Autographed Columbian Exposition Admission Ticket - 1893
An extremely rare autograph signed in pencil on the face of an original Admission Ticket to the 1893 Columbian Exposition (World’s Fair) in Chicago, Illinois. The careful, childlike cursive reveals an uncertain hand, since Rain-in-the-Face learned to write his name in English late in life. This autograph was obtained in person while Rain-in-the-Face was a participant in one of several “cultural villages” featured in the Exposition reflecting peoples from around the world.
The World’s Columbian Exposition (also called The Chicago World’s Fair), was held in Chicago in 1893, to celebrate the 400th anniversary of Christopher Columbus’s arrival in the New World. The fair had a profound and lasting effect on architecture, the arts, Chicago’s self-image, and American industrial optimism. The Exposition covered more than 600 acres, featuring nearly 200 new buildings of classical architecture, canals and lagoons, and people and cultures from around the world. Over 27 million people (equivalent to about half the U.S. population at the time) attended the Exposition during its six-month run. Its scale and grandeur far exceeded the other world fairs, and it became a symbol of then-emerging American Exceptionalism.
This remarkable historical artifact has been affixed onto a page of a large format (10″ x 12″) souvenir book of the 1893 World’s Fair, presented entirely in the German language, featuring detailed descriptions of the buildings, architecture, and exhibitions displayed throughout the Exposition. The particular page shown in the photos here, to which the ticket has been affixed, features “Sitting Bull’s Cabin”—the actual cabin the great Sioux chief died in. During the Exposition, according to the book “Dedicatory and opening ceremonies of the World’s Columbian exposition: historical and descriptive (Memorial Volume),”: “…Sitting Bull’s Cabin was filled with a number of Indians, including Rain-in-the-Face. War dances were given daily.” In the photo to the left, Rain-in-the-Face is the Indian figure standing without a hat, next to the fence. The entire souvenir book, approximately an inch thick, is included in this offering, providing further rock-solid provenance from the period itself.
Also affixed to the page is a curious period newspaper article describing a knife wound Rain-in-the-Face suffered at the hands of a vengeful Sioux squaw, noting the chief was near death at the time. The Admission Ticket was personally signed by Chief Rain-in-the-Face for Swiss businessman M. Grimmer, whose nephew noted enthusiastically on the page next to the autograph: “Signature of Chief ‘Rain in the Face’. He killed Gen. Custer at Little Big Horn. My uncle met this Indian personally at the 1893 World Fair!” A signed letter of provenance accompanies this outstanding item, furnished by the agent who acquired the memorabilia directly from the Grimmer family in Switzerland. We also obtained a beautiful, authentic Geronimo autograph from this same source, which recently sold at auction.
This is a truly historic, one-of-a-kind memento from one of the most feared and respected Native American warriors of the late 19th century, of which few authentic exemplars have survived. Rain-in-the-Face is among the rarest of Americana signatures, far more difficult to find than Geronimo or Sitting Bull. We know of only two other offerings that have been on the market in many years. A signed letter of provenance accompanies this outstanding item, furnished by the agent who acquired the memorabilia directly from the Grimmer family in Switzerland.
RAIN-IN-THE-FACE (also known as Ito-na-gaju or Exa-ma-gozua) (1835-1905) was a war chief of the Lakota Sioux tribe of Native Americans. He was among the Indian leaders who defeated General George Armstrong Custer and the U.S. 7th Cavalry Regiment at the 1876 Battle of Little Big Horn.
Born in the Dakota Territory near the forks of the Cheyenne River about 1835, Rain-in-the-Face was from the Hunkpapa band within the Lakota nation. He first fought against the whites in the summer of 1866 when he participated in a raid against Fort Totten in what is now North Dakota. In 1868, he again fought the U.S. Army in the Fetterman massacre near Fort Phil Kearny in present-day Montana. He again was on the warpath during the Black Hills War, leading a raid near the Tongue River in which two white civilians accompanying Custer’s cavalry were killed. He returned to the Standing Rock Reservation, but was captured by Custer after being betrayed by reservation Indians. He was taken to Fort Abraham Lincoln and incarcerated. However, he was freed by a sympathetic soldier and returned to the reservation, then fled to the Powder River. In the spring of 1876, he joined Sitting Bull and traveled with him to the Little Big Horn River in early June.
During the subsequent fighting on Custer Hill on June 25, Rain-in-the-Face is alleged to have cut the heart out of Thomas Custer, a feat that was popularized by American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow in The Revenge of Rain in the Face. According to legend, Tom Custer had unjustly imprisoned Rain-in-the-Face. Some contemporary accounts also claimed that the war chief had personally dispatched George Custer as well, but in the confused fighting, a number of similar claims have been attributed to other warriors. Late in his life, in a conversation with writer Charles Eastman, Rain-in-the-Face denied killing George Custer or mutilating Tom Custer.
Rain-in-the-Face died in his home at the Bullhead Station on the Standing Rock Reservation in North Dakota, reportedly after a lengthy illness.
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