Western Cowboy Indian keywords
Samuel Anderson Robb.
Overall height: 84” (7 feet exactly)
Figure stands 61” tall on its “tree” base 12” x 13”
Trapezoidal base is 20.5” high and 20” square at bottom.
Wheels add 2.5” to overall height.
The great thing about this piece is that it is "in the black" (It has its original paint.) A professional cleaning would bring out more of the color but we will leave that up to the new owner. Indians with original painting are almost impossible to find these days.
Samuel Anderson Robb (1851–1928) was an American sculptor, best known for his carved wooden figures for tobacco shops and circus wagons.
Robb was born in New York City, the son of a Scottish shipwright. He apprenticed to a shipbuilder (probably Thomas V. Brooks) for five years, then went to work for a wood-carver, making figures for tobacco shops, and attending night classes at the National Academy of Design and Cooper Union. After his apprenticeship, he worked for William Demuth carving tobacco figures. In 1876 he married Emma Jane Pelham and opened his own carving shop. After Emma died in 1878, Robb married Agnes Loudon in 1881, with whom he had four children. He subsequently left his family, however, and had no communication with them for seventeen years, when he encountered Agnes on the street and the family was reunited.
Robb's workshop was the largest in nineteenth-century New York City. His carvings ranged from traditional cigar store Indians to circus wagons and ventriloquist dummies. He closed his workshop at 114 Centre Street in 1903, after completing a set of circus wagon carvings for Barnum & Bailey.
Cigar store Indian
The cigar store Indian or wooden Indian is an advertisement figure, in the likeness of a Native American, used to represent tobacconists. The figures are often three-dimensional wooden sculptures several feet tall – up to life-sized. They are still occasionally used for their original advertising purpose, but are more often seen as decorations or advertising collectibles, with some pieces selling for hundreds of thousands of dollars. People within the Native American community often view such likenesses as a caricature or as depictions that perpetuate stereotypes, drawing an analogy to the African-American lawn jockey.
Because of the general illiteracy of the populace, early store owners used descriptive emblems or figures to advertise their shops' wares; for example, barber poles advertise barber shops, show globes advertised apothecaries and the three gold balls represent pawn shops. American Indians and tobacco had always been associated because American Indians introduced tobacco to Europeans, and the depiction of native people on smoke-shop signs was almost inevitable. As early as the 17th century, European tobacconists used figures of American Indians to advertise their shops.
In 1667, King Charles II passed a law which forbade the use of overhead projecting signs because of the danger presented to passing traffic. A Highlander figure indicated the sale of Scottish snuff, and a Blackamoor figure that tobacco from the Caribbean was available.
Because European carvers had never seen a Native American, these early cigar-store "Indians" looked more like Africans with feathered headdresses and other fanciful, exotic features. These carvings were called "Black Boys" or "Virginians" in the trade. Eventually, the European cigar-store figure began to take on a more "authentic" yet highly stylized native visage, and by the time the smoke-shop figure arrived in the Americas in the late 18th century, it had become thoroughly "Indian."
The cigar store Indian became less common in the 20th century for a variety of reasons. Sidewalk-obstruction laws dating as far back as 1911 were one cause. Later issues included higher manufacturing costs, restrictions on tobacco advertising, and increased sensitivity towards depictions of Native Americans, all of which relegated the figures to museums and antique shops. Many also were destroyed during scrap drives for metal and wood during World War I and World War II. Cigar store figures are now viewed as folk art, and some models have become collector's items, drawing prices up to $500,000.
Surface, Surface, Surface
For collectors of Folk Art and early Americana, the value of similar objects can vary widely depending upon three fundamental characteristics:
An untouched original surface will convey a beautiful and telling aura that can never be replicated.
This is an excellent example of outstanding American Art and Americana blessed in this very way. Take a look by clicking the images provided.