CINCINNATI, OH -- Bidding for firearms and militaria continued unabated during Cowan's three-day sale from April 29 to May 1, 2014. The live salesroom event, which grossed $1.86 million, featured two sessions -- the Robert Trownsell Civil War Collection, followed by Cowan's semi-annual offering of Historic Firearms & Early Militaria. Floor bidders met with stiff competition from phone and Internet buyers.
The Trownsell Collection started the sale on April 29th with 28 cataloged lots of early military uniforms, primarily from the Civil War. For more than half the lots, the original owners were identified.
Bringing $18,000 was a Civil War artillery frock coat used by Capt. William B. Chapman of the 2nd Ohio Light Artillery. Presented to Chapman by the citizens of Conneaut, Ohio, the coat was worn at the Battle of Pea Ridge in Arkansas on March 7, 1862. It bore the hole where Chapman was struck in the left hip by a musket ball. The impact tore off a button, which Chapman recovered, along with the mini ball. Both remained with the coat.
Other Civil War uniforms included a double-breasted frock coat worn by Col. Charles B. Stoughton of the 4th Vermont Infantry at $9,400; rare major general's frock coat, unidentified, $8,812.50; frock coat worn by Capt. Samuel N. Titus of the 11th Pennsylvania Cavalry, $7050; and a nine-button infantry frock coat used by Private Thomas Kinsley of the 45th Massachusetts Volunteers, which brought $7,637.50.
Equally impressive was Trownsell's collection of Civil War cartes de visite, which inspired competitive bidding between the floor and phone bidders. Trownsell concentrated largely on images of brevet brigadier generals, although soldiers of other ranks were included. Many of the CDVs were autographed, adding to their value. The grouping of nearly 850 images included cartes of Bvt. Maj. Gen. Joshua L. Chamberlain, who was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for his heroic defense of Little Round Top, selling for $5,287.50; George Gordon Meade, signed as major general of the Army of the Potomac, $4,993.75; Brig. Gen. John Elon Farnsworth, killed in action during what was described as a hopeless charge at Gettysburg, $4,500; and Bvt. Maj. Gen. Rutherford B. Hayes, taken more than a decade before he was elected as president of the nation he fought to save, $4,112.50.
Gettysburg was a common thread that ran through many of the most hotly contested lots.
"Things that were really rare and really good, they just took off. They really screamed, especially anything to do with Gettysburg," said Wes Cowan, the company's president and principal auctioneer.
The Historic Firearms and Early Militaria session was topped by a First Model Henry rifle that sold for $37,600, well above its upper estimate. The longarm was martially marked -- having been inspected by the government and stamped for its acceptance for military use.
Jack Lewis, Cowan's director of Historic Firearms, said the piece was fresh to the market, having come out of a closet in Massachusetts. "It was a very nice, untouched gun," he noted.
Firearms of all vintages did well. An Indian-used Parker Field & Co. trade musket dated 1855, having a 33-inch octagonal-to-round barrel, the walnut stock with heavy tack decoration, sold for $15,600.
Shotguns included a Parker Bros. BHE grade 5 side-by-side double-barrel 20-gauge, engraved with dogs flushing pheasants, at$22,800, and a Remington Model 1894 EEO grade side-by-side double-barrel, one of the few 16-gauge examples produced, was$20,700. The Remington included engravings of partridges, a dog, woodcocks, a duck and deer.
Cowan's again brought several Class 3 weapons to the market, with a South African Vickers .308 Mk. 1 machine gun with tripod realizing $16,450.
Among the edged weapons were a number of Bowie knives that drew strong phone bidding, with an English example by W. Butcher, the 9-inch clip-point blade etched with floral sprays and "Arkansas Toothpick," the rosewood handle with German silver, circa 1830 to 1837, selling for $19,975. A Bowie knife by W.C. Epperson, a hard-to-find American maker, was $10,575.
"Bowie knives have been a little soft over the past five years," Lewis noted. Cowan's results indicate a marked improvement. "For Bowie knife collectors overall, the market is there now."
Civil War items in the session included the archive of a Confederate war hero, Commodore John Randolph Tucker of the Confederate States Navy. Selling for $27,025, the lot included a silk Second National flag made for him by ladies of Charleston as a token of their esteem for his bravery, a Model 1852 Ames pre-war naval officer's sword, a logbook of approximately 130 letters sent from the CSS Patrick Henry, and other belongings. A Confederate McClellan saddle, likely produced at the Richmond Arsenal late in the war, sold with a pair of boots, realizing $10,575. "That's a great Confederate saddle that seldom comes to the market," said Lewis. "It did very well."
Among the more intriguing items were several paintings by Adolf Hitler. An aspiring artist, Hitler produced numerous works while living in Vienna from 1908 to 1913. Neuschwanstein Castle, a watercolor on paperboard, sold for $21,150. Other artwork by Hitler included The Karlkirche, Vienna, a watercolor and gouache snow scene with figures and horse-drawn vehicles, dated 1912, at$11,750. An Austrian landscape and a floral watercolor each sold for $4,993.75.
For more information, phone Cowan's Auctions at (513) 871-1670 or visit www.cowans.com.