University Archives held its online-only auction, Rare Manuscripts, Books, Photos & Relics, Signers of the Declaration & Sports, on April 19, 2023 at its Wilton, CT headquarters. The sale was a brilliant success: 94% of our 413 lots sold, generating over three quarters of a million dollars for our consignors. U.S. Presidential and Declaration of Independence Signers proved our most popular collecting categories, with over 90% of Presidential lots sold, and 100% of the 55+ lots of material autographed by Declaration Signers sold. It was the perfect day to celebrate a few of our Founding Fathers, since April 19, 2023 was the 248th anniversary of the Battles of Lexington & Concord. See below for a few of only many sale highlights!
U.S. Presidential & First Families
Lot 127 was a circular letter signed by Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Army George Washington, with two edits in his hand. The 4pp letter dated December 19, 1781 and addressed to Benjamin Harrison stressed the importance of enforcing state military quotas to bolster Continental ranks in the Southern states, where action was concentrating. Washington believed that, with reinforcements, victory was closer to being achieved. “…But the greatest encouragement to a vigorous preparation is, that it will be the most likely method of gaining new Allies and forcing Great Britain into a negociation [sp], which we have every reason to suppose would end in a peace honorable to the interests and views of America…” The Washington signed letter with outstanding military content sold for $40,625 including the buyer’s premium.
Lot 9 was a visually striking vintage C.M. Bell cabinet card of sitting 21st U.S. President Chester Arthur, signed by him as “Chester A. Arthur” at top and additionally dated in his hand as “March 22, 1883” at bottom. One of only a few Chester Arthur cabinet cards that we’ve ever seen or handled, and a very attractive example, it sold for 20% over the high estimate, or $9,375 including the tip.
Lot 60 was a 4” x 6” vintage color photograph of former First Lady Jackie Kennedy and children Caroline and John attending a pirate-themed children’s party, signed by all three on the mat mount as “Jacqueline Kennedy,” “Caroline,” and “John.” N.d. but ca. 1967, and sweetly displaying Caroline’s best school-hand cursive. The photo surpassed the high estimate and sold for $5,937.50 including the buyer’s premium.
Lot 60, Kennedy Family SP
Declaration of Independence Signers
Lot 225 was a 1p autograph letter signed by Governor of Massachusetts John Hancock and dated September 28, 1788, recommending the services of a Revolutionary War junior officer named William Balch to Major Winthrop Sergeant, a Valley Forge veteran and then Secretary of the Northwest Territory. Hancock’s endorsement must have been persuasive since Balch was later stationed in the Northwest Territory. Balch was killed at the Battle of the Wabash waged against a confederation of Shawnees, Miamis, Lenapes, and Potawatomis near present day Fort Recovery, Ohio on November 4, 1791. Major Winthrop Sergeant was twice wounded during the same battle. The letter sold for more than 20% over the high estimate, or $11,250 including the buyer’s premium.
Lot 225, John Hancock ALS
Lot 234 was a scarce Revolutionary War-dated autograph letter signed by Francis Lightfoot Lee, signed as "Honble Francis Lightfoot Lee esq." It exchanged hands for nearly 10% over its high estimate, or $16,250 including the tip.
Marvelous Miscellany: Science, Literary, International
Lot 379 was a Spanish-language contract for an Edison light bulb design, ca. 1880 from Bolivia, boldly signed by Thomas A. Edison along with two “Testigos” or witnesses at the bottom. Edison had first successfully tested the same light bulb technology in the United States on October 21, 1879. Edison’s international patents often duplicated existing U.S. patents and protected the inventor’s interests abroad. The Edison signed double schematic was handsomely presented in an elaborate frame. It sold for $22,500 including the buyer’s premium.
Lot 367 was a typed postcard dated October 16, 1964 signed by Jack Kerouac as “Jack” and addressed to Kerouac’s longtime friend Ed White, who was represented in Kerouac’s classic On The Road (1957) as the character Tim Gray. Kerouac’s letter announced his intentions of traveling from northeastern Florida to Denver in January 1965, as well as the sudden death of his beloved sister Caroline “Nin” Kerouac Blake just one month earlier, in September 1964. The signed postcard sold for 1.5 times its high estimate, or $5,000 including the tip.
Lot 367, Jack Kerouac TLS
Lot 337 was an exquisite 8” x 10” color photograph of Princess Diana of Wales looking every inch a royal, with diamond tiara and sapphire and diamond teardrop earrings, attending a banquet in Munich in 1987. Diana signed the photo as “from Diana” ten years later, around June 1997, when she was in New York visiting Mother Teresa in the hospital and organizing a charitable contribution to the AIDS Crisis Trust and the Royal Marsden Hospital Cancer Fund. The photograph signed only two months before Diana’s tragic car accident sold for double its high estimate, or $5,000 including the buyer’s premium.
Thank you so much for your interest. We’re always interested in hearing from you. Contact us today if you have items like these that you’d like to consign or sell.
Our next sale is tentatively scheduled for May 31, 2023.