Category Archives: General

General posts

Alexander Hamilton’s Letter to Restructure the Treasury and Customs Houses

As Secretary of the newly-established Treasury Department, Hamilton sought to reorganize and standardize the procedures of U.S. Customs Houses. A year earlier, the First Congress had passed an act that brought the collection of tariffs and duties under the control of the federal government as outlined in the new U.S. Constitution.

For the efficient collection of customs duties, Hamilton sought to create a uniform system out of the 13 state agencies the federal government took over. Administration under the new U.S. Constitution was markedly different from that under the Articles of Confederation, and this was most apparent in financial matters. Where the old government was notoriously powerless to raise money, Treasury Secretary Hamilton proposed and pushed through a plan that would solidify the credit rating of the Unites States.

Read this letter, written 222 years ago today . . .

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Posted by on September 30, 2012 in General


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One Day Before Marching to Yorktown, George Washington Adds Troops in Virginia

After the Comte de Grasse’s fleet arrived in Virginia, Washington requested troops to aid the combined militia and French force during the Siege of Yorktown. Washington and Virginia militia Brigadier General George Weedon had been corresponding for several weeks regarding the arrival of the Duc de Lauzun’s legion in Virginia, and Washington was concerned that Weedon pay the Frenchman the respect appropriate to his rank.

The day after he wrote this letter, Washington moved his army out of Williamsburg to begin the Siege of Yorktown. He allowed the Marquis de Choisy, who had arrived with Lauzun’s reinforcements, to command both Lauzun’s and Weedon’s troops. The two men’s personal disdain no doubt complicated matters for Washington, who was attempting to coordinate pieces on a chessboard made up of the Virginia peninsulas and Chesapeake Bay.

Read this letter, written 231 years ago today . . .

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Posted by on September 27, 2012 in General


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The Emancipation Proclamation

Tomorrow marks the start of the 150th Anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation. On September 22, 1862, President Lincoln issued the Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation that gave the South 100 days to end the rebellion or face losing their slaves. True to his word, on January 1, 1863, Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation immediately freeing nearly 50,000 slaves in Union-held areas of the Confederacy such as Arkansas, Florida, Mississippi and the Carolinas. The Proclamation also made the Union Army a force of liberation as it marched south, as well as ushering in the full participation of African American troops.

To celebrate this decisive moment in the quest for human freedom we have posted an essay on the history of the Emancipation Proclamation—from how it was drafted and promulgated, to the lasting effect it had on history.

We have also worked with the Fairfield Museum and History Center on their exhibit, Promise of Freedom: The Emancipation Proclamation, which includes Lincoln-signed copies of the Emancipation Proclamation and 13th Amendment, as well as other fascinating artifacts. The exhibition runs from September 23, 2012 to February 24, 2013.

Although we recently sold a rare Lincoln-signed Leland-Boker broadside of the Emancipation Proclamation, we still have a group of interesting items to offer:

  • A front-page New York newspaper printing of the Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation, published September 23, 1862.
  • Five key issues of Harper’s Weekly from the period, including their publication of both the Preliminary and final Emancipation Proclamations.
  • A. H. Ritchie’s 1866 print, “First Reading of the Emancipation Proclamation,” from Francis Bicknell Carpenter’s 1864 painting at the White House.
  • A six-month run of Britain’s Punch magazine from 1862, with numerous engravings showing Lincoln’s frustration at the war’s progress.
  • A first-day printing of the Emancipation Proclamation in the Providence Daily Journal, along with Frederick Douglass’s reaction to the announcement in the next day’s issue.
  • A Lincoln mourning broadside, with the Emancipation Proclamation printed in full.
  • A Currier and Ives print, “Lincoln and His Cabinet Discuss the Emancipation Proclamation,” that memorialized the Great Emancipator in time for the nation’s 1876 Centennial.
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Posted by on September 21, 2012 in General


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Gallery opening

I’m pleased to announce that we are opening a gallery in Westport, Connecticut. Our venture is a collaboration with Stephen Rockwell Desloge, owner of the six Rockwell Galleries in Fairfield County, and John Reznikoff of University Archives. The gallery will feature a wide range of historic documents and artifacts from the Founding Fathers and Presidents to icons of sports and pop culture.

The opening celebration will take place on October 4th from 6:00 p.m.–9:00 p.m. at Rockwell Galleries, 236 Post Road East, Westport, Connecticut. If you would like to attend, please RSVP to us at 914-289-1776.

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Posted by on September 21, 2012 in General


One of the last drafts of the Bill of Rights, published on this day in 1789

This very rare printing of twelve proposed amendments to the Constitution, approved by the Senate on September 9, 1789, but not yet reconciled with the House, was published in the New-York Daily Gazette on September 18, 1789.

Article 3, guaranteeing freedom of religion, underwent the most substantial changes between this and the final version ten days later. This draft reads:

Art. 3d. Congress shall make no law establishing articles of faith, or a mode of worship, or prohibiting the free exercise of religion, or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition to the government for a redress of grievances.

Read this draft, published 223 years ago today . . .

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Posted by on September 18, 2012 in General


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George McClellan Boxing with Robert E. Lee: Cartoon Celebrating the Union Victory at Antietam

This rare political cartoon celebrates the Union victory in the Battle of Antietam, by depicting the bloodbath as a boxing contest between Confederate General Robert E. Lee (labeled “Charles” Lee in reference to the Revolutionary War traitor) and Union General George McClellan. European leaders watch as Jefferson Davis exclaims “My Game is Up” and Abraham Lincoln encourages his champion to “Give him fits my darling!” The handlers are African Americans, and Lee appears ready to throw in the sponge. The printer is unspecified, but it was issued by Wilkes’ Spirit of the Times, a New York publication that appealed to upper class sports aficionados.

More details and a larger image are on our website.

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Posted by on September 17, 2012 in General


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Washington invests in Washington, on this day in 1799

Less than a year before the federal government moved to Washington, D.C.—and just three months before his death—Washington was constructing rental lodging for members of Congress. The former president, a longtime land speculator, hoped to profit from investment in the nation’s future capital.

Washington’s signing of the 1790 Congressional act to establish the District of Columbia marked the birth of the nation’s Federal City. It also initiated a decade of land speculation, as investors sought to make their fortunes from the projected new site of the federal government.

On September 11, 1799, Washington sent a check for $1,000 to Dr. William Thornton, the architect of the U.S. Capitol and a commissioner of the Federal City, who was overseeing the construction of Washington’s houses.

Read this letter, written 213 years ago today . . .

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Posted by on September 11, 2012 in General


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Edison’s notes from the first day of power production, made on this day in 1882

The world’s first commercial power plant, the Edison Illuminating Company’s Pearl Street Station in New York, began producing power 130 years ago today—changing the world forever. The Pearl Street Station delivered power to J.P. Morgan, the New York Times, and the New York Stock Exchange.

We have a fascinating collection of documents from the time electric light and power became commercially available, including Edison’s experimental notes from two important dates in the history of the plant. The notes, photographs, clippings and ephemera come from the personal papers of Thomas Edison’s chief engineer, Charles L. Clarke. In addition capturing the first day of power production, the entire archive is a testament to Edison’s genius of blending creative inspiration and production methods.

See this fascinating archive on our website.

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Posted by on September 4, 2012 in General



The first draft of the Bill of Rights, published today in 1789

This rare newspaper has a full printing of seventeen amendments to the Constitution approved by the House of Representatives on August 24.

On May 4, 1789, two months into the first session of the First Congress, James Madison announced that he intended to propose amendments to guarantee basic civil rights. The absence of such language almost sunk the Constitution’s ratification. In the end, New York, Virginia, and several other states agreed to ratify only with the understanding that a Bill of Rights would be added by the First Congress.

This issue includes the full text of the August 24 House resolution, which was then sent to the Senate for approval. The Senate began deliberating the next day, approving some articles and rejecting or altering others. Ultimately, ten of these amendments would be ratified by the states as the Bill of Rights.

Read this remarkable draft, published 223 years ago today . . .

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Posted by on September 4, 2012 in General


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A month before his capture and execution for aiding Benedict Arnold’s treason, British spymaster John André writes: “Good fortune still follows me.”

John André proudly writes to his mother of his recent promotion to Adjutant-General of the British Army in North America, serving under Commander-in-Chief Sir Henry Clinton. André handled Clinton’s official correspondence and managed his network of spies in New York and New Jersey, which brought him into contact with disgruntled Continental Army General Benedict Arnold and ushered him towards the dreadful fate that awaited him later that month. This is one of André’s last letters.

“Good fortune follows me, the Commander in chief has raised me to the first Office in the Army, if that of most confidence and least proffit is to be stiled so. I am Adjutant General . . . My satisfaction at my Appointment is renew’d at my acquainting you with it, as I am persuaded I am giving equal pleasure to what I have experienc’d myself . . . I do not derive great power from my situation but what openings it gives me to provide for, or oblige (in a good cause) I shall avail myself of at your nod.”

Read this poignant letter, written 150 years ago today by the man George Washington called “more unfortunate than criminal”—when approving his hanging.

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Posted by on September 1, 2012 in General


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