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    George Armstrong Custer: A Superb Presentation Ink Well, Inscribed by Custer to Yellowstone Expedition Photographer William Pywell. The base and ink receptacle are sterling (marked "sterling 426") and the base is inscribed: "To William Pywell from G. A. Custer 1873". This elaborate desk piece incorporates a 9.5" section of elk horn, with inset teeth. On the top of the hinged lid is a beautifully carved dog at rest, much resembling the beloved dogs which accompanied Custer on the Expedition (see image K-130 in Dr. Mark Katz's definitive reference book Custer in Photographs). Oddly, we can find no maker's name, but Custer's well-known practice of ordering items from Tiffany and the quality of the craftsmanship strongly suggest that it was produced by that esteemed firm at Custer's request.

    William Pywell was a gifted photographer who had honed his skills taking Civil War battlefield photos for Alexander Gardner. He was the official photographer for the 1873 Yellowstone Expedition, where he snapped the iconic image of Custer with an elk he had shot- hence the incorporation of the elk horn in this wonderful object.

    Unfortunately, the precise provenance of the ink well is at least temporarily lost. The previous owner, who probably acquired it in the late 1980s or 1990s, misplaced the paperwork and, to date, it has not resurfaced. However, no "self-authenticating" object we have handled has presented itself more persuasively. The engraving has been studied by an expert in our jewelry and timepiece department, who feels confident that it is original and authentic. The family of the previous owner continues to search for the documents and, should they appear, they will be forwarded to the new owner.

    The ink well is in wonderful condition, with rich original patina on the silver elements. For strictest accuracy we note that the silver ring around the base of one of the teeth is absent. Among the many remarkable pieces in this auction, this piece stands out as one of our personal favorites.

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    June, 2018
    9th Saturday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 2
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
    Page Views: 1,338

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