Important Group of 34 Letters Written from Columbia, South America in 1884 and 1885 by the Wife of the Builder of the “Bogotá Savannah Railway” – the first Railroad Line in Columbia, living in Columbia with Her Husband and Children

commis-1Lot of (34) very rare and fantastic, original 1884-5 Manuscript Letters written by Mrs. Minnie Hamilton Whitman from Bogota, Columbia while living there with her husband, Bernard Whitman who at the time was the chief engineer building Columbia’s first Railroad Line – the “Bogotá Savannah Railway”. Bernard Whitman died in Bogata, Columbia in late 1885. These Letters, sent to her mother in the United States give a simply amazing insight into life in the Republic of Columbia for an American family with young children as well as a treasure trove of information about the people, the natural history, the customs, the politics and life in general in and around the Capital City of Columbia.

These fantastic hand written Letters cover the period from September 22, 1884 to October 12, 1885 and range in size from 4 3/4″ by 8″ to 8″ by 11″. Each letter contains at least 4 pages but many are much longer – some as long as 16 pages. Some of the Letters include additional “insert” Letters written by the Whitman children to their Grandmother. Nine of the Letters retain their original envelopes (all stamps have been clipped).

These simply amazing and very rare, South American Letters came to us with a simply fascinating archive of Documents and Photographs spanning 3 generations of the Reverend Jason Whitman Family. Reverend Whitman was the son of Trinitarian minister Bernard Whitman and brother of Unitarian Ministers Nathaniel and Bernard Whitman. His son Bernard Whitman was an engineer and builder of Railroads who worked in South America building some of the earliest Railroads constructed there. Bernard died in Bogota while building Columbia’s first Railroad in 1885. Jason also had a son John Fairfield Whitman who served in the United States Navy during and after the Civil War and played an important roll in the Battle of Natural Bridge near Tallahassee, Florida. Much of the archive deals with the family of Bernard the younger and his wife Minnie Huntington Whitman who returned from South America with her children after her husband’s death and became a close associate of American Author and Unitarian Minister Edward Everett Hale working with Hale in the administration of Hale’s charitable organization known as the “Lend a Hand Society”.

While we have read only a smattering of pages from this extensive and rich collection of manuscript material, we have been amazed at the detail of daily life that Minnie Whitman communicates to her mother. She writes extensively about just what it is like for an American Family to live in Bogota in the 1880′s and does an amazing job capturing the “feel” of the city and the surrounding area. While nearly all of the Letters are written from Bogota there are a few from Barranquilla and Colon as the Family did travel while living in South America. This was not the first trip to South America building Railroads for Barnard Whitman, but it would be his last – he died of disease just one month after the last letter in this group was written.

The Letters offered here are a simply priceless treasure trove of information on 19th century South American history and culture and give a wonderful insight into just what it was like for an American family with young children to live in the city of Bogota.

All of the 34 Letters offered here are in very good condition. The hand writing is dark and bold and the penmanship very good making the letters easily readable. There is some scattered soiling and minor ink spots and the 9 envelopes included are rather worn but the Letters themselves are very well preserved and will reward the buyer with hours and hours of fascinating reading!! These Letters are fresh to the market and represent the entire archive from this period in the life of the Bernard Whitman – they are mostly unread and unpicked through and offer a wonderful chance for research!!

A fantastic archive of 34 Hand Written Letters dating from 1884 and 1885 written by Mrs. Minnie Hamilton Whitman from Bogota, Columbia while living there with her husband, Railroad Construction Engineer Bernard Whitman and their children and a fantastic addition to any collection!!

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1820′s, 24 Star American Ships Flag – A Grand Signal of our National Presence


Pictured here we have an exceptionally rare and original, 1820′s large size, Hand Sewn 24 Star American Flag.

The Flag came to us without information on its origin,  but we know that the 24 Star Flag was in use from July 4th, 1822 (after Missouri joined the Union) until July 4th, 1836 (when Arkansas became the 25th state). Although this was a rather long period, 24 Star Flags are among the very rarest and most sought after by collectors.


The outstanding research website “Rare Flags” by Anthony Iasso has this to say about the 24 Star Flag:

“Period flags in this star count are extremely rare. Although the period for 24 stars lasted for a relatively long time, flags in this star count are extremely rare, since militarily the nation was at peace and flag making for home use was uncommon. Some flags were made during this period to welcome Lafayette on his visit to the United States in 1824, but of the few flags that are believed to be from this period, possibly to celebrate that event, most feature 13 stars”.

He also states:

“Flags that pre-date the American Civil War are very rare. Those in certain star counts, such as this flag of 24 stars, are almost non-existent… Both 24 and 25 star flags are exceedingly rare, with just a small handful known to survive. Although among collectors smaller flags are generally more sought after, I’m personally very attached to these majestic large ship’s flags from the early-to-mid 19th century. Flags of this period were almost never made for personal use. The few survivors of the period were typically made for maritime or Navy use. They show the age and character of that time in American history where our sailing ships traveled the world, building up our nation’s trade and influence. These large flags were grand signals of our national presence, and they were often the first recognizably American symbol that people in foreign ports, unfamiliar with America itself, came to recognize as the symbol of our nation.”

Click Here to view one of the few surviving 24 Star Flags which is amazingly similar to the example offered here!!


This particular 24 star Hand Made American Flag measures approx. 140″ by 85″ and is made of strips of red and white wool bunting type material with a blue canton with inserted white cotton stars. Every bit of the extensive stitching on this beautiful and historically important Flag is hand sewn including all of the repairs and patches.


This Flag was not a factory production piece but a very large Flag made for a particular purpose likely as a Ship’s Flag. Although this Flag was official from 1822 to 1836, it was a period of peace and, since American Flags were not made for “home” use at the time, very few flags with this star count were made. We are told that 24 Star Flags are “almost non-existent” and only a small handful are known to have survived.


There no grommets on the hoist of the Flag but rather there is an original, braided rope cord sewn into the hoist with loops in the end of the cord for mounting the Flag on a pole or mast. There are 2 holes in the hoist – one near the top and one near the bottom. The borders of these holes have been hand sewn to create a reinforced “cloth grommet” There is a period, manuscript inscription in iron gall ink on the hoist that reads “4 yds” – indicating that the Flag is 4 yards long. The canton measures approx. 74″ by 47″. The 24 stars are arranged in four rows with 6 stars in each row.


This is an exceptionally rare and historically important, 1820′s large size, Hand Sewn 24 Star American Flag and worthy of a place at the very center of even the most advanced Museum quality Collection! We are thrilled to have been able to have it if only for a brief time!!




For more information, please see our eBay listings.


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Only in the Wild West of Old!!

Wild West cc-1 Our favorite Cabinet Card Photo of all time. The only identification is a manuscript notation that reads “B. F. Bickel / Larned Kansas / 1882″. We knew there was a story here that needed to be told and after weeks of research we discovered that the story was a WONDERFUL one – a true tale of the American West and better than any fiction ever written about that time and place!!

The Photograph depicts a scene on Broadway – the main street of Larned, Kansas – in the background we see a row of store fronts with a raised, wooden sidewalk. We can see signs for a Druggist, a Harness Shop and a barber shop. The street is, obviously, unpaved and we can see wood hitching post in front of the stores and one in the foreground of the Photo.

It appears that some type of macabre joke was staged on Broadway in Larned – there are two “graves” in the foreground, complete with boots protruding from the dirt and hats respectfully laid atop the mounds of earth. There are easily readable, hand lettered wood Tombstones marking the “graves”. One reads “In Memory of N. B. Freeland, Vene (sic) Vidi Vici”, the other “Chronoscope / In Memory of R. H. Ballinger Sic Semper Tyrannis”.

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We purchased this amazing Western Americana Image without having the slightest idea what was going on here – it looked like the “Boot Hill Cemetery” had moved to the main street of Larned!! Some extensive and detailed internet research and some help from the folks at the Santa Fe Trail Center at Larned, Kansas finally uncovered the “tale of the Old West” that culminated in the scene depicted in this Photograph.

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We were able to discover that both Freeland and Ballinger were very prominent Pioneer Citizens of Larned. Freeland was an Attorney and Ballinger (also an attorney) owned and edited the local “Chronoscope” Newspaper – a decidedly Republican Party leaning publication. Ballinger had studied Law in the office of Abraham Lincoln and was known to claim that he was the first to recognize Lincoln’s potential as a political candidate. Both Freeland and Ballinger served honorably during the Civil War – Freeland from 1861 to 1866 as a private in the 28th Illinois Volunteer Infantry seeing many battles and Ballinger from 1861 to 1864 first in the 3rd Illinois Cavalry and later as a Colonel of the Third Mississippi Colored Regiment (who saw duty mostly as a “Home Guard” Regiment).

Try as we could, however, we could not uncover the circumstances that led to the “burial” of these two prominent citizens on the main street in a scene right out of Tombstone or Deadwood!! A letter of inquiry to Dan Grzesiak, the Curator of the Santa Fe Trail Center in Larned, Kansas and his kindness finally uncovered just what was going on here. We have appended some early newspaper stories about the incident to this post (see below) but will summarize the events here. It is a story that could only happen in the American West of the 19th century and stands front and center as an example of the “character” and “characters” that have formed our perception of what life in the early West was all about.

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It seems that in 1882 Mr. Ballinger and Mr. Freeland had some type of disagreement. One account says it was over payment of a Bill and another account (a more likely scenario) states that Mr. Ballinger published something in the Chronoscope that offended the sensibilities of Mr. Freeland. In either case the two men confronted each other on the muddy main street of Larned and engaged in a rather comedic “fight” that was described as follows:

“Ballinger struck out at Freeland, when a running fight ensued which lasted five or ten minutes, both combatants finally tumbling into the gutter in front of George Leasure’s confectionery stand, where they wallowed in about three inches of mud and water until they were parted. It is said that they fought two rounds, Freeland scoring one on the first round by downing Ballinger, and Ballinger scoring one on the second by downing Freeland. When parted both were panting and puffing like mad bulls, were thickly plastered with mud and presented a most ridiculous aspect from the fact that neither sustained the least injury, not a scar or a scratch being visible upon either of their persons. Those who witnessed the affray say they fought like a couple of old women, and that the encounter from beginning to end was too utterly ridiculous for anything.”

The townsfolk could not let the two “prominent” citizens escape with their dignity and there ensued a “pageant” which was thoroughly enjoyed by all (well at least by most). On the evening of the fight a “mock” memorial service and funeral were held in front of the mud puddle where the two men “fought” and “died”. The store fronts were draped in black and eulogies were given to the delight of the many attendees. After some shared libations and a rasher of good natured ridicule, the crowd dispersed for the night – a good time was had by all!!

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Those rising early the next morning found the site of the “fight” decorated as it is seen in the Photograph offered here. You will note that the streets are empty of horse or human and the Photo was surely taken in the very early morning hours. Another Newspaper story tells of the events of that morning:

“Two graves were fashioned from this dirt in front of the grocery where they controversy had occurred. And the jokers had Freeland and Ballinger die with their boots on for from each grave protruded a pair of boots. At the heads of the graves were boards that bore suitable inscriptions. The board at the head of Mr. Freeland’s grave carried unreadable Latin phrases for Freeland was quite an orator and would often display his knowledge of the dead language.
The perpetrators of the joke gathered early the next morning to witness the effect upon the principals of viewing their own graves. To Mr. Freeland, who arrived on the scene first, the affair was a laughable travesty but to Mr. Ballinger it was a deplorable tragedy and he immediately proceeded to remove the signboard from his grave.”

A special Thank You to Dan Grzesiak, the Curator of the Santa Fe Trail Center in Larned, Kansas for the following excerpts from local Newspapers regarding the events depicted in the Photograph:

Thursday, July 1, 1909;
An Early day Episode

When Two Prominent Citizens Were “Buried” on Broadway.
Whenever several old settlers of Pawnee County are together and get to reviewing old times, one of the remarks sure to be made sooner or later is “Were you here that time they buried Ballinger and Freeland on Broadway?” And the laugh which always follows shows it was one of the notable frolics of those early years before people were burdened with enormous wheatcrops and bank accounts, and found time for a little “liveliness” as they “walked by the way.”Councilman A. W. Swan was looking over some old clippings last week and among those carefully preserved was one from the Larned Eagle-Optic of some twenty-five or thirty years ago, giving a description of the incident of the “burial” and the events which led up to it. The article is written in a seriocomic vein and is unsigned but Net Adams has always been credited with writing the piece, and so far as we know has never even attempted to prove an alibi. We produce the article in full for the benefit of our readers:



The difficulty between N. B. Freeland, Esq., and R. H. Ballinger, editor of the Chronoscope, culminated Tuesday in an attack upon the former by the latter and subsequently a burlesque funeral and burial on Broadway. The parties met in front of Lee Ainsworth’s meat market, and after a short conversation concerning a bill, Ballinger struck out at Freeland, when a running fight ensued which lasted five or ten minutes, both combatants finally tumbling into the gutter in front of George Leasure’s confectionery stand, where they wallowed in about three inches of mud and water until they were parted. It is said that they fought two rounds, Freeland scoring one on the first round by downing Ballinger, and Ballinger scoring one on the second by downing Freeland. When parted both were panting and puffing like mad bulls, were thickly plastered with mud and presented a most ridiculous aspect from the fact that neither sustained the least injury, not a scar or a scratch being visible upon either of their persons. Those who witnessed the affray say they fought like a couple of old women, and that the encounter from beginning to end was too utterly ridiculous for anything.


The second act opened about three hours later on the scene of the battleground. A long sign-board which read: “Last remains of Ballinger and Freeland – Rest in Peace,” was erected over the mud hole where the heroes fell, black drapery was hung promiscuously over the hitching posts, awning poles, etc., and a general air of gloom and sadness pervaded the scene. The spot was visited by a large number of our citizens, and remarks of sympathy for the dead and condolence for the surviving members of the warriors’ families were general and heartfelt. The scene called up reminiscences. Friends gathered in little knots to tell how valiantly Ballinger had fought during the war as colonel of the colored home guards of Illinois – that gallant little band which stayed at home to take care of the women while all the men were away fighting the rebels – what daring raids he made upon hen-roosts and pig-stys, scouring the country sometimes as much as two or three miles from town, and striking terror to the hearts of turkey-gobblers and bantam roosters – how many bloody battles he would have been in had he ever been ordered to the front to fight and couldn’t by any possible means have escaped the call – and finally to express their regret that he at last “died with his boots on.” Of Freeland it was said that he served during the same war as high private in the front rank, fought gallantly and bravely for the country which boasts with pride of the “Star Spangled Banner,” and the spread-eagle of freedom, that from exposure he contracted disease which sent him home at the close of the war an invalid for life, only to be ruthlessly murdered by a fellow comrade, but to his honor it was said that he also “died with his boots on,” fighting with his face to the foe. When night gathered her sable robes of darkness over the scene, a hush fell upon the multitude. They were in the presence of death. The occasion was a doleful one. The funeral services were about to begin. Torches were brought forth draped in mourning, and their fitful light cast a lurid glare over the sacred mud-hole, cutting sharp, black shadowy lines here and there, and otherwise increasing the mournful solemnity of the scene. Flags which both fought so gallantly to carry with “Sherman to the Sea,” (Ballinger did his fighting in Illinois to keep down the bantam roosters) were hung at halfmast. An empty dry goods box was confiscated to do service as a rostrum, a funeral sermon preached, the brass band played a couple of doleful pieces, the friends of the deceased weeped a few bucketfuls of tears into the mudhole, and the congregation sadly dispersed to their several homes, to dream about the fearful tragedy and see ghosts stalking over their bed-clothes and straddling the foot and head-boards until morning.


Wednesday morning dawned clear and bright. Not a cloud obscured the horizon. Silence reigned supreme. The scene again opened upon the sanguine battleground of the day before. Devoted friends had been at work during the night – presumable the Hyperions. Two neatly constructed mounds of earth marked the last resting place of the dead. Broadway had the appearance of “Boot Heel Cemetery.” It is said that the warriors were buried where they fell because the pieces of the mingled remains were not large enough to remove. The two graves were made side by side, and it is supposed that the corpses were shoveled in and buried without much regard to ceremony. The foot board of one of the graves bore the initials “R. H. B.,” and the head-board was inscribed on one side, “R. H. Ballinger. Died with boots on.” On the other side, “Chronoscope. In Memory of R. H. Ballinger. Sic Semper Tyrannis” – (may this ever be the fate of tyrants.) On the foot-board of the other grave were the initials, “N. B.” and a little “f,” one of the boys who had a musical education claiming that the victim died B flat. On one side of the head-board was inscribed, “In Memory of N. B. Freeland, Pro Bono Publico” – (for the public good.) On the other side, “In Memory of N. B. Freeland. Veni, Vini, Vici,” (I came, I saw, I conquered.) The toes of a couple of boots stuck out at the foot of each grave, indication that as they died so they were buried, “with their boots on,” also that they had been interred face-upwards, in a civilized manner. Empty beer bottles were arranged around the head of Ballinger’s grave, emblems, probably, of his “weakness” while a cumberer of this earth, and for the further purpose of lending an additional charm to the surroundings. Early visitors were struck by the picturesque scene and were moved to tears. Streams of people visited the new graves, read the inscriptions and dropped a tear for the departed. Later in the day, however, some ruthless hand pulled up the head-boards, kicked over the beer bottles, and otherwise desecrated the graves, and today the busy traffic on Broadway passes to and fro over the sacred spots, the dead are forgotten, and the tragic scene of blood and carnage is fast fading out of the minds of our people. Such is life. Requiescat in pace.


The Tiller & Toiler
Friday, October 13, 1916

This Was Long Ago In Larned

A picture of two graves in the streets of Larned was found recently in Mylon, Utah, and mailed by the commercial club of that city to E. E. Frizell. It was after N. B. Freeland and R. H. Ballinger, two early day citizens quarreled and threatened each other in very expressive language and then failed to make good on their threats, that a bunch of local wags constructed the two graves in the street, a very grave sort of joke, indeed. That was long and long ago. It is said that a traveling man in town that day asked about the graves and was told that the dead were usually planted in such fashion until enough bodies had accumulated to warrant carting them to the cemetery and interring them in the proper manner. The traveling man left for other parts hurriedly, it is said. Several pictures of the two graves are owned in Larned, and Comrade Smith has the original plate.


The Tiller and Toiler
Thursday, June 15, 1922

The old talk of the two empty graves in Larned’s Broadway is a familiar one but oft repeating has not detracted from the interest. Prosecution and care were hot on the heels of newspaper editors then as well as now, for when Dick Ballinger, who edited the Chronoscope at the time, saw fit to get personal in his sheet, Mr. Freeland, the object of the remarks, strenuously objected. He accosted Ballinger the day after publication of the article. His ire was roused and his fists clenched. But Ballinger was unafraid. For a while they sparred but brotherly affections seemed to gain the upper hand and nobody got hurt.
Practical jokers were alive at that date and so it came to pass that Charley Valk, drayman, was engaged to supply two loads of fresh dirt for the miscreants. Two graves were fashioned from this dirt in front of the grocery where they controversy had occurred. And the jokers had Freeland and Ballinger die with their boots on for from each grave protruded a pair of boots. At the heads of the graves were boards that bore suitable inscriptions. The board at the head of Mr. Freeland’s grave carried unreadable Latin phrases for Freeland was quite an orator and would often display his knowledge of the dead language. The perpetrators of the joke gathered early the next morning to witness the effect upon the principals of viewing their own graves. To Mr. Freeland, who arrived on the scene first, the affair was a laughable travesty but to Mr. Ballinger it was a deplorable tragedy and he immediately proceeded to remove the signboard from his grave.


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Deadwood – Where Fact Is Better Than Fiction

  Deadwood HBOMany of us have heard of “Deadwood”, in part due to the successful American Western television series by the same name, created, produced and largely written by David Milch. The show is set in the 1870s in Deadwood, South Dakota, before and after the area’s annexation by the Dakota Territory. The Show, though fictional, does have many historical truths tied in with its fictional elements.  It has been reported that Milch used actual diaries and newspapers from 1870s Deadwood residents as reference in the creation of the show. Many historical figures appear as characters on the show—including Seth Bullock, Al Swearengen, Wild Bill Hickok, Sol Star, Calamity Jane, Wyatt Earp, George Crook, E. B. Farnum, Charlie Utter, Jack McCall, and George Hearst.


Image of street scene from the show “Deadwood”

  Soooo… What is the REAL story?! Obviously the history is rich and fascinating, as the TV show implies, but which parts are real? What made Milch pick Deadwood as his subject matter? Well, lets find out!

522px-Deadwood13Deadwood, South Dakota, 1876

The TRUE Deadwood:

The illegal settlement of Deadwood began in the 1870s on the territory granted to American Indians in the 1868 Treaty of Laramie. The treaty gave permanent ownership of the Black Hills to the Lakota Sioux, in return for the Lakota’s promise of peace with pioneers and railroad workers. The great Oglala Chief Red Cloud (Mahpiya Luta) was a signer of this important agreement. Image2 By 1870, stories abounded about gold and other wealth to be had in the Black Hills. Settlers continued to break the treaty by entering the Lakota reservation, which caused renewed Indian raids on nearby settlements. An expedition to investigate the possibility of establishing a fort in the Black Hills in 1874 resulted in the confirmation of gold being found in the Black Hills being announced by Colonel George Armstrong Custer the military leader of the expedition (it is interesting to note that though the expedition was said to be for the above stated purpose, for unexplained reasons a geologist and miners were included on the trip). As a result of this confirmation, one of the last great gold rushes in the country started shortly thereafter, though the government tried initially to discourage it


Gold Mining, Deadwood, South Dakota

In 1876, miners moved into the northern Black Hills, where a miner named John B. Pearson found gold in a narrow canyon. The gulch was full of dead trees and became known as “Deadwood Gulch” and thus, Deadwood was born.

deadwood The mining camp soon swarmed with thousands of prospectors looking to get rich. Quickly the tents and shanties that originally popped upall around, began to be replaced by more permanent structures.


Though the majority of the original settlers of Deadwood were gold miners, the lack of law in the area attracted a rather rough crowd – an estimated one murder per day occurred during the first year of Deadwood’s existence! The Utter brothers (Charlie and Steve), led a wagon train to Deadwood to bring things said to be needed to increase the prosperity and business of the area. This wagon train included both prostitutes and gamblers, which were both thought to be important additions to this wild town whose population was mostly made up of men. Saloons, dance Halls, Brothels and Gambling establishments flourished, with prostitution becoming especially profitable, with an astonishing 90% of the women in Deadwood being prostitutes. Businessman Tom Miller opened the Bella Union Saloon in September of that year (why David Milch changed Miller’s name to Cy Tolliver is anyone’s guess).

stereo-12c 1878 Stereoview Photograph of the Sign in front of Deadwoods “Bella Union Saloon”

The Bella Union was a saloon and theater in Deadwood, South Dakota, which opened on September 10, 1876. The proprietor was Tom Miller, an aggressive businessman who would buy several neighboring properties as well. The Bella Union Saloon was a relatively upscale establishment, where town meetings came to be held. In November 1878, Tom Miller went bankrupt, and the Bella Union became a grocery store downstairs, and a meeting hall named Mechanics’ Hall upstairs. A fictionalized version of the saloon appeared in the HBO television series “Deadwood”, where the owner was the character Cy Tolliver. In the 1953 musical, Calamity Jane, the character Henry Miller (not Tom), is the proprietor of the town’s saloon and theater.


Bella Union Saloon Advertising Sign with an obviously “dead drunk” patron in front!

There was no lack of characters living in and / or passing through the Town. Some of the early town residents and visitors included Lewis and Clark, Wyatt Earp, Poker Alice, the Sundance Kid, E. B. Farnum, Charlie Utter, Sol Star, Martha Bullock, A. W. Merrick, Samuel Fields, Calamity Jane, Dr. Valentine McGillycuddy, the Reverend Henry Weston Smith, Aaron Dunn and Wild Bill Hickok.


Both Wild Bill Hickok and Calamity Jane call Mount Moriah Cemetary their final resting place. Deadwood was actually the site of Hickock’s murder, and then the ultimate hanging of his murderer Jack McCall, who was prosecuted twice despite the U.S. laws against it.


Eventually Deadwood became more prosperous, and began to lose some of its rough and rowdy character. In March of 1877 Seth Bullock was appointed sheriff to keep law and order. 


On September 26, 1879, a fire started in a bakery and devastated Deadwood, spreading through the business district of Deadwood and destroying more than three hundred buildings. Many of the unlucky left town to start again elsewhere without having fulfilled the early dreams of Deadwood.


ca1880, Bird’s-Eye-View Photograph of the Mining Town of Deadwood

  There is so much more information out there on this fascinating town and the people that traveled through it! I honestly did not even begin to scratch the surface of it!! Suffice it to say, now that my interest has been piqued, I will be looking into more on Deadwood, and its residents and patrons! Be sure to check back soon to see what else I have unearthed!!

For more information, please see our eBay listings.

Posted in American West, Americana, Buffalo Bill, Current Auctions, Native American, Native American History, Wild West | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

The Boston Wool Trade Association / Philadelphia Wool and Textile Association Baseball Trophy, 1912-1916


We are pleased to be able to offer here our first ever Guest blogger!! We hope that you enjoy her blog post!!

Blog Post by Virginia Caputo
 -Our Big Fat Life in Antiques

Many of us who are antiques dealers love the history that is connected to the objects that we find as much as we love the excitement of the treasure hunt. Many interesting antiques are not acquired with their histories attached unless it was bought from the original family. Even then the history is often lost or misremembered. Thus it becomes our task to find the history and reconnect it with the object.

In 2013 we acquired an elegant sterling silver baseball trophy which had no information as to its history other than what was engraved on its sides. The trophy is engraved on one side with the following: “Baseball Trophy Presented by the Executive Committee of the Boston Wool Trade Association”. On the other side is engraved, “August 28, 1912 Boston 1 Philadelphia 2 Sept, 19. 1913 Philadelphia 19 Boston 2 Sept. 15 1916 Boston 17 Philadelphia 3″. Under the base it is marked Sterling with the eagle hallmark of the Meriden Brittania Company of Meriden, Connecticut. It is also marked “862″ “5 1/2 Pts” “11 1/2 IN”.
We had a lot of questions about the trophy that we set out to answer. These days with the ability to research expanded greatly by the wealth of information that is on the internet, we were able to learn the full story of the trophy: who made it, for whom it was made, and something about what it was like in America at the time it was made. After some time spent researching it on the internet, I discovered quite a lot about it. Often there was only one document that provided a piece of information but after finding several articles from early twentieth century publications, I put together, piece by piece, quite a bit of history of the trophy.

The trophy was presented to the winning team of games that were played between the Boston Wool Trade Association team and the Philadelphia Wool and Textile Association team in 1912, 1913, and 1916.

The Boston Wool Trade Association was formed in November 1911. At their first annual outing in Boston in August 1912 members of the Philadelphia Wool and Textile Association were guests of the Boston association. Golf, tennis and a baseball game were on the schedule of activities.

The baseball game was played between the Boston Wool Trade baseball team and the Philadelphia Wool and Textile Association baseball team. This silver trophy was presented to the winning team by the Boston Wool Trade Association. It was donated by Charles J. Webb of Philadelphia. Mr. Webb was one of the organizers of the Philadelphia Wool and Textile Association and held the office of treasurer for that group. The Philadelphia team won the game. The score was 2 to 1.

The second outing was held in Philadelphia on September 19, 1913 where the Philadelphia Wool and Textile Association played host to one hundred and seventy five members of the Boston Wool Trade Association. The two associations alternated where the outing was held between Boston and Philadelphia. A program of activities that included golf, tennis and baseball as well as field sports such as relay races were on the program for each outing as well as a dinner and speeches.

The baseball game was held at the Stenson Avenue Athletic Club where 500 people came to watch the game. Philadelphia won again with a score of 19 to 2 according to the information on the trophy (which varies from the 19 to 1 score as reported in the September 27, 1913 publication “Fibre and Fabric”). The following excerpt is from that article about the event:

“Charles J. Webb was called upon to say a few words in acceptance of the baseball cup for the Philadelphia Association since it was Mr. Webb who donated it. He stated that under the terms of the gift Philadelphia was entitled to hold the cup, having won it twice in succession, but that instead it would be donated to a permanent contest between the two associations. In connection with the afternoon’s game, Mr. Webb stated that hereafter no applicant for a position in a Boston wool house would be asked if he could sell wool, but rather, could he play baseball.”

That amusing observation was apparently due to the rather large margin by which Philadelphia had won the game.


The textile groups’ 1916 outing was in Boston on Friday, September 15, 1916. Six hundred were in attendance which was considerably more than the 470 who were expected to attend. One hundred and twenty five to one hundred and fifty were members of the Philadelphia association who were guests of the Boston association. The outing was held at the Tedesco Country Club, Phillips Beach, Massachusetts with dinner at the Copley Plaza Hotel. There were 550 reservations made for dinner.

The baseball game was at 2 PM. From an article about the outing in the Sept. 23, 1916 issue of Textile World Journal:

“Few of those who witnessed the ball game were aware that the natty appearance of the Boston team was due to the new suits provided by Chairman Frank W. Hallowell of the Base Ball Committee at his personal expense. Mr. Hallowell is an old Harvard ball player and maintains an active interest in the national sport.”

The Boston team won with a score of 17 to 3.

We noticed the absence of the years 1914 and 1915 from the trophy which seemed unusual as it was an annual outing. We did further research and learned that the Executive Committee of the Boston Wool Trade Association canceled the 1914 outing “owing to the terrible conditions now prevailing in Europe and which are liable to grow more serious in the near future.” They stated: “… our local trade as well as our Philadelphia guests could not feel fully justified in attending a day’s festivities with the world’s greatest conflict being enacted almost before their eyes.” The outing must have been canceled again in 1915, probably for the same reason. In the lengthy description of the 1916 outing found in the September 23, 1916 issue of the publication “Textile World” the 1913 outing was mentioned several times but there was no mention at all of a 1915 outing. Nor was there mention of the war in Europe.

In looking for further references to the groups’ outings after 1916, the next one that I could find was in 1920 when the format of the baseball games played was changed to a series of five games, two of which were played in Arlington, Massachusetts at Spy Pond on September 11 and three in Philadelphia at Fleisher’s Field on September 17, 18 and 19. As no dates beyond 1916 were engraved on the trophy, we have concluded that the entry of the U.S. into the war in the spring of 1917 resulted in the groups canceling their annual meetings again and that the meetings were resumed after the war was over.
In 1922 the tenth annual banquet of the Boston Wool Trade Association was held on March 2 at the Copley Plaza in Boston and was attended by 900 members and guests. They had a banquet. speeches, men in ballet outfits jumping out of fake bales of wool, piano playing, making witty repartee, and lampooning prominent members of the wool trade in a mock trial. No sports were on the program. At the banquet they provided a memento in the form of a booklet stamped in gold “1912-1922” which contained the banquet menu, list of association officers, guests, and members and a facsimile of a 1894 letter about the idea for the association.

From the scheduling of the 1922 meeting it is clear that they had decided to hold their meetings in the spring rather than in late summer. And that they no longer included golf, tennis and baseball in the program, sports which would have been impractical to play in March in Boston when snow could still be covering the ground. Thus there would have been no more need to use a baseball trophy as an award.

Due to the trophy having been part of an event where business and events of the time were discussed and then later reported on, our research on the history of the trophy and the textile associations brought up articles that described the political climate of the time, the working conditions of textile workers, the role of unions, the change in hours of the work week, the impact of war, and the concerns of those in the textile industry regarding the environment, politics, business, and law. Some of what concerned them then, particularly issues about the environment, were the same things that concern us now. Other matters, like the reduction in the maximum hours to be worked in a week to forty-eight, were a reminder that there was a time when working conditions in this country were far tougher than they are now and that people took it for granted so much that there was controversy when changes in the law were proposed.

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