Lot 89

Rare 19th C. Crow Buffalo War Shield w/ Paperwork

Estimate: $25,000 - $30,000

Bid Increments

Price Bid Increment
$50 $10
$100 $25
$500 $50
$1,000 $100
$2,000 $250
$5,000 $500
$10,000 $1,000
$25,000 $2,500
$50,000 $5,000
$100,000 $10,000

This is an exceptional, rare and early, 19th Century Crow Buffalo hump polychrome painted war fighting shield accompanied with paperwork and scientific analysis, previously referred to as a “Pre-Pony” shield for hand-to-hand combat. The shield is documented as being incredibly similar in its iconography as the documented Humped Wolf Shield. The shield exhibits very thick Great American Bison buffalo hump rawhide with polychrome mineral pigment paint with a geometric and iconography image of a Bison / Buffalo effigy figure at the center. The shield likely dates to pre-Indian Wars to early-Indian Wars circa second to third quarter of the 19th Century (1800’s). The shield is accompanied by a PaleoResearch in-depth scientific analysis confirming early earth-based pigments as well as several signed letters of provenance and printed correspondence with ownership history and item history as well as the Thomaston Place Auction Galleries printed auction catalog where their experts found this to be a circa 1780-1800 “Pre-Pony” War Shield. The shield has arm and hand parfleche rawhide Bison / Buffalo hide straps and ties which Thomaston’s experts noted as, “RETAINING RAWHIDE STRAPS FOR WRIST AND FOREARM, POSSIBLY A UNIQUE INTACT EXAMPLE”. The shield along the front shows a green to yellow / red mineral pigment band or circle around the outside with black (natural dark brown) mineral pigment symbols bordering inside the ring. The center shows a black (natural dark brown) mineral pigment Bison / Buffalo and there are eight (four sets) pierced holes which hold the Indian tanned hide ties holding the parfleche rawhide arm bands. The back shows a heavy red band framing the border. The 2017 XRF analysis photographs show the straps not being present, possibly removed for examining or later added. One of the most historic and important shields currently on the public marked. Provenance: Purchased by Jack Fitterer of Seattle, WA from Jerry Leigh of Montana. Jack sold the shield to Jeb Taylor of Buffalo, Wyoming. Jeb Taylor wanted $50,000 for the shield at the time. Jack Fitterer asked Jerry Leigh to get the shield back for him, which he did and was later in Dennis L. Gahagen’s Boulder, Colorado collection. The shield was then sent to Thomaston Place Auction Galleries where it was hammered for $16,250 (w/ bp) in January 2022. (Includes signed letters to this affect as well as printed documented correspondence with Jack Fitterer. Comes with an XRF Elemental Analysis of the Painted Shield by Linda Scott Cummings and Matthew Coughlin with assistance from R.A. Varny; from the PaleoResearch Institute, INC. Golden Colorado in 2017 prepared for Jeb Taylor. Their in-depth research confirmed the paints to be original earth-based pigments; which would be consistent with the attributed age of circa 1780-1820 i.e. Fitterer. From the previous collection of Jack Fitterer of Seattle, Washington. Per a signed letter, Jack Fitterer had the shield tested by the University of California, San Diego circa 2000-2010 which pinpointed the shield as circa 1780-1820 Accompanied by a signed letter stating that the shield is of Crow origin; references Circles of Power, page 20, shield circa 1850 owned by Humped Wolf with this example being incredibly similar. See the circa 1870 Humped-Wolf / Full-Mouth Buffalo from the Apsáalooke (Crow) in the Minneapolis Institute of Art (MIA) collection which shows a black (natural dark brown) Buffalo Bison iconography at the center with nearly identical squiggly line with ball head on green to yellow red mineral pigment paint. Also see the Humped Wolf Shield in the Buffalo Culture Collection at the Buffalo Bill Center of the West NA.108.136 with the same Buffalo / Bison iconography and similar border. This example, with nearly identical iconography and earlier thick hump manufacture could possibly be from the same hand of an earlier age. The Humped Wolf Crow Shield is noted by Surrounded by Beaty Arts of Native America noted the iconography imagery on the front of the shield from Humped Wolf’s story of being wounded in battler in a blizzard and becoming lost he came upon a freshly killed buffalo and to protect himself crawled into the carcass; having a spiritual vision. The imagery is as such; the curved lines and dots represent the bullets or arrows the shield would repel, owl feathers attached in hopes of capturing the ability the owl has to see in the dark, the Bull Buffalo preparing himself for battle, the green band on its corner symbolizing spring, the time for warfare. They note there being three Humped Wolf Shield’; one in the MIA collection, another in the National Museum of the American Indian in New York and a third shield in a private collection. Thomaston Place further noted this Pre-Pony shield as differing from later war shields in both size and rigging, used in hand-to-hand ground combat, but this style being abandoned after the introduction of horseback fighting, and ultimately cavalry with firearms. The shield is accompanied with the provenance documentation folder and is in well preserved original condition measuring 16” diameter and approximately 7/8 to ¾ inch thick, one of the thickest early shields. It should also be noted that shields, such as this, were used in battle by Plains men for protection. The protection was mostly supplied by the power of the images appearing in its painted symbols on the surface, which came to the owner through a spiritual visionary experience which would have then been interpreted by the elders.