Carved in the second half of the 19th century, she is from the
Brooks/Robb carving lineage. Since it is known that she stood out
front of a Cigar Store in Lansing, Michigan, it seemed most likely
that she was possibly the work of Thomas V. Brooks after
he moved from New York to Chicago in 1880.
HOWEVER, subsequent reseach over the years has
led me to dismiss that attribution.
The most beautiful girl, while being in the "New York style",
Does not seem to have some of the different characteristics
I now associate with Brooks' carvings.
Obviously she was created by one of the master carvers.
As with almost all 19th century wooden Indians, we may
never be able to definitively tell which "Artist in Wood"
created her. Maybe that is best lineage of all,
being a great representative example from one of the over
60 carvers that produced these figures in the 19th century.
Even by the time these two 19th century cabinet card photographs
were taken in Lansing, Michigan, she has already been through some
interesting changes. Obviously her right arm has become loose and
pivoted down from the original upraised position. Her original base
has been modified as her feet are now attached to two separate
boards rather than the original one piece bottom that would have
been part of the original piece of wood. She has a visable split in
the right upper torso, running below the fourth bead in her necklace.
Not only has she been repainted, but her original, what probably
would have been dark colored hair is now
This early real photo postcard provides the first visual evidence from
the 20th century. The sign above the door reads "SPRINGVILLE INN
BUILT 1840". Based on the style of the of the postcard, I am guessing
this photo dates around 1915. Standing on the porch, her arm has
been raised some, but is still pivoted down at an incorrect position.
The lower part of the base, shown in earlier photographs, is now
missing and her hair has been painted a much darker color.
In this picture from the September 1930 "Antiques Magazine" article
on the Dudley Waters Cigar Store Figure collection, it can be seen
that she has again undergone a few changes. Her arm has been
restored to the proper postition and her right shoulder shows more
repair alterations. What is probably qute a bit older damage can
also be seen. The plug of tobacco in her right hand has had a
piece of the end knocked off and her right index finger has been
damaged and repaired. The cigars in her left hand have been moved
down with a piece missing out of of the bottom.
Interesting to note that in the picture above, the MALE chief
is incorrectly identified as "a severe looking SQUAW".
In the 1930's, as part of the WPA project to get the country back to
work, artists were sent to different parts of the country to draw and
therefore document important American antiques. In a 1940's
newspaper article concerning the Dudley Waters' collection, it
mentions that "two men identified with a Federal art project spent
several days here a few years ago painting the figures in true color
and detail." Known as "The Index of American Design", there were
hundreds of drawings of Cigar Store Indians done during the project.
Most Cigar Store Figures represented have only ONE image. A few of
the more impressive figures have two images. However, this
outstanding Cigar Store princess merited an unprecidented FOUR
separate Index renderings. In a later book showing many of the
index drawings, "Treasury of American Design" by Clarence
Hornung, she is again recognized as being special and was the only
Cigar Store Figure image allotted a full color page!
Interesting to note that this most famous Index image of her
(shown above on the far left) was obviously drawn using the
same photograph from the 1930 newspaper article concerning
the Dudley Water's collection.
After his death, the Dudley Waters' collection was sold as reported
by a February 28, 1940 "Michigan Tradesman" newspaper article.
In this article, as previously noted, this princess was purchased
in 1929 by Mr. Waters. The article goes on to explain, that
"Henry Ford had manifested an interest in the Collection,
to augment a small group he has assembled at Greenfield
Villiage, but according to Mrs. Waters, no deal ensued,
since the motor magnate's interest was confined to a few
of the more representative specimens." This princess was
noted as one of the Figures Henry Ford had an interest in!
In this excellent book reproducing the Artists renditions from the
Index of American Design, This is the only Cigar Store Figure image
given a FULL PAGE in color!
HER Index of American Design image is borrowed for the first day
of issue cover celebrating the Wood Carving Cigar Store Figure US
Postal Folk Art stamp. October 1, 1986 was the First Day of Issue.
Here is the original artwork that Chris Calle created for the
1986 first day issue envelope shown above.
Even the Smithsonian recognized her as an exceptional
Cigar Store Indian and issued this postcard.
Her now popular Index image was even used for this hanging wall plaque.
Perhaps fueled by her increasing exposure, reproductions (FAKES)
began appearing on the market. Lower quality carvings, it is amusing
that the replicators not knowing any better, even copied different
damaged areas that are on the original! This is NOT an instance where
imitation is the sincerest form of flattery!!! In many cases these
pieces are 30 years old and have acquired some history. More people
are being fooled by them today than when they first started showing
up in the market place. There is only ONE true original 19th century Cigar
Store Indian known of this form, the others are reproductions!
Guernseys conducts the last significant public auctions of Cigar Store
Figures in the 20th century. In the best of the Guernseys auctions on
December 16, 1989, this princess steals the show. The first figure in
the auction, her full page picture is captioned by the following description.
INDIAN PRINCESS, CARVED WOOD, VERY EARLY PAINT. This Cigar Store
Indian is considered by many to be the most beautiful Indian in or
outside of any folk art museum, and is the only Indian allotted a
full color page in the definitive text by Clarence P. Hornung
Treasure of American Antiques: A Pictorial Survey of Popular
Folk Arts and Crafts, p. 32. This Princess is wearing typical
Indian costume, with feather headdress and girdle, and a fringed
buckskin tunic; she holds a plug of tobacco in her right hand, and
a bunch of cigars in her left hand. 64" tall.
When the hammer falls, she sells for $30,800.00. Setting the world
record auction price for a repainted, wooden, American Cigar Store
Indian princess. The most expensive Cigar Store Figure in the auction,
she incredibly brings almost THREE times the price of a small signed
Robb Chief with original paint! She even sells for more than an
outstanding Punch figure with an early surface!
Now this is how an authentic 19th century Cigar Store Figure
actually should look. Repainted numerous times, minor in use
repairs and a general overall look of correct age and exposure.
Well over a hundred years old, the original artistic quality of her
carving is still unmistakable. A rare combination of both history
and beauty, this "most beautiful" girl is truly deserving of her
place as an icon of American Cigar Store Figures.
photographs courtesy of Guernseys, Index of American Design, the
Michigan Tradesman, Antiques Magazine and Russell Barnes.
Do you have any interesting history on a
19th century Cigar Store Figure?
I would truly enjoy hearing about it
and/or viewing any images!