I love finding images that are interesting to me. The price is not an issue – if it interests me, I’ll buy it, whether the price is fifteen cents or $1500. Well, I’ve not spent THAT much on an image yet… This is an example of something that was definitely in the lower end of that price range – it’s in horrible condition, but in some ways that poor condition says a lot more to me than something pristinely original. Call it patina if you will – every tear, wrinkle, crease and crack tells a story about the image. This one meant a lot to someone, as it certainly looks like it got carried around in a pocket for decades. I’m guessing one of the three brothers in the photo.
That wear and tear, although it devalues the image from a monetary standpoint, adds so much history to the image. For the record, it was less than $4. The thing that fuels an interest in these anonymous images is the narrative potential – not only the who and the why of the image itself, but when you look at something that’s had a life like this, the what happened to the image as well. Where did it go, what events did it participate in? I’ve just been reading a book about the end of the Comanche empire in the 1870s. Eventually the Comanches were confined to reservations in Oklahoma, along with a number of other Plains tribes and the so-called five “Civilized Tribes” forcibly displaced from their original homes in the south and east. Given that this is a cabinet card, I’d place it closer to 1900 than 1870, but the chronological and geographic proximity is nonetheless intriguing. This and a couple other images I have will likely go to the National Museum of the Native American if they’re interested.
The titular mystery to solve is, as always, the identity of the subjects. If anyone out there wants to take a crack at it, I’d love all the help I can get. I’ve scanned the reverse of the card, and have posted it below. I can make out what appears to be “R. Bald Eagle” on the upper left, and lower down I’m seeing fragments that say “..hegen… who…in…bead”. Also if anyone knows good scanning technique to try and further extract the text (written in pencil) I’m all ears, as that technique would be very handy down the road.