Beginning his career as an apprentice to Thomas V. Brooks (1828-1895), who himself had studied under John L. Cromwell (1805-1873) (see lot 50), Samuel Anderson Robb rose to become perhaps the most prolific and accomplished of the New York carvers of shop figures. In 1876, after a later apprenticeship with William Demuth and a period of study at the National Academy of Design, Robb opened his own shop at 195 Canal Street. Eventually his shop turned out more than two hundred figures each year in addition to receiving large commissions for circus wagon sides and figures from Adam Forepaugh and Barnum, Bailey and Hutchinson.
Holding two tobacco boxes, one inscribed No 1 Smoke Best and the other CHOICE/ The PERFECT, as well as a bundle of cigars and a single rose, the present lot is one of the most popular models of cigar store princesses or maidens, reflecting the popular romantic conception of the ‘Noble Savage’. The addition of the rose appears after 1878, the year of Robb’s wife’s death and for whom he carved a monument featuring the flower complete with leaves and thorns. A similar figure, signed on the top front of the base board S. A. Robb, Carver, 195 Canal Street, N.Y., is in the collection of the New-York Historical Society (Frederick Fried, Artists in Wood (New York, 1970), pp. 196-198).
On the base, the inscription Frank Holz Cigars Tobacco Pipes 1839 Central Avenue is visible on three sides. Frank Holz was a cigar manufacturer operating in Dubuque, Iowa beginning in 1890. Between 1923 and 1937, the Dubuque City Directory lists his location as 1839 Central Avenue. It is likely that the figure was then acquired by Dudley E. Waters (1862-1931) (fig. 1), a Grand Rapids businessman who amassed one of the largest collections of cigar store Indians and was instrumental in saving many from obscurity. For more on his collection, see Lawrence F. Jessup, "The Tobacconists' Tribe of Treen," The Magazine Antiques (September 1930), pp. 232-235.