Flamboyant Klondike Gold Rush Print

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200. [KLONDIKE GOLD RUSH]. [CODY, Samuel Franklin]. The Klondyke Nugget. By S. F. Cody. Belfast: David Allen; also at London, Harrow, Manchester, Glasgow & Dublin, [ca. 1898]. Folio chromolithograph poster (image area 71 x 48 cm; overall 76.5 x 51 cm). Creased where formerly folded, minor chipping and tearing on left margin just touching image, verso moderately browned, but image on recto very fine and bright.

     The print consists of three vignettes at top showing S.F. Cody as George Exelby, Madam Lela Cody as Rosie, and Edward Leroy as Joe Smith. The remainder of the poster is taken up with nine vignettes, mostly illustrating scenes from the play. Included are “Come try the other side,” showing a young man tugging on an older man’s arm in front of a Klondike map; “‘Take em away,’” showing a drunkard playing cards while visions of serpents dance about his head; “Then she may accompany us; she will bring us good luck,” showing a camp scene with a woman surrounded by several figures; “No, he’s not, for there he stands,” showing a group of men with guns drawn standing behind a body prostrate in the snow, as the sun glows ominously in the background; “In camp,” showing a camp scene with various figures, wagons, and animals; and “On the trail,” showing a lone figure with his pack ascending a narrow, steep trail. The images are dominated by a central figure of Cody as George Exelby brooding over a map; a smaller vignette of an enormous gold nugget resting majestically on two tasseled pillows; and one entitled “Land of the Midnight Sun,” showing a standing figure outfitted in warm furs, holding a pick that rests on a chest, while a huge sun glows in the background, surrounding him like a halo. At the bottom a caption exclaims, “On The Summit of The Chilcoot Pass.” Overall, a busy, active composition seizing on the gold hysteria that gripped the public during the Klondike Gold Rush, 1896-1899. This play was the most successful of such British productions, being first performed on December 5, 1898.

     Supposedly a native of Birdville, Texas, Cody (1867-1913) was really from Davenport, Iowa, and born Franklin Samuel Cowdery, although he spun legends about himself, including an escape from an Indian attack, work on the Chisholm Trail, and a blood relationship to Wild Bill Cody. His true success started when he moved to England after working in Wild West shows in the U.S. Although the English shows he joined were shut down by Wild Bill’s lawyers, he returned from a tour through France to find some success as a showman and marksman. Eventually he became interested in aeronautics, first flying kites and then moving into actual airplanes. For more on Cody, see Handbook of Texas on Line: Samuel Franklin Cody. (See also lot 17 herein.)


Auction 23 Abstracts

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