As Autie, he was a boy loved and cherished by his family. But history remembers George Armstrong Custer as the former “boy general” whose rash decisions killed him and much of his Seventh Cavalry at the Battle of the Little Bighorn.
The catastrophe makes battle-related collectibles highly sought after.
A rarity hit the auction block this spring: an impressive set of signatures, coupled with photographs, of Seventh Cavalry officers who served under Custer. The set sold for an astounding $13,000 bid at Swann Galleries of New York City on April 29. Only one other set of this magnitude has surfaced (and it included Custer’s signature). That set sold for 23 percent less at a Butterfield and Butterfield auction in 1995.
Custer enthusiasts were also impressed with items that humanized him in this astounding collection once owned by Elizabeth Atwood Lawrence, a veterinarian who passed away in 2003 and was the foremost authority on Capt. Myles Keogh’s horse, Comanche. She was also the first female elected to the Little Bighorn Associates’ board of directors. In his obituary of Lawrence, Charles E. Merkel, Jr. recalled first meeting her when she was wearing one of Elizabeth Custer’s dresses. “I was in awe,” he wrote, “complimented her on the dress and that was the start of a thirty year friendship.”
Lawrence’s Custer collection also brings to life a teenage boy in love. And Custer’s Democratic leanings are evident in a letter discussing an 1872 Kentucky election for a presidential candidate to oppose the Republican nominees, Horace Greeley and Ulysses S. Grant; it sold for $7,000. Collectively, the lots fetched $58,050.