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    Description

    Wounded Knee Massacre Archive Including Effects From the Estate of General Leonard W. Colby and Telling the Story of Lost Bird. On December 29, 1890, troops of the U.S. 7th Cavalry were sent to round up and disarm members of the Lakota Sioux tribe for transport via rail to Omaha, Nebraska. Near the end of the disarmament process shooting erupted, and when the smoke cleared, 25 cavalry troopers and 150 Sioux men, women, and children were dead. Four days after the massacre, Col. L.W. Colby, Buffalo Bill and an Indian interpreter found a small Indian girl named Zintka Lanuni (Lost Bird) next to her dead mother. Colby later adopted the child calling her Marguerite Elizabeth Colby.

    We are pleased to offer this historically significant archive which tells the tragic story of Lost Bird whose life becomes symbolic of Wounded Knee Massacre and the decimation of Native Americans.

    We begin with a series of seven albumens depicting images of Wounded Knee, both prior to and after the killings. Each albumen measures 6.3" x 4.25" and is mounted to an overall size of 10" x 8" most with captions printed into the negative describing the scene pictured. The first image is captioned, "Birds Eeye [sic] of Gohst [sic] Dance Amongst the Sioux Indians of Wounded Knee Pine Ridge Agency Nov 25th 1890" and shows a long line of dancers with a group of spectators sitting in the foreground. The second albumen is captioned: "Bird's Eye View of Canon Wounded Knee S.D..." and shows an army canon in the foreground of a wintry landscape with soldiers in the background. There are four albumens giving evidence of the aftermath of the attack. One is captioned "Gathering up the Dead..." and pictures bodies piled onto a horse-drawn wooden carriage. A very graphic image captioned "Bureal [sic] of the Dead at the Battlefield of Wounded Knee S.D." shows a mass grave with bodies piled both inside and alongside it; armed soldiers stand at the periphery grimly observing. Another scene shows the wasteland of the battlefield littered with bodies; a single body lies across the foreground, arms raised protectively to shield his face. The last image of the carnage depicts bodies wrapped in canvas tack with an expansive field littered with the debris including the frame of a teepee. The final albumen is dated Jan. 17, 1891 and shows a gathering of Indians captioned: "Grand Council Between Friendly and Hostile Indian Chiefs at Pine Ridge...Chief Kicking Bear Talking."

    The lot also contains fine cabinet card of Colby and his adopted daughter Lost Bird inscribed "Zintka Lanuni, Compliments of L.W. Colby" The photo has excellent contrast and detail and lovingly portrays the bond of the adoptive father.

    The story of Lost Bird although originating as a symbol of hope and peace between Native Americans and the white man quickly took an ugly turn. Lost Bird faced racism from both whites as well as the Lakotas, never gaining acceptance from either. As a child, she was abandoned by her adoptive father, who would leave the family for the girl's nursemaid. Lost Bird was briefly reunited with her father, when at the age of 17, she was sent to live with him and his new wife. The reunion would not last very long; within a few months Colby placed the now-pregnant teen in a strict reformatory where she would remain for a year after the stillbirth of a baby boy. After leaving the facility, she moved to California with her husband and eventually worked a series of jobs including stints with Buffalo Bill Cody's Wild West Show and in dire times resorted to prostitution. Lost Bird died at the age of 29 of influenza; there is speculation that her immune system was weakened by syphilis.

    Included in the archive are a few personal belongings from the estate of Col. Colby. We are pleased to present his American Watch Company pocket watch, inscribed on the reverse "Presented to Col. L.W. Colby by His Friends June 23, 1886". Names of those friends are engraved around the perimeter of the watch. The case (case #08415) is 56mm, 14k, and single hinged. The dial is porcelain with Roman numerals, black "fancy" hour hand, "spade" minute hand, sunken auxiliary dial with sweep second hand. The watch exhibits minor wear and is currently in working condition. There are three cabinet cards, in fine condition, related to Colby's military service - one in his general's uniform astride his horse, a studio portrait in his dress uniform, and another studio portrait of him in his Spanish-American War period uniform. The last image in the group is a cabinet card of General Eugene Asa Carr (present at Wounded Knee) and the staff of the 6th Cavalry. The image is yellowed with age, and the mounting board is cracked near the center, else it is very good. Also present in this collection, is a silk Cuban flag measuring 12" x 17.5", no doubt a souvenir from Colby's days in Cuba. There are two un-used sheets of Colby's Beatrice, Nebraska law office letterhead and two un-used sheets of letterhead from his wife's hotel and opera house in Beatrice, Nebraska. The previous owner of the archive has included a treasure trove of useful modern research material including modern newspaper accounts of the Wounded Knee battle, documentation printed from the internet, and hand-written notes. This group serves to represent an anecdotal link to an infamous and tragic episode in American history.

    Leonard Wright Colby (1846-1924) led a distinguished military, legal and political career. He saw brief service during the Civil War, prominently served in the Nebraska National Guard and organized the American Cuban Volunteer Legion for service in the Spanish-American War. He opened a law office in Beatrice, Nebraska, served as a Nebraska state senator, Assistant Attorney General of the United States, and finally, as a district court judge.


    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    February, 2007
    26th-27th Monday-Tuesday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 3
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
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