Tag Archives: Thomas Jefferson

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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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.

Document Signed. Commission as Colonel of Engineers,
April 1, 1839. On vellum. 14 x 17¾ in.

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.Lincoln detailPGPresident 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.

Minot's Ledge Light

Minot’s Ledge Light

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.

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100 lb. Parrott gun at Fort Totten in Washington, D.C., August 1865

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.

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Posted by on April 19, 2013 in General


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