June 22, 2018 10:00 AM EDT Cincinnati


Cody Family Cabinet Card and CDV Albums, 1860s-1890s, Including Wm. F. Cody Cabinet Card

Lot of 2 albums. First is a CDV album, approx. 6 x 9 in., with full leather covers with raised designs and gilt lettering, containing 65 CDVs and six tintypes (four sixth plate, one ninth plate, one gem-sized). A penciled index accompanies the portraits, but they do not seem to be in that order. Many are identified and dated on verso or the album page and most bear backmarks of studios in San Francisco and several other California towns, including the Gold Rush settlements of Coulterville, Sonora, Columbia, and Virginia City, Nevada, as well as a few from New York, and Connecticut. Dated 1861 to 1877; a few with revenue stamps on verso. Inscribed inside front cover, "Mary Collins Cody / N.L.A. Cody's first wife."

Nelson Lowell Adams Cody (1848-1927) was born in Lake County, IL to Nelson Towers Cody (1820-1896) and Susan B. Adams. His wives are listed as Mary Frances Collins, Anna Marie Nelson and Olive Lewis St. John. Some sources identify Nelson L. as the grandson of Isaac Cody, who is William Frederick Cody's father. However, that would mean that Nelson T. is Isaac's son, and most sources list his offspring as: Martha, Samuel, Julia, William, Eliza, Helen and May. No Nelson. Other sources indicate that the common ancestor is Philip (1729-1808), who with Abigail Emerson had Philip, Jr. (1770-1850), Joseph and John (John had a son Nathan, Joseph appears to have only had a daughter). Philip's (1770-1850) sons are listed as Isaac, Elias, Elijah, Joseph and Philip. Perhaps the Cody Family Association can clarify the relationship, but the albums, along with many others, ended up in the hands of a Buffalo Bill descendant, so we assume there is a connection.

Nelson Towers Cody and Martha A. Cody are listed in the 1850 census in Waukegan, Lake Co., IL. He was 30, she, 22, and Nelson L. was 3 years of age. Shortly thereafter, Nelson T. headed for California, at first joining the miners in Hangtown and Gilroy, then opening a general store in Horseshoe Bend to supply the miners. He gained the confidence of the miners, and they deposited their gold in his store safe. He moved several times, eventually adding dentistry and pharmaceuticals to his business (going to Stent, then known as Poverty Hill, then to Chinese Camp, Big Oak Flat, Coulterville, Seattle, WA, and finally back to Ventura, CA). He seems to have remained in the drug business for the remainder of his life, a profession taken up by his son, Nelson Lowell.

Nelson L.A. Cody grew up in the mining camps, then went to San Francisco to work in a wholesale stationery business, and later worked as a stenographer and clerk. After several more moves, he returned to San Francisco and sold subscriptions to periodicals and books, including Mark Twain's books. After his marriage to Mary Collins, his father split his stock with his son, and Nelson L. entered the drug business in Snelling, Merced Co. and added postmaster to his duties. After his wife died, he married Olive St. John, and moved to Oakland and later Vallejo. He met General Grant in San Francisco in 1879, and in 1884 went East on an extended visit, going to Europe in 1889, where he spent a year touring the major cities. He returned to California, locating in Merced, again engaged in the drug business. He gave up the store in 1920 for a ranch of just under 400 acres, but it was burned out just 4 years later.

Nelson married Anna Marie Nelson in 1899. She and a couple of other ladies of Merced started a lending library on the second floor of "Cody's Corner Drug Store." When it was "too successful" the 600 volumes were donated to Merced as the nucleus of a free library. Nelson Cody died in 1927, leaving his wife, Anna. 

Later album is 8.5 x 10.5 in., embossed leather with gilt lettering, containing 55 cdvs, three tintypes, and seven cabinet cards, including the portrait of William F. Cody by Stacy, Brooklyn. At one time, these photographs were labeled in pencil on the pages, but many are now empty. Two tintypes mounted on cdv-sized cards are labeled E.C. Bradford and Arta Cody, and many are of the Crook and Bradford families. Additional labels reference the "Holister Family and the Lydon (or Tydon?) Family," but individuals are not identified. 

Dr. J.J. Crook, one of the individuals who is identified (along with his wife, son, and daughter), was the owner of the hotel in Salt Creek Valley which Buffalo Bill's mother worked at after the death of Isaac Cody when William was only 11. Crook's son, Dr. W.W. Crook, appears in the album as well, and was the doctor who Buffalo Bill visited at Glenwood Springs, CO, just days before his death. Bill's sister, May, married a man named Ed Bradford. The section in the album labeled "Bradford Family," lists "Ed, May, Will, Nellie" in the corner, however there is no photograph. Nevertheless this grouping is clearly linked to William F. Cody's sister. Other members of the Bradford family include Sam and Frank, presumably Ed's brothers, but an ancestry search did not locate them.

Provenance:Descended directly in the family of William F. Buffalo Bill Cody


CDV album: One clasp missing. Album has sustained some water damage, but most of the photographs are fine. Binding is loose.

Larger album: Covers detached. Light toning of papers. Photos very good - the ones that are present.

Estimate: $800 - $1,200


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