Wednesday, June 28, 2017
At home with the Custers
As another Lame Cherry exclusive in matter anti matter.
This is one of the rare posts which is for me. I no longer have any time to do anything in the things of me. I used to enjoy studying old photos for all they could reveal, and on a nasty cold windy rain day, in which my back hurts and I hurt, while posting something which you have read half a month ago, I happened upon the above photo again of George and Libby Custer.
I was puzzled by it, and took it apart, as it is from Fort Abraham Lincoln, modern Bismark North Dakota, and it is a glimpse of 1870's America, in what was considered appropriate for refined and cultured people to present themselves as.
It really is a beautiful portrait of Libby Custer's soul from the pretty wallpaper to how the room is decorated not to present herself, but her husband.
I begin in the upper left hand corner in things which puzzle me. The rack on the wall are deer antlers, but they are thin, and are not whitetail, so it appears these are a set of blacktail antlers from the northwest where there is no record of the General having visited.
It is his personal service trophy, and now that I think about it, maybe these are from the Black Hills where the deer are smaller and inferior to plains game. This would make sense.
The antlers carry his swords, apparently a hunting hat, a personal smaller portrait of General Phil Sheridan, a hunting horn for his dogs I suspect, two field glasses and I believe a canteen.
I am fascinated by the bookcase in it is hanging. I have never witnessed an item like this. It would seem to have to be well balanced or the books would be a problem. The books though are leather, of high quality and I wonder what they are in artistic volumes of antiquity of the classics.
The next artifact is the floor book case. It appears to be a functional stand, that folds, and is light, and seems to be the main purpose in transportation ease.
The books appear to be a large dictionary, and piles of maps in the under storage. Maps were the way of life in the west and that is what the Custer's had volumes of.
Of interest in this, is a map West of the Mississippi on the wall. This would be expensive as it is framed and on display. It is not known if the military provided such a map, but its prominence is a feature of the area which the General was in active command of in the Department of the Missouri and is frontier accent and quite decorative fitting.
Next is a close up of the Custer table. While it is functional in production decorative, it is once again a small desk which of course had to be transported by wagon. It features small momentos of what appears to be family portraits, with a most interesting lamp which appears pressurized perhaps.
The two sculptures are military quite poignant. They seem to regular army and not cavalry, but with great emotion in these bronzes.
This is a wide shot of Mr and Mrs Custer. It reveals the lathe work on the table legs, and the chair with an open lattice back. It makes me sad in Libby appears so aged from the girl she was.
The attire is a glimpse of cavalry and the Victorian fashion. I am always amazed in the bulk the women of that era wore in weight, and the heat it must have tortured them with in summer.
We now come to things more interesting to me, in the pronghorn antelope on the walls. They should be featured in a pronghorn is judged by its ears. A "good" set of horns is considered twice the ear length. These goats are almost 3 times the length of the ears. A double ear length would be in the 21 plus which is considered a record book trophy. These heads are absolutely fabulous, and considering the rainbow arc shooting rifles, with open sites the General used, and the wariness of the pronghorn, these are two heads to be most proud of and it is interesting in all the game the General collected, that it was these heads he actually mounted himself in taxidermy and kept.
The focal point of the room, framed by the pronghorns, are three portraits. The General, I suspect Libby in the center in a small portrait and General Phil Sheridan, who was a friend of the Custers.
Once again the center is a mule deer rack, which is symmetrical and well polished. It is not large though which again seems strange as mule deer have huge racks at times in the west.
Perched in the center is a snowy owl, an Arctic resident which migrates to the plains in low rabbit population years to die out of Canada. It is one of the best mounts I have ever witnessed in birds. The General did a splendid job.
This is a close up of the owl, and I like the familiarity of the framed photo of Libby I believe in the center, with things hung off the antlers. What I found most interesting is on display is a thermometer. A most scientific and rare thing in that period of time.
Lastly, is another unique presentation and a favorite, as in magnifying the photo I discovered, some thing of delight.
Yes Libby has elegant taste in heavy curtains perfectly presented, along with pretty little lamps perched atop the windows, but once again in the corner is a hanging case, but it is not books this time, but guns.
I have never witnessed this type of furniture, and it appears like a corner display in a quarter round. There are five pistols on display and four rifles.
These would be the General's hunting rifles and pistols. Conclusions are one would be his Remington Rolling Block in 50 70 which was stolen at the Little Big Horn and one of his pistols too.
The photo is deteriorated at the bottom, so it is not known how the rifles were kept in position and on display. It appears unlike modern cases, in these guns are opposite in position as what would be considered gravitational normal. There must be something holding the butt stock in place.
If only for a few hours in time, to visit this house in the 1870's to experience it and the Custers. My enjoyment for a few moments as I live in the future and think of the past.