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Very Rare Image of Cattle Baron Shanghai Pierce

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469. [PHOTOGRAPHY]. [PIERCE, ABEL HEAD (“SHANGHAI”) (sitter)]. CARLISLE’S PHOTOGRAPH GALLERY AND FRAME STORE (photographer). Seated portrait of Shanghai Pierce with mustache and beard, holding hat. Carte de visite (albumen print mounted on card with photographer’s imprint on verso). Image: 8.9 x 5.5 cm; card: 9.8 x 6 cm. Pencil inscription on verso: “A.H. Pierce.” Accompanied by later copy negative of CDV and envelope with typed provenance information: “Original photograph of A.H. (Shanghai) Pierce given to me by his niece, Mizz Nannie Pybus at Palacios, Texas about 1939.” Fall River, Massachusetts, [ca. 1865, on Civil War-era card stock]. Image and card foxed, 2 small chips to top blank corners of card, otherwise good to very good condition.

     Handbook of Texas Online: Abel Head (Shanghai) Pierce:

Abel Head (Shanghai) Pierce (1834-1900), cattle raiser, the son of Jonathan and Hanna (Head) Pierce, was born on June 29, 1834, at Little Compton, Rhode Island…. In June 1854 young Pierce stowed away on a schooner bound for Indianola, Texas. Discovered, he was put to work handling cargo. He landed first at Indianola and then at Port Lavaca where he met Richard Grimes and went to work on the Grimes ranch splitting rails. Pierce soon began to acquire his own cattle which he registered and branded AP. He served in Augustus C. Buchel’s Confederate cavalry during the Civil War, returned to find his holdings evaporated, but continued in the cattle business, branding on the open range….

After some difficulties in Matagorda County and the death of his wife and infant son, Pierce converted his cattle into gold and went to Kansas for an eighteen-month stay. Back in Texas, he began buying land until he acquired 250,000 acres and formed the Pierce-Sullivan Pasture Company of which he was president. The company sent thousands of cattle up the northern trails and shipped thousands by rail. In his efforts to solve the mystery of Texas fever, Pierce experimented in removing ticks and concluded that the ticks caused the fever. He toured Europe in search of a breed of cattle immune to ticks, and returned without a definite solution but with the conviction that Brahman cattle were most likely to be immune. In the early 1890s he commissioned sculptor Frank Teich to create a marble statue of himself. A 6’5" likeness was eventually placed atop a ten-foot granite pilaster which was itself mounted on a ten-foot piece of gray granite. The structure later marked his grave…. After his death the Pierce estate imported Brahman cattle from India which furnished Texas with the base stock from which large herds of Brahmans have grown.

Thrapp (Encyclopedia of Frontier Biography, III, pp. 1143-1144) in his biography of Shanghai adds some interesting color, such as this theory of how the cattleman acquired the nickname Shanghai: “One version has it that the large spurs he ordered ‘made him look like a Shanghai rooster,’ whatever a Shanghai rooster looked like.” In regard to the extravagant sculpture Shanghai had made for himself, Thrapp states that when asked why Pierce had done that, Shanghai is said to have replied: “I knew damned well if I didn’t do it, no one else would.” See Item 176 herein for Emmett’s biography of Shanghai Pierce.


Sold. Hammer: $1,700.00; Price Realized: $2,040.00

Auction 22 Abstracts

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