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    Transcontinental Railroad: An Historic Cane Celebrating its Completion in 1869, Made of Wood from the Same Tree as the Last Tie and the Same Gold Used To Case the "Golden Spike." This historic joining at Promontory Point on May 10, 1869, was one of the most ballyhooed events of the age. In both real and symbolic terms it signified the unity of the United States from coast to coast. A major ceremony took place at the scene, and a key player in that event was David Hewes, a prominent California businessman who was the brother-in-law of the wife of Leland Stanford, head of the central Pacific Railroad. Hewes donated the last tie of polished California laurel, as well as the famed "Golden Spike" which was driven to place the final rail. The tie was affixed with an 8" x 6" silver presentation plaque engraved with the names of the officers and directors of the railroad, as well as that of the maker and donor, David Hewes. After the ceremony the tie was brought to the railroad's shop in Sacramento where it remained until 1890, when it was taken to the Southern Pacific Railroad's corporate headquarters in San Francisco. It was destroyed in the fire following the 1906 earthquake.

    Hewes made a variety of souvenirs from leftover gold from the batch used to cast the "Golden Spike." Seven inscribed rings were made, one of which went to President Grant, another to Leland Stanford, and two to family members. He also cast seven miniature watch fobs in the form of the spike. Four have survived, one of which is displayed at the Buffalo Bill Museum, and another at the Golden Spike Museum. Several of these objects were given to the family of his sister Ruthe, who had married into the Abbott family. Until the comparatively recent discovery of the cane offered here, it was not known that Hewes had also ordered a cane, which was given to Ruthe's husband Ebenezer Tilden Abbot.

    It is impossible to overstate the significance of this cane, as the shaft represents the only surviving wood from the tree of the last tie! It was obtained by the present owner from the esteemed dealer Witherell's of Elk Grove, California, and is accompanied by extensive documentation and complete provenance.

    The handle is of walrus ivory, inscribed on the end with the initials "ETA" (For Ebenezer Tilden Abbot). A ring of gold, almost certainly from the same batch as the Golden Spike, is engraved "E. T. Abbott from D. Hewes / Made from the tree of the Last Tie - May 10, 1869." The tip is also of walrus ivory, and has one chip and crack. The shaft was once broken in half cleanly. The two pieces have been fitted back together nicely, but no restoration has ever been undertaken to conceal the unobtrusive break line. Length 35". Excellent condition with rich patina. A hairline crack in the underside of the handle is noted for accuracy.

    David Hewes was born into one of the "old families" of California. Educated at Yale, he immediately immersed himself in business in California. In 1850 he set up a general merchandise store in Sacramento, but floods and fires in 1852 and 1853 devastated his business, leaving Hewes with few resources. Seeing San Francisco as the up-and-coming metropolis on the Pacific coast, he relocated there and began a small-scale business of earthmoving, as the city was leveling sand dunes and filling streets. This company was the first to employ steam shovels there, and built the first steam locomotive on the Pacific coast. His enterprise grew to include reclaiming the harbor, which was blocked by hundreds of abandoned ships from the Gold Rush era, and to build up much of the area where the business district of San Francisco is now located. Known as the "maker of San Francisco," he amassed and lost several fortunes. He is also remembered for initiating one of the first large citrus farms in Orange County in Southern California. Hewes died at the ripe old age of 93 in 1915. His extensive art collection was bequeathed to Stanford University.

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    June, 2012
    10th Sunday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 3
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
    Page Views: 3,571

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