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    William F. "Doc" Carver: A Remarkable Mammoth Albumen Photo from the Estate of the Famed Sharpshooter and "Buffalo Bill" Cody Associate. Measuring approximately an incredible 23" x 25", in vintage triple mat with ornate cutouts, and probably dating from the 1870s. It depicts a youthful Carver in full beaded and quilled buckskin attire and holding his sharpshooter's rifle. Beautiful condition, with minor water stain in lower left-hand corner of the mat only, noted for accuracy.

    Raised in the Midwest, Carver settled in Fort McPherson, Nebraska to practice dentistry in 1872 (hence his lifetime nickname "Doc"). Apparently he had a natural talent for skills such as riding and sharpshooting, for by 1879 he had obtained enough such experience as to inspire Buffalo Bill Cody to write in his autobiography that Carver had "recently acquired considerable notoriety as a rifle shot." But he continued in the practice of dentistry through the 1870s, even as trick shooting occupied more and more of his time and attention. In 1877 he began issuing challenges to all comers to match him in shooting prowess, and in 1878 won a major award in a San Francisco competition. In later years, Carver would be famous for his spectacular saddle - completely covered in coins with bullet holes in the center - which he claimed to have shot out of the air. In 1882, his repeated challenges to world-renowned marksmen Captain Adam Henry Bogardus led to a series of 25 matches, 19 of which were won by "Doc" Carver, thus firmly establishing his international reputation.

    However, equal to his fame and significance as a marksman is his importance as Buffalo Bill Cody's first partner in a traveling "Wild West" show. Originally billed as the "Wild West: Hon. W. F. Cody and Dr. W. F. Carver's Rocky Mountain and Prairie Exhibition", the show debuted in Omaha on May 17, 1883. While the show proved an immediate hit, Carver and Cody had an embattled relationship as partners. At the end of the first season, a coin flip divided the assets of the show between the two, and both went on to promote their own independent Wild West extravaganzas. Lawsuits ensued over the use of the title "Wild West," and a bitter enmity developed which would persist for the rest of their lives. While Carver's career as a Wild West show impresario ended in 1893, he continued to give shooting exhibitions in both United States and Europe for some years. His last accomplishment was the development of the famed diving horse act which became a featured attraction at Atlantic City's Steel Pier until pressure from animal rights activists closed it down in the 1970s.

    This unique photo was part of a number of Doc Carver items obtained from the celebrity by Charles R. Nordin of Omaha, Nebraska, a retired cowboy who was a confidant of many of the famous figures of the old West. For a time he displayed many of his mementos in a Western Museum there, and developed a particularly close relationship with Carver, who spent his last years living with Nordin in Omaha. Upon Carver's death in 1927 his personal belongings passed to Nordin, whose collection was disbursed on his passing to several relatives. The photo offered here, as well as several other Carver items in this auction, went to his grandniece, from whom esteemed dealer Greg Martin purchased them in 1986.

    While "Doc" Carver did not achieve the iconic status of his one-time business partner, he remains a fascinating and important figure in the history of the popularization of Wild West mythology in American culture. With its dramatic display appeal and unique personal association, this mammoth photo presents an extremely important opportunity for the sophisticated collector of Western photography or memorabilia.


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    Auction Dates
    May, 2011
    21st Saturday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 4
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
    Page Views: 1,084

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