We are pleased to help our friends at Keno Auctions in their upcoming sale of a singularly important and previously unknown document from the Continental Congress. The Letter of the Twelve United Colonies to the Inhabitants of Great Britain was a last-ditch attempt by the British American colonists to mend fences with their mother country by appealing directly to its citizens. Published contemporaneously as a pamphlet, it represents a pivotal moment for the colonies, which were attempting reconciliation while at the same preparing for Revolution. The draft of the Letter, 12 pages in length, was rediscovered in July 2013 at Manhattan’s Morris-Jumel Mansion. Its recent discovery reveals the Letter’s true authorship as well as the editorial process that occurred over two centuries ago. For this sale, we participated as the Manuscript Expert for Keno Auctions and encourage you to visit their website and watch the brief video below to learn more about this extraordinary document.
Author Archives: SethKaller
Washington’s Thanksgiving Proclamation To Be Auctioned
I am very pleased to announce that in a special evening sale on November 14, Christie’s will be auctioning George Washington’s First Presidential Thanksgiving Proclamation.
In this signed, handwritten document, Washington thanks “providence” for bringing America through the Revolutionary War, and for the chance “to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national One now lately instituted—for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed; and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge…”
In one of the final acts of the historic first session of the first Federal Congress sitting in New York, Congress had requested that the president issue such a proclamation. On September 28, 1789, the day Congress passed the Thanksgiving Proclamation resolution, the proposed Bill of Rights passed its final Congressional hurdle. Two days later, Washington sent copies of the Bill of Rights to the states for ratification, and the next day issued this Proclamation.
We’ll post a link on our website to the catalog (with an introductory essay by Richard Brookhiser) as soon as it becomes available.
Though I more frequently represent buyers, in this case I represent the seller. If you would like additional information, please don’t hesitate to contact me.
Washington’s Thanksgiving Proclamation reminds us that despite many contentious issues from the early days of our nation, our leaders were able to find creative ways to work together to solve the young nation’s problems. I’ll take this opportunity to point out a few of our founding period documents, some dealing with the biggest compromises of their day:
The Foundation of America’s Financial System
This historic act of Congress was the lynchpin of Alexander Hamilton’s audacious plan to place the government on solid financial ground by taking on more debt. The document we are offering is an official copy—only two of which were prepared for each state and signed by Thomas Jefferson—of the first of four Acts implementing Hamilton’s plan. In a compromise brokered by James Madison, Jefferson agreed to accept the plan that he hated in return for Federalists agreeing to move the nation’s capital to the South.
[UNITED STATES CONGRESS]. THOMAS JEFFERSON. Document Signed as Secretary of State. An Act making Provision for the Debt of the United States. August 4, 1790. 8 pp.
The Bill of Rights—Scarce Early Rhode Island Printing
After months of wrangling, Congress approved 12 proposed amendments to the Constitution. Rhode Island was the only state not to send a representative to the Constitutional Convention, and did not ratify the Constitution until May 1790.
[BILL OF RIGHTS]. Providence Gazette and Country Journal. The Bill of Rights appears on pages 2-3 of 4 pages. October 24, 1789. #22997 $10,000
Hamilton Promotes New Jersey’s Society for Establishing Useful Manufactures
The Society for Establishing Useful Manufactures (S.U.M.) was a public-private partnership to industrialize the Great Falls of the Passaic River. (Note: we will soon post a rare newspaper printing of the Charter of S.U.M.)
ALEXANDER HAMILTON. Autograph Receipt Signed Twice, in the text, as Secretary of the Treasury. August 20, 1791. #22740 $16,500
Washington’s Whiskey Rebellion Proclamation
The most unpopular part of Hamilton’s assumption plan was an excise tax on whiskey, prompting farmers in western Pennsylvania to take up arms in protest.
[GEORGE WASHINGTON]. New York Journal & Patriotic Register. September 29, 1792. The proclamation appears on page 2 of 4 pages. #22707 $900
The U.S. Mint Adds an Officer in Charge of Copper, Silver and Gold Bullion
This 1795 addition to the Mint Act (1792) establishes a new position of “melter and refiner,” charged with receiving bullion and processing it into bars or ingots.
[EDMUND RANDOLPH]. An Act Supplementary to the Act, Intituled “An Act Establishing a Mint, and Regulating the Coins of the United States.” #23241 $6,750
Finally, this Thanksgiving, November 28, is also the first night of Hanukkah. This hasn’t happened before, and won’t happen again for 77,799 years. I had to share this unique moment of serendipity in closing.
New Catalog & Recent Acquisitions
William Penn became the largest private landowner in the world when Charles II granted him the 45,000 square miles of what is now Pennsylvania in 1681. An early champion of religious freedom, Penn also was among the few Europeans to deal fairly with the original inhabitants of his lands. Nevertheless, his royal charter conflicted with earlier lands deeded to Lord Baltimore, prompting a survey that resulted in the iconic Mason-Dixon Line dividing Maryland and Pennsylvania. We have just posted a new catalog on our website with early Pennsylvania deeds and grants, important maps, and documents related to the border dispute.
“Society in every state is a blessing, but government even in its
best state is but a necessary evil”
the 1840 Census Returns and Westward Expansion
Our Declaration Auction Sets a Record
The rare first newspaper printing of the Declaration of Independence we auctioned yesterday brought $632,500—a record price for any historic newspaper. The sale was held with Robert A. Siegel Auction Galleries in New York City. The newspaper was purchased by David Rubenstein.
The July 6, 1776, edition of the Pennsylvania Evening Post was only the second printing of the Declaration in any form. The copy sold yesterday is one of just four issues of the Post’s Declaration printing that have appeared at auction in the past 50 years. We have handled three of those four copies.
George Washington at Christie’s
Another noteworthy sale took place June 21st at Christie’s, where George Washington’s 1788 letter to John Armstrong endorsing ratification of the Constitution sold for $1,443,750 net. To see our selection of great Washington documents—which includes several important letters—click here.
We have a number of other scare Declaration printings at a variety of price points—just in time for the Fourth of July.
Rare July 1776 Declaration of Independence Broadside
All July 1776 broadside printings of the Declaration are rare and valuable, but this example is exceptionally so. It is the earliest known publication of the Declaration in Massachusetts—the birthplace of the American Revolution—and its unique, four-column format makes it one of the rarest and most interesting of the printings. Including this example, only six copies of this broadside are known, four of which are already in institutional collections.
#21747.99 Price on Request
A Stone/Force Printing of the Declaration
This second edition printing of the first exact facsimile remains one of the best representations of the Declaration as the manuscript looked when it was signed and prior to its nearly complete deterioration. Very little of the original is legible today. Originally bound into Peter Force’s American Archives.
Scarce, Never Folded Stone/Force Declaration
Another Stone/Force print. Copies that were never folded are far more rare on the market than folded ones.
America’s Three Founding Documents
A 1791 printing of the Complete Acts of the First Congress, including the Declaration of Independence, Constitution, and Bill of Rights (which had just been ratified).
1808 Commemorative Printing of the Declaration and Patriotic Songs
This 1808 commemorative printing from the Philadelphia Aurora also contains “Freedom and Peace…Or, The Voice of America. A National Song,” along with other patriotic songs for the occasion.
Declaration of Independence Centennial Printing
The July 8, 1876, issue of Harper’s Weekly, containing a supplement celebrating the 100th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, complete with a centerspread facsimile of one of Jefferson’s draft manuscripts and the signatures of the signers, along with related engravings.
Declarations & Visions
I am pleased to announce our offering of a very rare printing of the Declaration of Independence. Benjamin Towne’s July 6 Pennsylvania Evening Post was the first newspaper to print the Declaration, and only the second printing in any format. It will be sold at public auction in New York on June 25, 2013, by Robert A. Siegel Auction Galleries, as part of their 50th annual Rarities of the World sale.
Our catalog explores differences between the Post’s Declaration and the Dunlap broadside, the only earlier Declaration imprint (published on July 5th). I know it sounds dry, but our catalog announces an interesting find: our newspaper is closer to Thomas Jefferson’s style while the Dunlap is closer to John Adams’. One intriguing possibility that follows is that there may have been two July 4 manuscripts—one penned by Jefferson and the other by Adams.
The Pennsylvania Evening Post issue of the Declaration is one of only four copies found in major auction and dealer records of the last hundred years; we’ve had the privilege of handling three.
Want to learn more? The Siegel auction catalog is available online here.
We are also pleased to announce our new dealer catalog, Parallel Visions: American & Israeli Documents of Freedom.
Parallel Visions explores the similarities in the ideals and founding struggles of two great democracies —both aspiring to be “a light unto the nations.” In these letters and documents—over many years and through multiple wars—we see George Washington, Theodor Herzl, Thomas Paine, David Ben-Gurion, Chaim Weizmann, Golda Meir, and other visionaries fight to create, develop, and protect new countries.
We will happily work with any philanthropist interested in acquiring a critical mass of the collection and making it available for public display.
See the catalog online here.
An unparalleled offering of presidential commissions—from Thomas Jefferson to
Abraham Lincoln—covering the most significant career advances of Joseph G. Totten,
Chief Engineer of the U.S. Army, who fought with distinction in three wars.
This set of commissions, from an officer who served so long and contributed so much to American military preparedness in the run-up to the Civil War, is indeed a rare find.
Only Hyman Rickover, the “Father of the Nuclear Navy” served longer than Totten, at 63 years. General Winfield “Old Fuss and Feathers” Scott served 53 years, and generals such as Omar Bradley and Douglas MacArthur all served fewer than 50 years each.
Document Signed. Commission as 2nd Lieutenant of Engineers,
June 11, 1808. On vellum. 14¾ x 18 in.
Document Signed. Commission as 1st Lieutenant of Engineers,
March 9, 1811. On vellum. 15½ x 18 in.
MARTIN VAN BUREN
Document Signed. Commission as Colonel of Engineers,
April 1, 1839. On vellum. 14 x 17¾ in.
JAMES K. POLK
Document Signed. Commission as Brevet Brigadier General,
August 23, 1848. On vellum. 14½ x 17 in.
Document Signed. Commission as Brigadier General of Engineers,
April 13, 1863. On vellum. 14¾ x 19½ in.
All in matching archival display frames. #23097.01-.05 The set: $48,000
Totten’s Career (with our commissions in bold)
In 1805, Joseph Gilbert Totten (1788-1864) of New Haven, Connecticut, graduated from West Point and was promoted to 2nd Lieutenant in the Corps of Engineers. He resigned in 1806 to serve as secretary to the Surveyor General of the Northwest Territory. In 1808, Thomas Jefferson reappointed him to his former rank, which began his nearly 56 years of military service (55 years and 10 months, in addition to the 2 years he had already served).
Totten’s career in the Corps of Engineers spanned the development of the United States’ coastal defense program. He helped construct New York’s harbor defenses and supervised the construction of Fort Clinton in Castle Garden (now Battery Park), 1808-1812. James Madison promoted Totten to 1st lieutenant in 1811 just before the War of 1812.
Madison again promoted Totten, this time to captain, where he was supervising engineer for the fortification of Lake Champlain, the St. Lawrence River, and other coastal defenses. He served in operations on Lake Champlain, the Niagara and St. Lawrence Rivers, and the Great Lakes. He helped capture Fort George in Upper Canada (Ontario), repel the British Fleet on Lake Ontario, took part in the Battle of Plattsburg, and blew up the abandoned Fort Erie, also in Upper Canada. Still under Madison’s presidency, Totten was breveted major in 1813, and lieutenant colonel in 1814, for meritorious service and gallantry, respectively.President James Monroe promoted Totten to major in 1818, and breveted Totten colonel in 1824. John Quincy Adams promoted Totten to lieutenant colonel in 1828. Between 1825 and 1838, Totten supervised the construction of Fort Adams in Newport, Rhode Island, (now the site of the world-famous Newport Jazz Festival).
In 1838, Martin Van Buren gave Totten one of his most important commissions to full colonel and Chief Engineer of the Army. Totten continued to build shore defenses and harbor works as well as with the drydocks at the Pensacola Navy Yard. Totten then served under General Winfield Scott at the Siege of Vera Cruz (1847) during the Mexican-American War. President Polk marked Totten’s advancement to a generalship when he awarded him the rank of brevet brigadier general for “gallant and meritorious conduct” in the battle.
In 1851, he joined the lighthouse board and began reforming notoriously dangerous designs. His most notable design achievement was rebuilding Boston Harbor’s Minot’s Ledge Light, considered the “most wave-swept structure in North America,” after the first lighthouse was destroyed in spectacular fashion with the loss of both lighthouse keepers. Totten designed a granite-constructed tower, with its first forty feet serving as a massive anchor block attached to the ledge with iron pins and its own enormous weight. It took five years to construct (1855-1860) and stands to this day.
During the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln made the breveted rank permanent by promoting Totten to full brigadier general in 1863. As chief engineer of the army, Totten helped plan the defense of Washington, D.C., including construction of Fort Totten, now a D.C. neighborhood. Totten was breveted a major general for “long, faithful, and eminent services” on April 21, 1864, one day before he died.
In addition to his military achievements, Totten was a regent of the Smithsonian Institution, a Corporator of the National Academy of Sciences, and the Harbor Commissioner of both Boston and New York. Three forts bore his name: Fort Totten in Queens, New York, Washington, D.C., and North Dakota.
Regardless of their individual place in history, “President of the United States” is a very exclusive club. In honor of President’s Day, we are featuring inventory related to our greatest presidents as well as some presidents of more modest accomplishment. Be sure to see our signed portrait of Franklin Delano Roosevelt from his 1932 presidential campaign, an extremely rare William Henry Harrison document signed during his 30-day presidency, a Lincoln-signed military commission, a letter from Warren Harding praising America’s post World War I return to a peacetime economy, and a bronze plaque of Theodore Roosevelt featuring his famous “strenuous life” quotation.
All of these, and much more presidential material, can be found on our website, www.sethkaller.com
John Adams Grants Two Tracts of Ohio Land to a Revolutionary War Veteran
Passed on June 1, 1796, An Act regulating the grants of Land appropriated for Military services, and for the society of the United Brethren propagating the gospel among the Heathen made accommodations to survey and sell land in the Northwest Territory. This particular act enabled the President to grant land in the Ohio Valley to former Continental Army soldiers for their service in the Revolutionary War.
John Adams Agrees to Give Benjamin Franklin Guardianship Over a Boston Minister’s Grandson
The relationship between the United States and France takes a personal turn as Adams leaves a friend’s grandson in Franklin’s care.
John Quincy Adams Signs a Patent for Improving Bellows
A handsome vellum patent document, signed by Adams as President, is accompanied by the inventor’s two-page description of his device.
Andrew Jackson and the Fight for Florida
At the height of the U. S. diplomatic crisis with Spain over Florida, Old Hickory makes plans to return to combat in Florida while venting his rage against Treasury Secretary William H. Crawford.
Van Buren Handles an Early Falklands Crisis
In this detailed letter, Martin Van Buren instructs the United States Chargé d’ Affairs to Buenos Aires to inquire into the Governor of the Falkland Islands’s warning U.S. fishing vessels to stay clear of valuable whaling and seal fisheries in the area.
William Henry Harrison Signed as President—Extremely Rare
Harrison’s death from pneumonia after 3o days in office makes his tenure the shortest of all the presidents. Our current census finds fewer than 40 Harrison documents (including signed and unsigned letters, free franks, and clipped signatures) as president in any format, many of which are in permanent collections.
Lincoln-Signed Military Commission
President Lincoln appoints Charles S. Stevenson of Indiana “Additional Paymaster” with this signed, vellum commission dated August 7, 1861.
James Garfield Opposes “the Democratic Silver Scheme”
Congressman James Garfield writes to Samuel Ruggles, a New York lawyer, Canal Commissioner, and businessman regarding monetary policy. “We have thus far successfully resisted the Silver Scheme, but the Democrats renew the fight every day determined, if possible, to carry it through.”
Theodore Roosevelt Commissions a Captain
President Roosevelt commissions John J. A. Clark as Captain in the Philippine Scouts, a group organized by the U.S. Army to combat the Philippine Revolution.
Theodore Roosevelt’s “Doctrine of the Strenuous Life”: A Scarce Bronze Plaque Featuring One of His Most Famous Quotes
Roosevelt’s personal philosophy of life is cast in bronze under his profile portrait in bas relief, followed by a facsimile of his signature.
Harding’s Return to Normalcy–and Isolationism–after World War I
Key political circular from the first-year Republican President, written to influence off-year elections in New Mexico and other places. Harding justifies, and praises, the rapid postwar dismantling of America’s military by Congress, while backhandedly criticizing the inattention of his predecessor—Woodrow Wilson—to the peacetime transition. “Vast expenditure without proper consideration for results, is the inevitable fruit of war.”
Herbert Hoover Combats Starvation in Europe Before the U.S. Enters World War II
As honorary chairman of the National Committee on Food for the Small Democracies, the former president tries to rally support to aid the women, children, and destitute in those European nations affected by World War II and save them from the inevitable famine and pestilence that confronted them.
Portrait of FDR, Signed and Inscribed by Roosevelt to Samuel Messer
This image of President Roosevelt was the official portrait for the 1932 campaign. It was drawn by Jacob H. Perskie, the photographer and portrait painter for FDR in the 1932 and 1936 presidential campaigns. It is inscribed to Samuel Messer was one of the largest stockholders of Quaker State Oil Refining Company.
The Ultimate Oscar-Ready Lincoln Collection
We are offering a unique opportunity for one high-level collector with a passion for history—a comprehensive collection reflecting the span of Lincoln’s adult life from prairie lawyer, to the Presidency, to immortality in the American pantheon. This ready-to-display collection is being auctioned on eBay through February 18th, and is guaranteed to be delivered in time for the ultimate Oscar party.
Beginning with the chair in which Lincoln was sitting when he received the telegram that he had won the 1860 Republican Presidential nomination, the collection contains more than 50 items, including 12 documents handwritten and/or signed by Lincoln, and others by Frederick Douglass, William T. Sherman, and Ulysses S. Grant, along with rare books, artifacts, images, and imprints.
The winning bidder will also be helping Free the Slaves, which will receive 10% of the final sale price. The organization, based in the U.S. and operating around the world, works to free victims of modern-day slavery. Dr. Kevin Bales, the group’s co-founder, writes, “We are honored that Free the Slaves has been chosen to receive a portion of the proceeds from the auction… Our group will use the contribution to help finish what Lincoln started—creating a world forever free from slavery.”
Highlights and a brief summary of the collection are available on eBay and links to more detailed descriptions are on our website.
On Lincoln’s birthday, February 12, we will be hosting an open house at C. Parker Gallery, 17 E. Putnam Ave., Greenwich CT. Special showings are also available on request. Call me at 914-289-1776 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
A special note from Seth Kaller
Last year, I joined the advisory board of the Papers of Abraham Lincoln, based at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield, IL. My first meeting coincided with the 10th annual Lincoln Legacy Lecture, where I saw a powerful keynote presentation on modern day slavery. Since then, I sought an opportunity to apply my interest in history to a significant problem that remains today. After several conversations, Free the Slaves was recommended to me as a fitting choice to further Lincoln’s most important legacy.
This collection inaugurates a new Seth Kaller, Inc. policy: for every sale we make of slavery-related historic documents, we will make a donation to Free the Slaves. If you would like to learn more visit www.freetheslaves.net
A NY Copperhead Newspaper Criticizes the Emancipation Proclamation
The first week of January, 1863 newspapers across the country printed the single most important act of Lincoln’s presidency, the Emancipation Proclamation. The President summed up the Proclamation’s importance in 1864: “no human power can subdue this rebellion without using the Emancipation lever as I have done.”
Confederates and their sympathizers in the north disagreed. The editors of the New York Journal of Commerce—which had begun as an abolitionist newspaper but under new ownership during the war became a notorious Copperhead organ—described Lincoln’s bold move as “a farce coming in after a long tragedy. . . . most of the people regard it as a very foolish piece of business.”
See this rare newspaper, published 150 years ago today . . .
William David Porter’s Commission as Commander in the Navy
On December 27, 1858 President James Buchanan signed the military commission of William David Porter appointing him Commander in the Navy. Porter was the third brother of a famous naval family. His father, Commodore David Porter, gained fame as captain of the U.S.S. Constitution and later the U.S.S. Essex during the War of 1812. His more famous younger brother, David Dixon Porter, was an admiral during the Civil War and later superintendent of the U.S. Naval Academy. His adopted brother, David Farragut, also rose to the rank of admiral.
William shipped out at 12 years of age on the U.S.S. Franklin, served as lighthouse inspector, and later as ordnance officer at the Washington Navy Yard. He helped develop explosive shells and, from the mid-1840s through 1855, outfitted steamers and commanded supply vessels. He retired in 1855, but at the end of 1858, President James Buchanan promoted him with this commission to commander of the sloop-of-war St. Mary’s in the Pacific.
At the outset of the Civil War, he was reassigned to assist Andrew Foote in creating the Western Flotilla to control the Mississippi River. Porter patrolled the river and engaged Confederate gunboats aboard the U.S.S. Essex, named after his father’s vessel. He was injured when the Essex’s boilers were hit during the attack on Fort Henry, Tennessee, on February 6, 1862. He supervised the vessel’s reconstruction, as well as the construction of Union ironclads, and eventually rejoined the Western Flotilla. In July 1862, he engaged the ironclad C.S.S. Arkansas and narrowly escaped capture after running aground. A month later, the Essex succeeded in destroying the Arkansas. Porter then participated in the bombardment of Natchez, Mississippi, in September 1862. Returning to New Orleans, he was promoted to the rank of commodore and reassigned to New York, where he died in May 1864.
See this beautifully engraved vellum document, signed 154 years ago today . . .