Tag Archives: George Washington

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.
#23219 $150,000


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.

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Posted by on October 3, 2013 in General


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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.
#22929      $28,000

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.
#20728      $45,000

Unfolded Force 450px

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).
#22592      $1,400

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.
#23035.01     $700

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.
#30011.001    $145


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Posted by on June 27, 2013 in General


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Declarations & Visions

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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.

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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.

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Posted by on June 13, 2013 in General


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“Washington is no more!”


213 years ago today, citizens of Providence, Rhode Island, learned that George Washington had died. The newspaper United States Chronicle published a black-bordered mourning edition with President John Adams’s announcement:

“It has pleased Divine Providence to remove from this life, our excellent Fellow Citizen, George Washington, by the purity of his character, and a long series of services to his country, rendered illustrious through the world. It remains for an affectionate and grateful people, in whose hearts he can never die, to pay suitable honor to his memory.”

Resolutions of Congress printed in the same issue discuss how to honor the man who was “first in war, first in peace, and first in the hearts of his fellow-citizens” That famous phrase was apparently coined by the author of the resolutions, Colonel Henry “Light-Horse Harry” Lee, although it is often mistakenly attributed to John Marshall who was assigned to present them to the House in place of the absent Lee.

The end of Lee’s immortal phrase appears to be misquoted here (“his fellow-citizens” instead of “his countrymen”) but even contemporary sources do not agree on the exact wording; some end the quotation with “his country.” Whatever the case, Lee delivered his famous Eulogy on Washington, which reiterated the lines, in Philadelphia on the same day that this newspaper was published.

The slowness of communication at the end of the 18th century is evidenced by the fact that Washington died on December 14, but news didn’t reach readers of this newspaper for nearly two weeks.

See this rare newspaper, published 213 years ago today . . .

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Posted by on December 26, 2012 in General


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Washington Crossing the Delaware


Late December 1776 found the American Army ragged and demoralized, having been chased out of New York and New Jersey by the British. With the majority of the militia’s period of service about to expire on the 31st, Washington took the bold step of planning an offensive. The army crossed the Delaware on the night of December 25, 1776, at McKonkey’s Ferry, PA, under cover of fierce weather and water swollen by ice flows. At dawn the next morning they took the Hessians by surprise at Trenton. January 2, 1777 saw another American victory at Trenton and one at Princeton the following day, giving a huge morale boost to the American cause.

Leutze’s magnificent painting of Washington crossing the Delaware was sold to Mssrs. Goupil in 1851, almost as soon as he began painting it. In September 1851 the finished oil was brought to New York and exhibited at the Stuyvesant Institute and Goupil began accepting subscriptions for an engraved version—at that point the largest line engraving ever printed (38¼ x 22¼ in.).

Goupil’s prospectus offered four versions of the print: print impressions on plain paper for fifteen dollars; print impressions on India paper (as here) for twenty dollars; and proofs before letters on plain or India paper, for thirty and forty dollars respectively. Coloring was also offered as an option, but not priced. Three years later Goupil published a smaller version.

The image was so ubiquitous that Mark Twain commented sardonically upon its presence over countless mantlepieces in Life on the Mississippi. Despite this, it has become difficult to find nice copies of this print in any size, with India paper copies such as ours quite rare, and those labeled “Subscribers copy” almost non-existent.

Read more about this iconic image.

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Posted by on December 25, 2012 in General


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Content is King—But Washington Wouldn’t Be


George Washington-associated items have attained record prices at recent auctions. The president’s copy of a book containing a few of his annotations to the U.S. Constitution fetched nearly $10 million at Christies on June 22, 2012. Earlier this month, a letter written by Washington to James McHenry achieved $362,500 at Doyle New York against a reasonable $80,000 to $100,000 estimate. What differentiates this letter from typical Washington autograph letters signed, many of which can be found on the market in the $25,000 to $45,000 range? Certainly, the timing of a letter is important, as is its recipient. But the most important feature imparting value to a letter, especially a George Washington letter, is, in a word, content.

The Doyle letter records the moment when Washington told his trusted friend and aide-de-camp McHenry of his plan to retire from the Continental Army. Washington considered his task complete; independence had been achieved, the Peace of Paris was signed, and the British had finally evacuated from New York City. Washington wanted to retire and return to his beloved Mount Vernon as a private citizen. Less than a month later, he would tender his resignation to the Continental Congress, quelling conspiracies to install him as dictator and earning his reputation as an American Cincinnatus. His relaxation as a country gentleman would be short lived; he returned to public service four years later to join the Constitutional Convention at Philadelphia and, as they say, the rest is history.

We have several superior-content George Washington letters including his call for “material change” in the organization of the Continental Army to win what he calls “the prize in view”— independence—as well as more reasonably-priced offerings such as letters where Washington discusses investing in the new city that would ultimately bear his name or a planning an attack on New York City.

We also have letter from Washington to McHenry written ten months after the British surrendered. The Commander in Chief hints at his desire to give up the “occupation of a G—-” [General] and admonishes his friend for failing to respond to an earlier letter. Chiding McHenry “do not…tease your Mistress in this manner,” Washington provides a jocular glimpse behind his typically-stoic façade. This letter will be on display, along with a manuscript draft of the Articles of Confederation and the Treaty of Paris Proclamation, at the Annapolis Continental Congress Festival, November 26-28, 2012. For more information, see

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Posted by on November 16, 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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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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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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Great review of our Washington catalog

The Fine Books magazine blog has a great review by Rebecca Rego Barry of our catalog, Washington, the Revolution and the Founding.

“This is very much a reading catalogue–full of histories, long excerpts from correspondence, and provenance details. This catalogue of highlights contains documents, newspapers, maps, books, and artwork that manifest the vibrancy of American history. Of course this is all par for the course for the NY-based Seth Kaller, who has acquired, appraised, and sold some of the most important historic documents.”

Read the review. Read the catalog.

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Posted by on August 24, 2012 in General


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