DescriptionMartha "Calamity Jane" Canary: A Very Rare Cabinet Photo with Letter of Transmittal from the Wyoming Photographer. One of the most fascinating and collectable figures of the Old West, she found there the freedom to live the unconventional lifestyle which would have been all but impossible in more "civilized" environs. Masquerading as a man, she secured employment as a mule skinner, and by the time her sex was discovered she had proven herself so thoroughly that she was allowed to retain her job.
But she is perhaps best remembered for her association with Wild Bill Hickok. Calamity arrived in Deadwood, South Dakota in 1876. Hickok was at that time the impresario of an informal troop which demonstrated Western skills such as riding and shooting to an appreciative public. Her buckskin-clad persona was a natural fit for the show, and for five weeks she would live the life of a performer. Hickok was gunned down on August 2, 1876, but Calamity had developed such affection for Wild Bill that she mourned him demonstrably and declared that she wished to be buried beside him when her time came. Her wish would be granted 27 years later, and modern-day tourists flock to see the two graves in Deadwood.
The rare image seen in the cabinet photo offered here was taken by Baker and Johnston Photographers in Evanston and Rook Springs, Wyoming, and shows her in her most outlandish male get-up, six-gun on her hip. In 1890, one Charles Fish wrote to the photographer inquiring about the purchase of photos of Western celebrities. He wrote back that the only one he had available was this one of Calamity Jane. You can rely on this photo being from the notorious Calamity Jane, the price of which is 50 cents," he wrote. Clearly Fish not only purchased the photo, but also saved the letter, which is included in this lot.
Condition of photo and letter are superb, essentially near-mint. Measurements 4.125" x 6.375".
This very photo and letter were sold by a well-known Ohio auction house in 2006, where they fetched $19,550.
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