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Carte de Visite of Cattle Queen Lizzie Johnson


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478.     [PHOTOGRAPHY]. [WILLIAMS, ELIZABETH ELLEN JOHNSON (sitter)]. HILLYER, H[amilton] B[iscoe] (photographer). Seated portrait of Lizzie Johnson, hair in ringlets, light colored well-tailored Victorian dress with lace collar, one hand resting on the side of the chair, the other hand in her lap holding glove, dangling earrings. Carte de visite (albumen print mounted on cardstock with printed red border), below image in contemporary ink: "Bessie"; verso with imprint: H.B. Hillyer, photographer, Austin, Texas Image: 9.5 x 5.8 cm; card: 10.8 x 6.5 cm. Austin, n.d. [ca. 1870]. Very fine aside from a few inconsequential spots to blank margins of card, light scuffing and a couple of tiny scratches to image. Later pencil notation on verso identifying subject. A rare and beautiful image of a legendary Texas lady.

     Elizabeth (“Lizzie”) Ellen Johnson Williams (1840-1924) was a prominent businesswoman in the late 19th and early 20th centuries in Texas. She appears to be in her twenties or early thirties in this portrait. See Handbook of Texas Online: Elizabeth Ellen Johnson Williams.

     Evelyn King, Women on the Cattle Trail and in the Roundup (Brazos Corral of the Westerners, 1983), pp. 1 & 6-7, remarks:

Men usually laugh and women often smile if the idea of women on the cattle trail is mentioned. And in an article published in 1971 on “The Frontier Myth and Southwestern Literature,” the author noted that in the frontier legend, “cowgirls did not ride up the Chisholm Trail.” In reality, some did…. A Texas woman, not fictional, who went up the Chisholm Trail with her cattle, was Elizabeth (Lizzie) Johnson Williams….

Williams, a writer, schoolteacher, and sometimes bookkeeper…was reported to have made thousands of dollars writing magazine articles, newspaper accounts, and stories for Frank Leslie’s Magazine. She was secretive about her writing, however, and never revealed her nom de plume to her family or friends. When her brand was recorded in Travis County in 1871, Lizzie Johnson was twenty-eight years old and not yet married. It is believed that she may have entered the cattle business as early as 1866 when hundreds of “brush-poppers” were rounding up the unbranded longhorns of southwest Texas for sale in the northern markets. According to those who knew her, she was shrewd enough to have taken advantage of this opportunity….

At the age of thirty-six, Lizzie married a preacher named Hezekiah G. Williams, and the two of them made several trips up the Chisholm Trail with their cattle between 1879 and 1889. Williams drank and was not a good business man, so Lizzie insisted that their businesses be run separately…. [They] traveled the Chisholm trail together, as husband and wife and as two independent cattlemen. They rode behind the herd and the chuck wagon in a sturdy buggy drawn by a team of strong horses. Although she was a great lover of silks and satins, Lizzie wore calicos and cottons with voluminous gathered skirts, many petticoats, a bonnet, and a grey shawl for the trip of the trail. Lizzie Johnson Williams was tall, stately and striking in appearance. When she and Hezekiah were in St. Louis for the winter, they stayed at the largest hotel, and she dressed in her luxurious silks, taffetas and velvets. She owned diamond and emerald jewelry valued than at about $10,000…. Lizzie Johnson Williams died at the age of eighty-one, having shown by her success that a women, given the same opportunity in time and place as men, had the same capability of building a financial empire from modest beginnings.

     Photographer Hamilton B. Hillyer (1835-1903) was based in Austin from about 1867 to 1887 and produced the earliest known stereo photographs of Austin in 1869. He was the official photographer for the state of Texas for many years, and also served as vice president of the National Photographic Association (Handbook of Texas Online: Hamilton Biscoe Hillyer).


Sold. Hammer: $1,000.00; Price Realized: $1,200.00

Auction 22 Abstracts

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