The auction Friday and Saturday of work by Pawhuska artist Jim Hamilton, along with various other items owned by the artist and members of his family, drew crowds to the old Bank of Commerce building in the 600 block of Kihekah Avenue. It may just have been one of the more interesting social and cultural occasions of the season.
Hamiton, a self-taught artist of the American West, died in 2000 at the age of 80 and much of his work that remained in family hands had been off the market for years. The auction Friday and Saturday gave those interested in his work in particular, as well as those interested in Western art generally, a chance to see and possibly buy items for their collections.
About three dozen people huddled in the air-conditioned cool of the former bank building at 623 Kihekah on what was a warm, sunny Friday afternoon outside. They bid on a range of objects ranging from high-quality signed books to stylish throws and quilts to miscellaneous household items like chairs and display cases and meat cleavers. Hamilton’s art went on sale the next evening.
“This is not three-acre stuff, it’s Foraker stuff,” Cody Garnett, owner of the Great Osage Auction & Trading Company, intoned Friday afternoon in his characteristically playful style. He was describing a throw that had images from the rural Osage County community of Foraker on it.
A good sign there were some keepers among the Hamilton family books was that Garrett Hartness, from the Osage County Historical Society Museum, was on-hand with Jerry Butterbaugh, chair of the Historical Society, bidding on various titles. One in particular was a 1948 wooden-bound copy of a cookbook titled “Authenticated American Indian Recipes,” by Alice Tinker. Garnett told them he had seen perhaps 20 copies of the cookbook in the past, but never one with the wooden covering.
Another book that drew the interest of the Historical Society delegation was a slim volume by engineer, inventor and car-racing enthusiast John Zink. There were two copies and the Historical Society bought both. The society operates a museum on Lynn Avenue in Pawhuska that features many items of local interest, and it also generates revenue in part by selling books.
Garnett said the Saturday evening auction of Hamilton’s art brought a packed house to the former bank building. He described the crowd as an “eclectic group” that included both the very wealthy and those at other points on the financial spectrum, and said some objects brought bids of several thousand dollars. The event brought out dealers and collectors, he said.