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Osher builds auction-house giant
In the early 1860s, part of William Butterfield's job as Nevada County sheriff was to auction off the leftover belongings of unsuccessful gold miners. He probably never imagined that the legacy of his enterprise would become the most important art house in the Western United States.
Apart from his auctioning duties, it is said Butterfield ran into a little trouble on the job -- something about a messy shooting. So the former sheriff took his talent at the trading block to the big city and founded San Francisco's Butterfield & Butterfield Auctioneers, selling odd lots of cargo arriving at San Francisco harbor.
As the business grew, Butterfield became increasingly exclusive in the items he would handle. Soon the business was dealing almost entirely in supplying wealthy San Franciscans with the trappings of their increasingly elegant Victorian lifestyle.
Butterfield's became the largest firm in the West simply by building its auction business on the strength of its formidable reputation.
In 1970, however, Bernard Osher bought the company and put his talents and considerable wealth to work in turning Butterfield's into a world-class art auction and appraisal house.
Osher is a former banker whose family is involved with Oakland's Golden West …