 photographs of Dawson, Yukon, ca 1900-1903, by photographer H.J. Goetzman. All are silver gelatin prints mounted to 10 x 12 in., with titles in the negatives reading: (1) Klondyke Government Concession Limited, View of Main Shaft Hoisting Works, Hunker Creek, Yukon Ter.; (2) Tom Nixon's Skookum Mine clears $1000.00 Each day; (3) The Yukon River at Dawson;  (4) A Glacier in Dawson; (5) Nos 10-11 AB Sulphur.
> Item Details