Published: June 11, 2019
When Captain James Cook (1728–1779) set off on his third and, unbeknownst to him, final journey, he was already a household name in England. The navigator is credited with exploring and charting much of the Pacific Ocean, including the first recorded European contact with the eastern coastline of Australia and the Hawaiian Islands and the first recorded circumnavigation of New Zealand. Cook was so well-liked that even Benjamin Franklin, in the midst of the bloody war for American independence, wrote the explorer an unsolicited safe conduct passport, saying that if any American warships came into contact with the explorer, they were to leave him alone. Franklin wrote, “…but that you treat the said Captain Cook and his people with all civility and kindness … as common friends to mankind.”
Even with broad support, this last journey aboard the Endeavor would not work out favorably for the explorer. The only American aboard the ship, John Ledyard, who was one of the earliest American-born explorers, kept a journal of the event. Cook had originally arrived to the Hawaiian islands in January, 1778, to trade for supplies before heading north along the American west coast and up to Alaska in search of the Northwest Passage, which was the main goal of his expedition. A year later and after an unsuccessful attempt at finding the passage, Cook returned to Hawaii to resupply. Relations with the native people broke down after Cook desecrated a native burial ground and his colleague Captain Clerke falsely accused the natives of stealing a jolly boat from the Resolution. The men left in peace and sailed out of the bay, but they were forced to return five days later after a hard gale damaged the mast of the Resolution. The natives had not forgotten and were now openly hostile, though not yet violent. In a bit of schoolyard justice, the natives then stole a jolly boat from one of the ships.
The morning of February 14, 1779, two days after he had moored in the bay, Cook made his way inland to the enclosure where the island’s ruling chief, Kalani’opu’u, was sleeping. He intended to hold the chief ransom for the return of the boat. They woke him and escorted him down to the beach, where the chief realized he was not being asked, but forced, to board their boat. He sat down and would not move. All of this was happening as thousands of islanders made their way down to the beach and began to surround Cook and his men. Altercation broke out as the island’s lesser chiefs came to defend Kalani’opu’u, ending with Cook fatally stabbed by the chief’s attendant with a metal dagger that the Europeans had traded the islanders in the very same trip.
Cook’s death was met with sorrow in England, which is no doubt why the sterling silver globe was made by London silversmith John Robins. It now approaches the block at Freeman’s in the single-owner sale of Victor Niederhoffer, a collector, hedge fund manager, champion squash player, bestselling author and statistician. The globe joins other top lots from around the United States in this week’s picks
Sale Date: June 19, 2019
A George III Sterling Silver Globe On Stand
“The Captain Cook Globe” by John Robins, London, 1781. In commemoration of Captain Cook’s last voyage from 1776–80, depicting Captain Cook’s southern route; marked on stand, 14 inches high, 72 ozt.
Sale Date: June 19, 2019
Eagle Console Table, United States Senate Chamber
Circa 1930, the rectangular top with satinwood parquetry with mahogany crossbanding. The trestle base with large fully-carved standing giltwood eagles joined to a parcel-gilt molded stretcher base. Purportedly made for the chamber of the United States Senate, 31 by 74 by 34 inches.
Sale Date: June 22, 2019
A Fine Northwest Coast Canoe Figure
Circa late Nineteenth Century, a Northwest Coast carved cedar figure of a seated man with his hands crossed at his lap. Green, yellow, blue and black pigment remains. The bottom of the figure indicates that it was once affixed to something else, and it is thought that this was perhaps a canoe ornament, 30 inches tall.
Sale Date: June 21, 2019
World War II Archive of Russell E. Gackenbach, Navigator of Necessary Evil
Lieutenant Russell E. Gackenbach, the last surviving crew member of the three strike planes that carried out the first wartime use of an atomic bomb in human history, including the only known non-government photograph of the mushroom cloud over Hiroshima that resides in private hands, 2½ by 3½ inches.
Sale Date: June 23, 2019
Charles Loupot (1892–1962), Nicolas Wine Poster
Printed by Les Belles Affiches, circa 1933. This is the only known copy of the complete poster with letters, 50-3/8 by 79½ inches.
Sale Date: June 22–23, 2019
William Jennings Bryan: Fantastic Googly-Eyes Dexterity Puzzle
Lithographed tin and celluloid dexterity game with portrait of Bryan, titled “The White House or Bust. Get Them in the Middle.” Copyrighted in 1908 by “Peerless I Club” of New York, 4½ by 7 inches.
Current Bid: $2,000
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