tv Maria Bartiromos Wall Street FOX Business November 10, 2019 7:00am-7:30am EST
every weekend starts smart with me, >> the victors in the battle of little bighorn welcome an outsider into their ranks. >> once they trusted him, they would share things with him. >> he paints their portraits and gets the inside scoop on custer's last stand. >> white cow bull was the sioux warrior that shot at the officer. >> his life's work becomes this woman's strange inheritance. she's convinced it's worth millions, but will anyone buy it? >> was he an artist or just someone who documented a side of history? [ door creaks ] [ wind howls ] [ thunder rumbles ] [ bird caws ]
i'm jamie colby, and today i'm just outside great falls, montana, known for its wide prairies and stunning waterfalls, but it's also steeped in native american history. and that's the connection between montana and its native american culture that's brought me here to learn about a strange inheritance and its unusual odyssey from right here to hollywood and back again. >> my name is sandi solomon, and, in 2006, my dear friend passed away and left me the entire estate. and the inheritance is an obligation. >> sandi's talking about a huge collection of paintings, drawings, photographs, and historic artifacts that she inherited from the estate of hollywood technical advisor and artist david humphreys miller. >> all of these are my people, my relatives, my dearest
friends. >> miller's people and the subject of his artwork are the survivors of the most famous indian battle of all time -- the battle of little bighorn in june 1876... [ gunshots ] where colonel george armstrong custer and all his men were slaughtered. i've come to montana, the state where the battle took place, to learn more about miller and the strange inheritance he left behind. brad hamlett is a gallery owner and fifth-generation montanan, who, as you'll see, stumbled into his own stake in this strange inheritance. >> the life work of david humphreys miller was to find and paint the survivors of the battle of the little bighorn. >> david miller is born in 1918 and raised in van wert, ohio. his parents are both artists,
and they teach him to paint, too. at 16, david becomes obsessed with history -- in particular, the battle of little bighorn. he goes to his parents with an unusual request -- allow him to travel alone to the western plains and search out the native american survivors of the battle. david really went on a very unique journey, didn't he? why do you think he did it? >> he just believed that some of these people were still alive and that maybe he could talk to them. >> his parents trusted him, and david had to promise that, when it was time to come home and go to school, he would. >> in 1935, with his parents' plymouth coupe and $100, david heads to south dakota, home to the sioux and blackfoot indians, such as those seen in this rare film footage from the era. >> this is the first photo. you can see how young he was. >> but he has his sketch pad and his pencils, and he's drawing away.
why do you think they trusted him? >> he was a very loving individual, and i think he just slipped right into their lifestyle. >> miller came at the right time, and he was young. they knew he wasn't working for the government. and because of that, he earned their trust. and once they trusted him, they would share things with him. >> this is white cow bull. he's a very famous indian, and they were friends. >> one day, while sketching joseph white cow bull, the elderly indian warrior starts talking about the famous battle fought six decades before and recounts seeing the man the indians called "longhair." he describes him as wearing a white buckskin jacket, the one that custer famously wore, and leading the charge. then white bull begins to tell david his secret -- that his shot may have changed the battle.
>> the officer in buckskins fell into the little bighorn, and they retrieved him and then turned around and went up the hill, and that seemed to change the whole tide of the battle from an attack to a retreat. >> did this young artist solve a 60-year-old mystery -- who killed custer? from 1936 to 1941, david travels back and forth between south dakota and ohio. he learns 13 tribal languages and is adopted by a sioux warrior. he draws dozens of sketches and paints oil portraits of indians from numerous tribes. many of these indians confirm white bull's story. >> you have to understand this is the indian side of the story, what they said happened that day. and i think you better pay attention to it because they were there. >> for the young david miller, his journey of discovery is a rite of passage,
what the indians might call a "vision quest." it certainly set him on a unique career path. after serving in world war ii, david heads to hollywood. studios are churning out westerns like there's no tomorrow. david establishes himself as a leading consultant to directors looking to cast native americans in their films. david works on dozens of westerns, including "tomahawk," "how the west was won," and "cheyenne autumn." he also works on the tv series "daniel boone." an entertainment reporter named jan boheme writes a profile on david. they fall in love and marry. she gets him to write a book drawing on his experience. "custer's fall" tells the indian side of the story. in the 1970s, david and jan move to rancho santa fe, north of san diego. that's where they meet sandi solomon and become good friends. tell me what it was like to walk
into their home with all of david's work everywhere. >> i've seen people walk in the front door and tears start down their eyes. people just were absolutely captured by that wall. >> the wall features 72 of david's many paintings and drawings of indian warriors from the battle of little bighorn. in 1990, david is diagnosed with lung cancer and dies two years later. his ashes are scattered on mount coolidge, in the black hills of south dakota, where he first met the indian warriors. sandi helps her friend jan sort through his estate -- a mind-boggling collection of paintings, sketches, photos, and also century-old drums, headdresses, and other artifacts. in 2003, jan, who has no children of her own, tells sandi that, when the time comes, she wants to leave the entire estate to her. but the bequest came with one
condition, sandi says -- she must protect david's legacy. >> there was no one else to do it, and i felt that there was a mission, you know, there was an obligation. >> three years later, that time comes, and sandi is in for a big surprise. >> i wasn't allowed in. by then, jan was gone. >> that's next. >> but first, our "strange inheritance" quiz question. which of these western films grossed highest at the box office? is it the 2010 remake "true grit," the 1990 movie "dances with wolves," or the 2011 animated feature "rango"? the answer in a moment. i am the twisting thundercloud. i am royalty of racing, i am alfa romeo.
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three years pass. in january 2006, sandi gets a troubling call from jan's caregiver. >> she had died in her sleep the night before. i was told that the sheriff had been there and that they'd locked the doors. >> the county of san diego says jan died without a valid will. it takes a year, but a court finally rules that sandi is jan's legal heir. she spends months sorting through david's artwork, photographs, and artifacts and clearing it all out of the house, which she sells for $1.9 million in what turns out to be the nick of time. >> firefighters have been working furiously to knock this... >> soon after the sale, a wildfire sweeps through the area and burns the house to the ground. if she hadn't moved quickly, the entire collection could've been lost to the flames. >> these were in an album that david had in his desk
that he looked at all the time, and nobody really knew that that album was there. and... >> how did you know? >> jan had shown it to me. >> how much did you think your inheritance was worth? >> i absolutely had no idea because things hadn't been valued, and, of course, the artifacts can't be sold. they have to be donated because they have eagle feathers on them, even though they're over a hundred years old. you can't sell anything with an eagle feather. >> but sandi believes miller's art has significant worth, and she's flabbergasted when a probate court appraiser says otherwise. so, what did they come back and tell you? >> they told me that it was worth $20,000 -- the entire collection. >> on what basis? >> they didn't believe there was any value to the artwork. they were more interested in silver and pots and pans. >> no value to the artwork? sandi makes it her quest to prove the appraisal is wrong. >> and i kept saying
to everyone, "but you have to see this. you have to see this." >> in 2007, she's put in touch with a montana rancher, state senator, and gallery owne- brad hamlett. how did you find out about this collection? >> well, i got a call from a friend, and he mentioned david humphreys miller. yeah, i remember that name because i had actually read that book, and i thought it did a lot to resolve what really happened at the battle of little bighorn. and i was even more intrigued when i found out that there was all these sketches and painting that he'd done from life of these indians. he caught their soul. he caught a moment in time that nobody else was bothering to do, and that's one of the reasons it's valuable. >> brad and sandi start working with a new appraiser, barbara stone, a former museum curator who started her own art-consulting firm in denver. she declares the miller collection is worth a heck of a lot more
than $20,000. and your value would be? >> $3,500,000. >> that and the story of one little girl trying to get our attention in that rare film footage next on "strange inheritance." >> here's another quiz question for you. which movie star never acted in a hollywood western -- cary grant, sharon stone, or frank sinatra? the answer in a moment. look. only one thing's more exciting than getting a lexus... ahhhh! giving one. the lexus december to rembember sales event lease the 2020 nx 300 for $329 a month for 27 months. experience amazing at your lexus dealer. liberty mutual customizes your car insurance, for $329 a month for 27 months. hmm. exactly.
and another's next to nothing? that question hangs over this strange inheritance, which includes portraits of indians from the battle of little bighorn, sketched and painted by david humphreys miller. when a california court values his entire collection at only $20,000, heir sandi solomon launches a quest to prove them wrong. along the way, montana gallery owner brad hamlett takes up her cause. hey. how are you, brad? >> welcome to wrangler gallery. >> brad has framed the entire collection and put it on display in his gallery. >> so, you've made your own investment -- not just your time, but also in the frames. how much was that? >> cost is roughly about $50,000, but i felt we had to do it to show the value of it. >> you're now financially invested in it, as well as emotionally. >> there'll never be another collection like this come on the market that's photographs, artwork,
artifacts, research notes. >> for the descendants of those who survived the battle of little bighorn, the collection provides a direct link to their past. here's a fleeting shot of a little girl prancing around in the background of this footage of the indians shot in the late 1920s. hi, gertie. >> hello. >> and here is that little girl now. thank you for coming by. i wanted to show you something. 90-year-old gertie heavy runner of the blackfoot nation. as she walks through the exhibit, she recognizes the elders from her own childhood. >> this man here i want to talk you about -- juniper. >> juniper old person. >> juniper old person, he was very prominent man on our reservation where i grew up. he was an indian judge. and he took care of all the children, and anytime nobody didn't keep the curfew, you had to go see judge old person. >> uh-oh. >> so, he was very strict.
>> without david, we wouldn't have the native american side of this story. >> should that come into play in appraising sandi solomon's strange inheritance? "yes," says art appraiser barbara stone. was he an artist or just someone who documented a side of history? >> he's an artist, absolutely. when you can produce something like this with your hands, that's an artist. >> so, who's interested in a collection like this? >> this should go to a university, a museum that can share it with the american public. >> why? >> because of the historic background. because he has captured the essence of the individual. >> which sounds descriptively like they're very nice pictures of people who were interesting, but how do you go about your appraisal? >> well, when you look at a painting, you're going to look at uniqueness. this is one of a kind.
it's not a reproduction. >> okay, well, i do see it's signed with the year 1939. >> right. >> this must be the name of the subject, possibly his signature? >> it is, which is rare. >> as someone who studies and evaluates and appraises native american art, were you very excited about this collection? >> yes, i was excited. but when you start doing the appraisal, you must be objective. it doesn't matter if i love this piece. how much is it worth? >> keep in mind, the court appraiser in california dismissed miller's art as nearly worthless when it valued the total collection at $20,000. and your value would be? >> $3,500,000. >> but once someone hears that there was another appraisal for less, they'll question which one is right. >> they might. what you have to have, though, is not just a straight appraiser. you have to have somebody who knows the material.
and that's one of my fields -- native american. >> $3.5 million would suggest each painting might be worth tens of thousands of dollars. if that's true, it's great news for sandi solomon. which one do you think is correct -- $20,000 or $3.5 million or something in the middle, sandi? >> i think it's priceless. so, you know, give me an offer. [ laughs ] >> but will she get one? that's next on "strange inheritance." ♪ do you recall, not long ago ♪ we would walk on the sidewalk ♪ ♪ all around the wind blows ♪ we would only hold on to let go ♪ ♪ blow a kiss into the sun ♪ we need someone to lean on ♪ blow a kiss into the sun ♪ we needed somebody to lean on ♪ ♪ ♪
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with an expertise in western art pegs the value of this strange inheritance at $3.5 million. and seven years later, even though there have been no takers, barbara stone stands by her estimate. so, who's right? why hasn't the collection sold? >> number one, the desire that it all stays together, and that puts limits on it. >> she's giving up getting some money for it by selling it off piecemeal. was that a good decision? >> well, yes, because she was very good friends with the millers, and she is simply acting for them. they would've wanted it all to go one place. >> montana gallery owner brad hamlett does try to market the collection to museums and universities to no avail. >> museums have no money. we need to find an individual that will purchase the collection, and then they can gift it, and there it will be for everybody to look at
in the future. >> you think that the beneficiary of this collection will get their price? >> i think they will. they have to hold fast. >> and maybe for a while longer. "so be it," says sandi solomon, who insists the real bottom line of her strange inheritance has less to do with money than an obligation to honor david humphreys miller's legacy. that's the promise she says she made to his widow, her benefactor jan miller, and it's a promise she vows to fulfill. what do you think she's saying to you? >> she's telling me just to keep going, keep on keeping on. >> there are many questions about the battle of little bighorn that may never be answered. even the slightest details were hotly debated from the start. let me give you an example -- david miller's native american sources. they all agreed the battle started at noon, with the sun directly overhead,
but official military accounts said it started around 3:00 p.m. that's a three-hour discrepancy. miller did some research, and he figured out the problem back in 1876 was there still no uniform time zones across the u.s. cities and states. they all had different time standards. so even though the 7th cavalry was 1,500 miles west of chicago, it was fighting the battle of little bighorn on chicago time. one detail that is agreed on is that the battle was quick and it was bloody, taking such little time that one native american witness said, "it lasted only as long as it takes a hungry man to eat a meal." i'm jamie colby for "strange inheritance." thanks for joining us. and remember -- you can't take it with you. do you have a "strange inheritance" story you'd like to share with us?
we'd love to hear it. send me an e-mail or go to our website, strangeinheritance.com. ♪ >> at the edge of death valley... >> it's weird and unusual and unique. >> ...a man puts a dusty weigh station on the map. but the town and his legacy fall on hard times. >> i was hearing from the residents that it was an eyesore. >> has he left his family a money pit... >> we want you to keep this in the family at all costs. >> ...or a monument? >> sometimes in life, we don't appreciate things until they're gone. [ door creaks ] [ wind howls ] [ thunder rumbles ] [ bird caws ] ♪ [ horn honks ] >> i'm jamie colby, and toda