GERONIMO, WARRIOR HERO AND SYMBOL OF STRUGGLE FOR FREEDOM
C.S. Fly; photo of Geronimo's surrender; "Council ... General Crook & Geronimo" sold for $7,050. Photo courtesy of Skinner Auctioneers.
After a lifetime of warfare, the Apache chieftain Geronimo could be found at the St. Louis World’s Fair in 1904 selling autograph photos of himself and riding the Ferris wheel.
After years of broken promises, Geronimo rode into the history books full of contradictions and fading hope.
“I want to go back to my old home (Arizona) before I die,” Geronimo said in 1908. “Tired of fight and want to rest. Want to go back to the mountains again.”
That never happened. In 1909, Geronimo died a prisoner on the reservation at Fort Sill, Okla. He was about 85.
A key turning point for Geronimo and the U.S. Army happened in 1886. After yielding to federal troops, Geronimo surrendered to General George Crook. The event was immortalized on film.
“Once I moved like the wind. Now I surrender to you and that is all,” Geronimo reportedly said to Crook.
But the old warrior had one last surprise in store. After receiving reports the army planned to hang him and his followers, Geronimo’s group disappeared later that night into the drizzling rain.
As a result of the incident, Crook resigned his command and a huge manhunt for Geronimo was underway. Not long after, Geronimo surrendered once-and-for-all.
To the Apache, Geronimo represented an unstoppable fighting spirit. To the non-Indian, he was pictured as a bloodthirsty savage. Hundreds of Wild West adventure novels were written after Geronimo’s death portraying him as a demon.
Some had a hard time believing the stories.
In the end, Geronimo’s struggle to resist the white man’s domination and keep him from invading his homeland turned the warrior into a hero. A symbol of the universal struggle for freedom and fair play.
Photographs of legendary characters like Geronimo became popular during the era and stereoview cards (two photographs mounted side-by-side on heavy cardboard) and picture postcards provided a reasonably accurate portrayal.
Photographers like Mathew Brady, and C.S. Fly recorded the changes taking place in the American West. Fly’s subjects included Bat Masterson, Wyatt Earp and Geronimo.
Nowadays, collectors love these early photographs and they have become an art form. The demand has led to reprints of vintage photos and many aren’t identified as such. The quality in reprints is often poor, a giveaway.
The value of an old picture depends on the photographer, age, condition, and subject matter. Photos of Geronimo are important because they provide a clear record of a key figure in American history.
On May 11, Skinner Auctioneers in Bolton, Mass., featured a selection of Geronimo cabinet card photos (photo mounted on cardboard) in its American Indian and Ethnographic art auction. Here are some current values.
Geronimo cabinet card photos
C.S. Fly; members of Geronimo’s band at his camp; 7½ inches by 4½ inches; $3,290.
C.S. Fly; photograph of “Geronimo and Natches Prisoners at Fort Bowie,” 7 3/8 inches by 4¾ inches; $4,700.
C.S. Fly; photo of Geronimo and three Apache warriors; 7½ inches by 4½ inches; $4,994.
C.S. Fly; group photo of Geronimo and Natches mounted, Geronimo’s son, woman and child; (taken at the request of Geronimo); 7½ inches by 4½ inches; $4,994.
C.S. Fly; photo of captive white boy in Geronimo’s Sierra Madre camp in mountains of Mexico; 7½ inches by 4½ inches; $6,463.
C.S. Fly; photo of Geronimo’s surrender; labeled “Council between General Crook and Geronimo;” 7 3/8 inches by 4 inches; $7,050.
C.S. Fly; different photo of Geronimo’s surrender; 7½ inches by 4½ inches; $7,344.
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