Two items personally owned by Buffalo Bill Cody, a Grizzly Bear Claw Necklace gifted by none other than Chief Sitting Bull and a Colt model 1873 Frontier Six Shooter Revolver, highlight Heritage Auctions
' Legends of the West Signature Auction. The two rare pieces of the American Wild West will be auctioned along with nearly 400 photographs, law badges and railroad memorabilia June 14 in Dallas, Texas.
The circa 1880s necklace is fashioned from 10 deadly grizzly bear claws, varying in length from 3" to 4-1/5" long, along with assorted beads, all strung together with animal sinew. Necklaces such as these could only be given between men and native lore claimed the wearer was protected by the grizzly's awesome strength. The necklace is expected to sell for $12,000+.
"The gift of this necklace from Sitting Bull to Buffalo Bill was an emblem of deep respect," said Tom Slater, Director of Americana Auctions at Heritage. "The bear claw necklace was a symbol of the bond these two frontier icons shared a unique bond unlike any other encountered in the settling of the American West."
Sitting Bull was with Buffalo Bill's Wild West just during 1885 but he and Cody formed a bond that lasted until Sitting Bull's murder in 1890. Sitting Bull made several gifts of significance to Buffalo Bill, and to Annie Oakley, too. However, in the case of this necklace, Cody told its story to his sister Julia, from whence the necklace descended in the family.
A second piece of memorabilia close to Cody's heart was his personally-owned Colt model 1873 Frontier Six Shooter Revolver, which is expected to sell for $30,000+. This is one of only five known Colt Single Action Army Revolvers, and the only Colt Frontier Six Shooter, documented to have belonged to Buffalo Bill Cody.
The circa 1882 revolver was like many of the unassuming utilitarian guns Cody relied on for everyday use. It's believed Cody purchased the revolver at the famous firearm seller Hartley & Graham in January 1883 while on extended stay in New York City with his theatre troupe. It is possible Cody used this as a prop sidearm in his stage plays, which continued touring during Fall and Winter until 1886, and in the Wild West which, of course, would go on for another 30 years.
"This revolver is one of the few Cody himself didn't give away," Slater said. "Cody's generosity was unmatched, much like that of the Indian leaders he so respected. Barely a handful of his unembellished handguns are known in public or private collections."
The auction holds one more special Cody relic: The "Key to the City" of Manchester, England. The key was bestowed in 1887 as Cody's Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show toured London and points north. The troupe first performed in London before Queen Victoria herself; she was so impressed with the performance that she paid him the ultimate compliment by bowing at his presentation of the Stars and Stripes. It marked the first time ever that a British monarch had acknowledged the American flag.
The troupe moved north for a five-month run and ordered the construction of a huge indoor arena near the Manchester racetrack large enough to accommodate more than 10,000 spectators. The complexity of preparation prevented announcement of the grand opening until the last moment. On opening day, the Mayor of Manchester and thousands of dignitaries gifted the showman the Key to the City.