Tag Archives: Revolutionary War

An Extraordinary Discovery

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.

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Posted by on January 22, 2014 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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John Adams agrees to give Benjamin Franklin guardianship over a Boston minister’s grandson

The personal connections of Revolutionary-era Americans and their Parisian allies shine though this John Adams letter. In the midst of the war, the Reverend Samuel Cooper of Boston wrote to Benjamin Franklin, then ambassador to France, introducing his grandson Samuel Cooper Johonnot. The young man crossed the Atlantic with John Adams and the pair traveled to Paris, where Johonnot’s goal was to “acquire the Purity of the French Language in Speaking and Writing.” Adams then travelled on to Holland to negotiate commercial treaties for the new United States, leaving the boy without a guardian. Even though Johonnot already had a letter of introduction to Franklin from his grandfather, Franklin still insisted the boy write Adams to obtain permission for Franklin to assume the role of guardian.

Read this letter, written 232 years ago today . . .

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Posted by on October 24, 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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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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On this day in 1782


On this day in 1782, George Washington humorously lays the guilt on thick while waiting for answers about funding and maintaining troop levels prior to the final peace treaty ending the Revolutionary War. His highly personal letter to Dr. James McHenry shows a glimpse of the man behind the otherwise stolid image.

McHenry served as Washington’s secretary from 1778 to 1780 as a volunteer without rank or pay. Their friendship remained strong even after McHenry left to become aide-de-camp to the Marquis de Lafayette.

Read this letter, written 230 years ago today . . .

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Posted by on August 15, 2012 in General


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