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    Description

    Unique Arizona Territory Cloth Note

    Mesilla, AT- C.O. Brown 25¢
    A magnificent western item of museum quality. This note, printed on cloth, is utterly unique, and without peer as a memento of a turbulent chapter in the history of the American west. Its issuer, Charles O. Brown, was a New Yorker lured to California by the 1849 gold discovery. Brown soon discovered that there was more money to be made in outlawry than gold panning. He soon joined the notorious band led by John Glanton, headquartered in the Mexican state of Chihuahua, which specialized in robbery along with the gathering of Apache scalps, for which they were paid $150 a head (literally) by the Mexican government. When the band expanded their scalp trade to include other Indian tribes and then Indian women and children, and then the scalps of such Mexicans as they could waylay, they were forced to flee Mexico. Subsequently, Brown and the Glanton gang gained sole control of the ferry business over the Colorado River, forcing the Yuma Indians who formerly ran the business to flee for their lives, and raising drayage fees for those poor immigrants to California who chanced to cross the river to extortionate levels. Within months, the Yumas struck back, slaughtering some 25 members of the gang and sending the few survivors, including Brown, fleeing into the desert.
    Brown found his way to early Tucson, where he opened a gambling house and saloon, his business no doubt enhanced by his reputation as "a dead shot with several notches on his gun." When the Civil War broke out, Tucson was part of the New Mexico Territory, and was occupied by Confederate forces commanded by Col. John R. Baylor of the 2nd Texas Mounted Rifles, CSA. Within months a force loyal to the Union was assembled in California, and this force, the California Column, made up of regular U.S. Army artillery along with the combined companies of the California Infantry and Volunteers, marched on Tucson, causing the Confederates to flee the city. Brown, ever the opportunist, remained behind, and prospered mightily under the newly declared martial law, as, for a reported payment of $500 per month to the newly installed Union military commander, Lt. Col. J.R. West, he obtained a monopoly for his saloon and gambling establishment.
    When the California Column pursued the Confederates to Mesilla, NM Territory, and drove them out, Brown followed, and set up a similar liquor/gambling monopoly in that community. When the army set up shop in Mesilla, there was literally no money in circulation, with even the Army subsisting on credit, and the only medium of exchange the so-called "rag money' issued by Brown. Once the California Column was firmly ensconced in Mesilla, and with the Territory under martial law, New Mexico Territory was divided, with its lower half, that land lying south of the 32nd parallel, becoming part of the newly inaugurated Territory of Arizona, hence the Arizona Territorial designation on this note.
    Now married to a prominent Mexican woman, Brown returned to Tucson in 1864-65, where he further prospered in his now quasi-respectable saloon and gambling house. He introduced the first sewing machine and the first baby carriage into the Territory. In 1867-68, Brown built the Congress Hall Saloon, which was large enough and fancy enough to house the first Territorial legislature. Brown died in Tucson in the early 1900's, having made and later squandered a fortune.
    This 1862-63 note, uniface and printed on cloth, is unique. It is the plate note in Hal Birt's book, Arizona Tokens and Scrip, to which your cataloguer in indebted for the research published here, and is pictured on the back cover of Hal Dunn's Catalog of Western Good For Trade Mirrors. It grades a problem free Extremely Fine, with a total lack of any fading or fraying, and it bears the signatures of both Brown and Lt. B. Wardwell, who served in California Column 2 and was later appointed United States Assessor in 1864 and Post Trader at Fort Craig, NM in 1865.
    As with any item in numismatics which is unique, comparisons are difficult, if not impossible. Last year, a badly worn, tattered and fragmentary piece of Arizona Territory paper scrip (of which multiple denominations are known) realized well over $4,000 in a New York auction. This cloth example, unique and multiple grades higher, can scarcely be compared. If rarity and desirability are any guide, expect this wonderful note to easily reach and very likely exceed our conservative estimate of...


    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    January, 2002
    10th-12th Thursday-Saturday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 7
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
    Page Views: 215
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