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October 26, 2007

A Respectable Transition for a Rowdy Cow Town
Very Rare Bird’s-Eye View of Abilene, Kansas

25. [BIRD’S-EYE VIEW]. MACMASTER, J. D. & COMPANY. Birdseye View of Abilene The Future Capital of Kansas [in image lower center below primary view] St. L. J. H. Ketcheson [center left of primary view] Compliments of J. D. MacMaster & Co. Real Estate and Loan Brokers Dealer in Ranches Farms Business and Suburban City Property California Orange Lands. Arkansas Timber Lands. Missouri Coal Lands and General Brokers in Real Estate Abilene Kansas F. J. Baker [below primary image] A general invitation is extended to correspond with J. D. MacMaster & Co. For Any Information Desired Pertaining to Kansas and the Great West Abilene Central Land Cos Property.... [13 views and 2 portraits surrounding image: J. H. Brady; Residence of Thomas Kirby, Esq.; Office of McMaster; New City Hall; St. Joseph’s Seminary; Residence of G. W. C. Rohrer; Abilene National Bank; Walnut Grove Stock Farm; L. B. Johns Carriage Works; Wild Bill’s Cabin; Residence of L. B. Johns; Residence of C. H. Lebold; Residence of Theo. Mosher; portraits and signatures of J. D. MacMaster and G. W. C. Rohrer below title block]. [St. Louis: J. H. Ketcheson for the J. D. MacMaster Real Estate Company, ca. 1895]. Lithograph bird’s-eye view printed in brown, neat line to neat line: 55.5 x 78.2 cm. Creased where formerly folded, slight browning at center, a few tiny losses along folds, upper blank margin chipped, overall very good, with early manuscript notations in blue crayon and red ink showing city sections, making comments about drainage, and showing proposed drainage culverts under railroad tracks.

            First edition? Not in Reps. In this highly detailed view of an expanding Abilene, the opportunities for the development of real estate capital are emphasized by the two real estate promoters (G. W. C. Rohrer and J. D. MacMaster) whose mustachioed portraits are prominently displayed at top center. To subtly emphasize the prospects, Rohrer’s grandiose residence is depicted in one of the vignettes. Numerous additions lacking structures are depicted, awaiting only the industry of the financier to transform them into substantial city developments. In some cases the agents’ names for the additions are listed on the map. Because they were so important to development at the time, numerous railroads are shown bisecting the area, including Rock Island Railroad; Chicago, Omaha & Southwestern Railroad; Chicago, Kansas & Nebraska Railroad; Chicago, Kansas & Western Railroad; Salina Branch of Chicago, Kansas & Western Railroad; Santa Fe Railroad; and Union Pacific Railroad. Some of the prominent structures shown in the vignettes are also identifiable on the view, including John’s Carriage Works to the west, and St. Joseph’s Seminary, which looms to the north in Kirby’s Addition. The view showing MacMaster’s office at the corners of Broadway and Second is particularly redolent of a busy, thriving metropolis.

            By the time of this view, Abilene’s reputation as a raw cow town had faded. About 1872 concerned citizens ended the practice of driving cattle from Texas to the area on the Chisholm Trail, and the cattle drives moved on to other towns. Shortly thereafter more respectable citizens arrived, such as Dwight Eisenhower’s parents. The city shown here is more reminiscent of a place where the young Eisenhower grew up than it is of cowboys, cows, and Wild Bill Hickok, who was sheriff for a short time. Hickok’s original residence is one of the vignettes, and Eisenhower’s boyhood home is shown in the block between Third and Fourth Streets and Kuney and Olive. The notorious “Texas Street,” the hangout of rowdy cowboys, is not even named on the map, although the street itself is shown. Apparently it became unmentionable in Abilene’s more proper phase.

            Lithographer John H. Ketcheson (d. 1912), a member of the St. Louis Typographical Union in Missouri, is listed on p. 184 of St. Louis 1899: The Greatest City in the West (St. Louis, Mo.: Mercantile Advancement Co., 1898-99). Ketcheson, a native of Canada, came to Kansas in 1867 and established a job printing office at Leavenworth. Among his publications of note were Carter’s Horses, Saddles and Bridles (Leavenworth, 1895) and The Kansas Home Cook-Book (Leavenworth, 1874), thought to be the first cookbook published in Kansas. During the Civil War he served in Company G, Eighth Illinois Cavalry, and was wounded the day after Lee’s surrender. Later he was General Superintendent of the Leavenworth Times and Conservative. Ketcheson is not noted by Reps. We found nothing on F. J. Baker (Ketcheson’s co-contributor to the iconography of this rare bird’s-eye view), nor the McMaster real estate firm (MacMaster and McMaster are used interchangeably on the print). ($2,000-4,000)

Sold. Hammer: $2,000.00; Price Realized: $2,350.00

Auction 21 Abstracts

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