Holabird Western Americana is in preparation for a highlight auction on May 13th and 14th, 2016. . Over two days, there are over 900 lots to chose from, with both live and absentee bidding available with iCollector.com. The absolute highlight of this auction is the most important firearm coming to the auction block in 2016. Coming is an historic George Armstrong Custer Indian Capture Sharps Model 1859. In addition, this premier two-day sale includes other very rare firearms; choice Western ingots, gold nuggets and ore samples; rare numismatic items related to the SS Central America; rare Western tokens; mining reports from the 1830s-1880s; a world class offering of mining spoons; mining-related correspondence, photographs, and ephemera; a great selection of Native American baskets, rugs, and artifacts; saddles and spurs; and General Americana. The full breakdown of which items are on each day is available in the auction description in the online catalog.
The star of the show is on Saturday May 14th and is Lot 2125. This is an important and historic George Armstrong Custer Indian Capture Sharps Model 1859 carbine of Cheyenne Chief Black Kettle. This is a classic trophy of war from the Custer family collection and is national treasure. Pieces like this are nearly impossible to find and to have one coming up at auction this month is a once in a lifetime find for many collectors.
The full description is as follows:
Serial No 68457. .52 caliber percussion breech-loader, 20-inch round barrel, standard maker, address and patent markings on barrel, breech and tang. Standard sights. Walnut stock embellished with tacks, more profusely on the right side, with less complex décor on the left side, consisting of seven-tack border to the buttplate (six of iron, one at center of brass, and of six iron and one brass to rear of the saddle ring bar), and in configuration like an arrowhead pointing to the buttplate.
Condition: Very good. With wear and patina to iron and brass. The stock with signs of use. Condition considered the state at the time of capture by Custer at the Battle of the Washita, November 27, 1868.
Note: Ongoing research includes the 54-page monograph The George Armstrong Custer Indian Capture Carbine A Classic Trophy of War, by Fred N. Holabird and R.L. Wilson (2016). Additional research since that publication provides further confirmation of the attribution of No. 68457 to Black Kettle personally, as well as to its status as a trophy taken by Custer at the Battle of the Washita, November 27, 1868.
The Holabird Americana website provides ample evidence pointing to Custer’s capture of the Carbine and to the death of Black Kettle. The monograph, The George Armstrong Custer Indian Capture Carbine A Classic Trophy of War, is presented on the Holabird Americana website at the following address: http://holabirdamericana.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/Custer-booklet-small-pdf.pdf
On-going research on Custer Capture Black Kettle Sharps will be added to the website as new information is vetted.
Basic facts in the documentation are as follows:
1. Provenance (p 39 of monograph):
The Sharps Model 1859 Carbine No. 68457 comes from the G.A. Custer family, with the lineage as follows:
Lt. Col. George Armstrong Custer (1868-76)
Nevin Custer (b. 1842-d.1915)
James C. Custer ?(b. 1871-d.1954)?
Charles A. Custer ?(b. 1910-d.1992)?
Elsie Olander Custer (b. 1912-d.1986).
Then by gift from Elsie Olander Custer to:
Richard A. Reyes (c. 1922-d.2009; received Custer Capture Carbine prior to 1986).
Garr R. Reyes (b. 1950- ); received Custer Capture Carbine on death of his father, 2009.
2. G.A. Custer kills Black Kettle, takes trophies.
Evidence presented on pages 28-30 of the monograph.
Conclusion of author T.J. Stiles (Custer’s Trials, p. 324) stating: “It is an inescapable fact that Custer killed the leading Southern Cheyenne peace advocate [Chief Black Kettle].”
3. Custer’s trophies from the Washita.
Detailed on pages 31 to 34.
Extremely important note in T.J. Stiles’ Custer’s Trials, p. 323, which led to the Detroit Free Press article of June 10, 1869, entitled “Custer Relics.” Therein the editor had reported that Custer had presented to the Detroit Audubon Club: “An assortment of Indian Relics which were obtained by me [G.A. Custer] at and after the battle of Washita, November 27, 1868.”
Custer went on to state in his correspondence with the Detroit Audubon Club: “Permit me to present . . . the accompanying Indian curiosities, obtained by me during the campaign of last winter.”
Quoting further from p. 32 of the monograph:
“The relics consisted of a shield, squaw’s dress, bow and quiver full of arrows, saddle, and scalp. The shield was oval, about 30 x 24”, made of buffalo hide and adorned with all kinds of feathers. The squaw’s dress was ‘beaded all around’. The bow was ‘finely made, well strung; with arrows about two feet long, ‘feathered and barbed’ . . . some of them covered with blood.’ The quiver was made of buffalo hide. Custer saved the best of the relics (that he gave them) for last:
The scalp [10” long] is that of Little Rock, [who] was killed at the battle of Washita . . . [he] was second in rank to Black Kettle.
Because of the peaceful nature of Chief Black Kettle, it is logical that Custer himself was reluctant to reveal his additional trophy, of the Chief’s Sharps Model 1859 Carbine, No. 68457, or the fact that he had been Black Kettle’s killer.
4. Other trophies taken by Custer are detailed on pages 35-36. Note the statement by the coauthors: “ . . . Custer was a master artifact collector, and he would absolutely have saved the most important artifact for himself, the gun of the great Chief Black Kettle.”
5. The number of times Custer was photographed with firearms is confirmation of his keen arms interests. Further, the photograph on p. 5 of the monograph shows portions of his arms collection in the right corner gun rack of the Custer residence at Fort Lincoln. Further, the monograph’s Chapter 2 (pp. 39-44) presents an inventory of known firearms from G.A. Custer’s collection. His prowess as a hunter and sportsman is also tied in with his firearms interests. These enthusiasms extended beyond their significance as “tools of the trade.”
6. Richard Reyes recognized the Custer Black Kettle Capture Sharps Carbine as the most important Custer item in his collection. This is proven not only because the Sharps was a special gift to him from Elsie Olander Custer, but that it was the prized gift from her – which he refused to sell on many occasions. Among the items which Richard Reyes had sold, consistently retaining the Sharps, were Custer’s Holy Bible, a Third Division battle flag, and some of Custer’s epaulets and uniform buttons. Quoting from p. 49 of the monograph: “Reyes proudly displayed his iconic Custer Sharps Carbine over the years to all of the collectors he knew, turning down serious cash offers on a regular basis. It was never for sale, a permanent fixture in the Reyes Arms Collection.”
The stock’s special marks suggest rare ethnological and pictographic indicators of important information, names and Indian warrior and leadership societies. These are the subject of on-going interpretation, and the brass and iron tacks are also considered to be signatures and indicators with special significance.
Description written by R.L. (“Larry”) Wilson
This rifle has an estimated value of up to a half million dollars. Bidding is opening at $125,000 and all bidders who can not make the live bidding should get their absentee bids in immediately. Holabird will be thrilled to answer any and all questions from serious bidders and are ready to find the right place for this historical piece to call home for the next generation.
All items in the online catalog with full descriptions and images. The auction dates are Friday and Saturday May 13th, and 14th, 2016. The auctioneers hammer starts dropping at 9AM Pacific time on both auction days. Holabird Western Americana is pleased to offer services to answer any questions about the entire catalog as well as discuss consignments of any collection.