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    Important Bear Claw Necklace Presented to Buffalo Bill by Sitting Bull, Originally from the Julia Cody Goodman Collection. This lot includes unbroken documentation of ownership up to and including the letter of transmittal to the consigner. Overall length, 19.75"; ten grizzly bear claws varying in length from 3" at the ends to 4.5" in the middle, beads, sinew. To wear a bear claw necklace was to seek the protection of the grizzly's fearsome strength. But the man who wore it had to be a person of power and courage. The gift of a bear claw necklace could only be made man to man, and the gift of this one from Sitting Bull to Buffalo Bill was an emblem of deep respect.

    Sitting Bull was with Buffalo Bill's Wild West just during 1885 (see Heritage Lot Number 44121, June 2012, Auction #6079), but he and Cody formed a bond that lasted until Sitting Bull's murder in 1890. Sitting Bull made several gifts of significance to Buffalo Bill and to Annie Oakley, and they are noted only in the attributions that Cody and Oakley made to their families. The only fully documented gifts between them are those from Buffalo Bill - a large hat, and the grey horse Sitting Bull had ridden during his season with the Wild West. In the case of this necklace, Cody told its story to his sister Julia.

    In a sense, this is half a necklace. Most bear claw necklaces boasted from twenty to forty claws; that is, from two to four bears since only the longer claws from the front paws were used. Perhaps Sitting Bull was slyly suggesting that Buffalo Bill could fill it out for himself. Cody famously killed a charging grizzly while scouting for the Army in 1874, and he credited his new Winchester repeater (a model 1873 in caliber .44-40) with saving his life. But the grizzly was all but extinct on the prairies by the 1880s, and necklaces of any size were becoming scarce. Today, grizzly bear claw necklaces from the 1880s and earlier are unusual even in museums. This one, obviously, is unique and supremely important.

    William F. Cody
    Julia Cody
    Don and Stella Foote Collection (pictures in Treasures of the West, the catalog of their collection when it was exhibited at the 1964 New York World's Fair).
    Greg Martin
    The present owner

    Please note that the image of the Greg Martin letter on our website is a photocopy. The winning bidder will receive the original letter.

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    June, 2014
    14th Saturday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 12
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
    Page Views: 5,671

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