Sale 158 Lot 199
Albumen Print Cabinet Card Portrait of Jesse James, with C. C. Giers' credit and backstamp to verso, signed in bold black ink beneath image ("J W James"), Nashville: C. C. Giers, card c. 1868-1869, albumen print, date unknown.
The most iconic photograph of notorious outlaw, Jesse Woodson James (1847-1882), reproduced in The Many Faces of Jesse James, (Gretna, 1998), p. 46, and Jesse and Frank James: The Family History, (Steele, 1997), p. 20. Probably the only extant signed photograph of the legendary Western gunman, in fine condition with only minor soiling to the verso.
Carl Casper Giers (1828-1877) was a prominent photographer in Nashville, Tennessee, and held a studio on Union Street between 1866-1879, with his adopted son, Otto Giers, taking over after his death. While the studio began using the daguerreotype method, they adopted the ambrotype method for a short while, after which they produced albumen prints. Cabinet cards from Giers can be distinguished by the ornate backstamp designs, such as that of the present photograph. City directories show he used the "45 Union St." address from 1872 until his death in 1877 on the backstamp. The "43&45 Union St." imprint reflects the 1868-71 period. The present cabinet card bears the "43&45 Union St." imprint, suggesting that, while the print itself may be slightly later, the card was from the 1868-1871 period.
According to Philip W. Steele in The Many Faces of Jesse James, it is believed that the James brothers, following a $14,000 bank robbery in Russelville, Kentucky, spent the end of 1868 and most of 1869 in Nashville, Tennessee, where Jesse assumed the name John Davis Howard. At the time, James was courting Zee Mimms, his cousin, who would become his wife, who lived in Missouri outside of St. Louis. (Steele, 33)
Accompanied by a typed letter signed, dated September 3, 1958, from the previous owner, Andrew MacKellar, Captain of the Cunard Line of the RMS Queen Mary from 1954 to his death in 1959, stating that he acquired the photograph from Calvin Tilden Owens, husband of Ethel Rose James (the granddaughter of Jesse James), who confirmed the authenticity of the signed photograph, which was bequeathed to her upon her grandmother, Zee James', death, as part of an inheritance. The photograph has been in private hands since it was purchased from Captain MacKellar in 1958.
4 x 2 1/2 inches.
Estimate $ 20,000-30,000
Calvin Tilden Owens (husband of Ethel Rose James)
Capt. Andrew Mackeller (acquired from the above)
Roy Bradbury (acquired from the above), 1958
Acquired by the present owner from the family of the above
Some staining to card backing, concentrated at the top edge of the recto and, on the verso, comprising light dampstain along the right edge and lower left corner; pencil notation of negative number 38252 to verso; card slightly curved