Skip to main content
Go to accessibility notice


    UNION SPY PAULINE CUSHMAN SIGNED CARTE DE VISITE PHOTOGRAPH, 1863. Pauline Cushman was an actress who turned Union spy. Born in New Orleans on June 10, 1833, she moved with her family at a very early age to Grand Rapids, Michigan. When she turned eighteen, Pauline ran away to New York to pursue a career in acting. While appearing in a show in Union-occupied Louisville, Kentucky, she was approached by two Confederate officers who offered her three hundred dollars to personally give a toast to Jefferson Davis. Being loyal to the Union, she first asked permission to do so from Union officials. They agreed to permit the toast on the basis that by doing so, it would appear that Cushman was loyal to the secessionist movement, and would endear her to the Confederates, making her later useful as a Union spy. Upon making the toast, the theatre manager fired her, and she was then removed from the Union lines. She then began following the Confederate soldiers on the excuse that she was looking for her brother. Soon she was considered a trusted favorite of the Confederate troops, and through this relationship, was able to obtain important intelligence information. Eventually, Confederate General Braxton Bragg found her in possession of papers containing crucial information at his headquarters in Shelbyville, Kentucky. She was tried, found guilty and sentenced to hang in ten days. Fortunately for her, Union troops invaded Shelbyville and freed her before her sentence was carried out. Her knowledge was of great importance to the Union troops. For her gallant efforts, Union General William Rosecrans and President Abraham Lincoln made her part of the Union army with the honorary rank of major. Because of her notoriety, she was unable to continue as a spy. Wearing her honorary major's uniform, she traveled the country lecturing about her experiences as a spy. At war's end she returned to acting in San Francisco. In 1893 she became ill and began taking opium for her illness. Addicted, she took her own life on December 2, 1893. She was buried with honors in the military cemetery of the San Francisco Grand Army of the Republic. This historic CDV of Miss Major's is dated in pencil 1863 and signed by her, there is also a newspaper clipping included in this lot.

    Provenance: Al. Emmett Fostell Collection

    Condition: Very good condition, light contrast, has rounded upper right.

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    December, 2007
    1st Saturday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 1
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
    Page Views: 3,132

    Buyer's Premium per Lot:
    19.5% of the successful bid (minimum $9) per lot.

    Sold on Dec 1, 2007 for: Sign-in or Join (free & quick)
    Track Item

    Heritage membership

    Join Now - It's Free

    1. Past Auction Values (prices, photos, full descriptions, etc.)
    2. Bid online
    3. Free Collector newsletter
    4. Want List with instant e-mail notifications
    5. Reduced auction commissions when you resell your
    Consign now
    • Cash Advances
    • More Bidders
    • Trusted Experts
    • Over 200,000 Satisfied Consignors Since 1976
    Consign to the 2021 October 9 Americana & Political Signature Auction Featuring the Michael Ward Collection - Dallas.

    Learn about consigning with us

    Thanks a million for getting approval to sell my Civil War Hospital Death Ledger! You made them AND ME , a nice profit. You are the best!
    Ed W.,
    Mount Vernon, OH
    View More Testimonials receives more traffic than any other auction house website. (Source:

    Video tutorial

    Getting the most out of search