Yes, Sotheby’s in New York made headlines again today, with the sale of a 7th Cavalry standard (flag) that is one of the last remaining artifacts of the General Custer debacle at the 1863 Battle of Little Big Horn.
Including commissions, the standard sold for $2.2 million. As this story from the Detroit News points out, the cool thing about this sale is that the money goes to the Detroit Institute of the Arts. They’ve had the cavalry standard since it was given to them by a Detroit museum, who bought it in 1890 for $54.
Nowadays we know George Armstrong Custer as one of the many American heroes who was, in fact, a failure in his most famous battle.
Modern scholars seem to view Custer as a dope for his actions at Little Big Horn, and not simply because he got everybody on his team kilt, except for Comanche, the horse.
As hard as it is to believe, there have been times when American arrogance has led to an underestimation of the enemy, and Custer’s Last Stand sounds like one of those times.
Okay, but that’s not what’s interesting about this news story.
At the tail end of the story is the brief mention that one of the 48 existing copies of the Emancipation Proclamation, signed by President Abraham Lincoln, was sold for just under $3.4 million!
And, get this: it was purchased in 1964 by Robert F. Kennedy — for $9,500!