Heritage Auctions held a Civil War & Militaria sale on December 12th. The first session of the sale comprised the “Donald P. Dow Civil War Collection” and included a fine assortment of Lincoln material that did not appear in the January sale of the Dow Collection. The second session constituted the regular Civil War sale. It contained a very fine example of the Lincoln checkerboard. It was the small size in excellent condition. Contrary to some expectations, it did not fall between the cracks, selling for a solid $3,000.
The Dow material was primarily manuscripts, photographs and ephemera. A set of anti-Lincoln covers did surprisingly well at $1,625. An even better set almost doubled that, selling for $3,000. In the past, the First National designs with slogans have sold in the $400 range, but we’re not in Kansas, anymore!
Finally, an anti-Lincoln letter, written by a McClellan partisan of limited education and artistic ability, sold for $575. It depicts a sketch of a black soldier. The writer advises his correspondent to beware of the “wooly-heads”, make sure he is registered and not lose his vote. The cartoonish-figure of the soldier urges his fellow blacks to support Lincoln who loves them and considers them superior to the whites.
Tom French of Capitola, California (USAmericana.com) held a mail/internet auction on December 2nd. There were twenty-five campaign items from 1860 and 1864. As with all auctions, there were some surprises. A 23mm. Lincoln & Hamlin doughnut ferrotype, the smallest size in the series, sold for $2,500. In contrast, Tom had a 41mm. Lincoln & Hamlin doughnut in decent condition that could not attract an opening bid of $1,500. Go figure!
An 1 1/4″ x 1 5/8″ brass ferrotype brooch of McClellan listing some of his battles, dating from 1862 (a non-campaign item) realized $4,000. We’ve seen other examples with Butler and Halleck. McClellan material is generally “soft” and does generate the level of interest one would expect but, “One never knows, do one?”
A George McClellan blank dog tag with pictorial shield hanger generated a lot of interest when offered on eBay. After the dust settled, it settled in at $445.
Wes Cowan held a sale on November 20th. It contained a Clark Mills life mask of Lincoln in bronze, signed on the bottom lip. The cataloged assorted that this was an early casting, as later examples have a damaged or incomplete nostril and ears. He also asserted that the later plaster castings are not signed, whereas they are indeed signed, but on the back of the head. The consignor of this piece was of the opinion that this example was “possibly from the estate of Clark Mills, cast by his two sons.” Dating these is quite problematic and, while this one had fairly good detail, it was likely made some years after Lincoln’s death. Estimated at $5,000-$7,000, it realized $4,500.
A 7″ x 69″ linen banner from the 1863 Ohio gubernatorial election that pitted Copperhead Clement Vallandigham versus Unionist John Brough was estimated at $4,000-$6,000. There are some Vallandigham collectors out there, but they are almost as hard to find as these banners. Not surprisingly, this banner went bust and did not sell.
A .43 caliber dueling or target pistol by J. G. Syms of New York was an interesting selection. It was one of a pair of pistols owned by a Creole named Pierre who operated a shooting gallery in Washington, D.C. The guns had been used in actual duels and “each pistol had killed more than one man.” Pierre would loan them out to clients, including Colonel J. H. Willetts and John Wilkes Booth. The two had competed with one another at his gallery. Willetts said that ” [Booth] was a fine shot [and] used this pistol many times.” Pierre gave the set to Willetts who subsequently gifted one to a daughter, while retaining the other (this example). Estimated $15,000-$30,000, it misfired badly, failing to sell.
A 15″ x 12 3/4″ albumen photograph of Lincoln’s funeral in Chicago was but one of several such items offered. Thirty-six maidens clad in white lead the procession. The arch has a banner which reads: “We Honor Him Dead who honored Us while living. Rest in Peace Noble soul, Patriot Heart, Faithful to Right, A Martyr to Justice.” A final bid of $8,100 lead the way.
Another Chicago item was a 13 3/4″ x 9 1/2″ albumen photograph which shows Lincoln’s funeral train transversing a river-side trestle while people line the shore, gazing solemnly in respect. It crossed the block for $2,520, slightly under estimate.
Heritage Auctions held their fall Americana & Political Sale on November 7th. It contained the typical choice selection of Lincolniana. Many of these pieces trace their provenance to Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles, having been sold by a great-great grandson some decades ago. We’ll start with the Welles pieces first. A silver cake server produced by Gorham in 1864 with the monogram of Mary Todd Lincoln was served up for $10,312.
An engraved invitation to the White House dating from February 1865 made $7,500.
An engraved seating ticket for the 1865 inauguration, together with the envelope it came in, realized $8,125.
There were two examples of the 1865 inauguration ball dance cards. These found buyers at $3,500 and $4,250 price levels.
An unpublished sixth plate daguerreotype of Welles, taken in 1856, shows Old Neptune sans wig and beard. Boy, was this guy ever ugly! Lincoln probably liked to have him around since it made him look good in comparison. It crossed the block for $6,875.
The non-Welles items included a great 17 1/2″ x 23″ broadside, issued shortly after Gettysburg and the Draft Riots of New York. Dated July 10, 1863, it established a recruit quota for Ashland, Massachusetts. With great graphics and historical importance, it sold for $11,875.
Finally, a 13 1/2″ x 10 1/2″ mounted albumen photo depicting a crowd gathered around Lincoln’s catafalque in Philadelphia did nicely with a $2,750 final bid. We’ve seen examples in CDV format, but never one so large as this.
Heritage Auctions held a manuscripts sale in New York on November 4th that included an incredible Lincoln item… a souvenir copy of the concluding paragraph of the Second Inaugural Address, written and signed by Lincoln. The lot included an album of autographs and ephemera collected by Secretary of the Interior John P. Usher’s son. The entire archive sold for $2,213,000. We reprint the salient parts of the catalog entry:
From Lincoln’s second inaugural address
Abraham Lincoln Autograph Manuscript Signed, the Last Paragraph of His Second Inaugural Address, Circa March 1865. Found on the second blank leaf of a 170 page autograph book belonging to Linton J. Usher, the son of Lincoln’s secretary of the interior, John Palmer Usher, and comprised of thirteen lines of text and signature, Lincoln writes the final passage of his second inaugural address, words now immortalized on the memorial dedicated to the sixteenth president, in full: “With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God fives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation’s wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow and his orphan – to do all which may achieve, and cherish a just, and a lasting peace among ourselves, and with all nations. [signed]Abraham Lincoln.”
With seventy-four additional signatures and inscriptions (on forty-three pages) from Cabinet members, politicians, Supreme Court justices, military officers, authors, and other dignitaries and a further nine signatures found on letters and cards held loosely between the book’s pages. Thirty-seven of the signatures are variously dated March 9, 1865, through November 20, 1887.
Signatures include Vice President Andrew Johnson [“Andrew Johnson of Tennessee”],Secretary of State William H. Seward, Secretary of the Treasury Hugh McCulloch [March 27, 1865], Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton [March 27, 1865], Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles [March 27, 1865], Postmaster General William Dennison [May 11, 1865], Attorney General James Speed [the first of two signatures], Admiral David Farragut [March 27, 1865], author Walt Whitman [September 16, 1879; the first of two signatures], Lieutenant General Ulysses S. Grant,Major General George G. Meade, Major General Philip H. Sheridan [May 11, 1865], Major General David Hunter, Major General Lew Wallace, Brigadier General August V. Kautz,Brigadier General Albion P. Howe, Brigadier General Thomas M. Harris, Brigadier General Lorenzo Thomas, Senator Henry S. Lane, Senator John Sherman [March 10, 1865], Senator Charles Sumner [March 10, 1865], former secretary of the treasury, Supreme Court Chief Justice Salmon P. Chase [March 9, 1865], illustrator Thomas Nast [November 20, 1887, with an original drawing], Brigadier General James H. Lane, Major General Christopher C. Augur, Major General Winfield Scott Hancock [February 23, 1867], Major General William Tecumseh Sherman[May 27, 1865], Secretary of the Interior John P. Usher [September 14, 1880(?), the signature and date are smudged making it difficult to make out the exact year], Major General Nathaniel P. Banks, Major General Benjamin F. Butler, Major General John A. Logan, Librarian of Congress Ainsworth R. Spofford [March 10, 1865], Brigadier General Galusha Pennypacker [January 4, 1871], et al.
The book itself measures 5.5″ x 8.75″ and is bound in brown Moroccan leather. The glossy title page, reading “Autographs / J.B. Lippincott & Co., / Philadelphia,” is oxidized. Decorative borders in gilt with additional blind-stamped borders on the front and rear covers; “Autographs” gilt stamped in decorative lettering on both covers and the spine, which also features gilt decoration in four compartments. Gilt page edges.
This magnificent collection of signatures was compiled for Linton J. Usher (1852-1952), whose name appears on the front free endpaper. Young Usher, a native of Terra Haute, Indiana, moved to Washington with his mother and brothers in 1863 (at the age of ten) to be closer to his father, John Palmer Usher. He often accompanied his father to Cabinet meetings and many of the important signers of this book were frequent visitors to the Usher household. Due to his young age, his mother collected the majority of the signatures while residing in the nation’s capital. The book has been in the possession of the Usher family since the Civil War.
According to the most updated census, there are five extant manuscript copies of Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address known:
1. The final draft of the address signed by Lincoln and presented to John Hay on April 10, 1865. This copy is currently held by the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C.
2. The copy presented in this lot containing an autograph transcript of the final paragraph held by the Usher family since the Civil War.
3. An autograph transcript of the final sentence of the second paragraph of the address, reading: “Both parties deprecated war; but one of them would make war rather than let the nation survive; and the other would accept war rather than let it perish, and the war came.” Found in an autograph album belonging to John P. Usher and sold by Christie’s on March 27, 2002.
4. An autograph transcript of the final paragraph, identical to that presented in this lot, beginning, “With malice toward none,” found in the autograph album of Caroline Wright, a friend of First Lady Mary Todd Lincoln and wife of the governor of Indiana. This copy was sold by Christie’s on November 20, 1992, and resides in a private collection.
5. An Abraham Lincoln autograph letter signed to Amanda Hall, dated March 20, 1865, containing an autograph transcript of the last two sentences of the third paragraph, reading: ”Fondly do we hope—fervently do we pray—that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondman’s two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said: ‘The judgments of the Lord are true, and righteous altogether.”’ Held by the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield, Illinois.
Condition: The front cover and spine covering are separating from the textblock, but still attached near the upper edge. The first six leaves (including the page with the Lincoln inscription) and title page are detached from the textblock. Endpapers are toned with some spots of foxing. Pages show some light toning, soiling, or foxing in places. Covers are lightly rubbed, particularly at the head and foot of the spine.
Bonham’s auction of October 26, 2015 featured the armchair used by Mathew Brady when photographing many prominent individuals of the Civil War period, including Abraham Lincoln. It sold for $449,000. Here is there catalog entry, in full:
The important Mathew Brady Studio carved oak armchair, Made by Bembe & Kimbel, New York, circa 1857
The inside back seat rail stamped A BEMBE B KIMBEL / 928 / BROADWAY / NEW YORK
height of crest 38 3/4in (98.4cm); height of seat rail 14 1/2in (36.8cm); greatest width (across legs) 24 1/4in (61.6cm); width inside arms 20in (50.8cm); greatest depth approximately 25in (63.5cm); depth of seat rails 22 3/4in (57.8cm).
United States House of Representatives, Washington DC, 1857-1863
Mathew Brady’s studio, Washington DC, January, 1864-1893
William Stalee, 1893-1903
William H. Towles, 1903-1954
thence by descent in the family of William H. Towles and (1872-1954)
This chair is discussed in length in Roy Meredith, Lincoln’s Camera Man: Mathew Brady Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York, 1946, pp. 78-81.
The Washington Post, article for Chevy Chase Antique Show and Sale, Sept 12-14, 1952.
Chevy Chase Antique Show and Sale, Chevy Chase, MD, September 12-14, 1952.
This stately chair demonstrates bold proportions, dynamic patriotic carving and a commanding presence. While the chair has been reupholstered, it retains its original surface that has darkened and has an alligatored appearance that contributes additionally to its appeal and rarity. It is not only an important survivor from a significant official American commission, but, and most importantly, is the physical support for portrait photographs of the most prominent figures in nineteenth-century American history. There is perhaps no other single object that connects with so many important historical figures.
The chair is one of 262 chairs commissioned for the United States House of Representatives in 1857, after a design by Thomas Ustick Walters. The commission was so large, and included desks as well, that it was completed by several firms, including Bembe and Kimbel of New York, Hammitt Desk Mfg. Co of Philadelphia and Doe Hazelton & Co. of Boston. While survivors do occasionally surface at auction, those bearing the stamp of Bembe and Kimbel, as seen on this chair, are relatively rare. By 1863, several of these chairs had left the House of Representatives for a variety of reasons and the circumstances surrounding their dispersal bear further research.
“THE LINCOLN CHAIR”
The chair was in Brady’s studio by February 9, 1864 and used when Lincoln and his son, Tad, were photographed in what would become one of the most iconic and poignant photographs of Lincoln. However, the circumstances surrounding exactly how Brady acquired this chair are not completely clear. According to family tradition, the chair was given to Brady by Abraham Lincoln; while the friendship between Lincoln and both Brady and his associate, Alexander Gardner, is fairly well documented, no correspondence survives from either Brady or Lincoln mentioning this chair specifically.
Brady had as an apprentice from 1867 Levin Corbin Handy, who was his nephew by marriage. Handy’s two daughters, Alice H. Cox and Mary H. Evans, believed that Lincoln had given Brady the chair as a gift and relayed this story to Brady biographer Roy Meredith, who subsequently cited the story in his book Mr. Lincoln’s Camera Man: Mathew Brady, New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1946 (pp. 78-81). The lack of primary documentation, in the form of diaries or letters from either Lincoln or Brady has prevented Lincoln scholars from giving the story full credence. The only documentation known to exist are signed affidavits from Mary Evans, Will H. Towles and Frank B. Kaye, who worked with Towles; in each of the affidavits, the chair is referred to as “The Lincoln Chair.”
THE PICTORIAL RECORD
Handy acquired Brady’s photographs upon Brady’s death and this collection is now at the Library of Congress. The surviving pictorial archive in both the Brady-Handy Collection and the Meserve collection of Lincoln photographs now at Yale indicates that this chair did not appear in Brady’s studio prior to February 1864 and is different from a similar chair owned by Alexander Gardner. The Gardner family chair stayed in the Gardner family until 1921 when it was gifted to the Church of New Jerusalem; it was subsequently sold at auction in 2001 when it was acquired by the collection of the Lincoln Financial Group and is currently on permanent view at the Indiana State Museum in Indianapolis.
The list of sitters who sat in this chair for Mathew Brady is, literally, a “Who’s Who” of American history-makers. No less than five presidents graced it, as well as all manner of senators and civil servants, Civil War soldiers of all rank and file and hailing from both sides of the War, Justices, Native Americans and citizens, both prominent and anonymous. When used in group portraits, the most important figure in the group is shown seated in this chair; it is interesting to note that women are never depicted seated in it, in part for the practical reasons in that it wasn’t wide enough for the fashionable hoop skirts of the day.
THE STUDIO AFTER BRADY
Destitute and an invalid at the end of his life, Brady sold his studio in its entirety to William Stalee in 1893, three years prior to his death in 1896. Stalee subsequently sold the studio and its contents to Will H. Towles in 1903. While no inventories of either sale have been found, the chair has always remained with the studio. Frank B. Kaye was working in the Studio when Towles acquired it and his 1940 affidavit attests that the Lincoln Chair was included with the rest of the furnishings. Remaining in the Towles and Pattison families to this day, it has been exhibited numerous times at mid-Atlantic area events, including the 1952 Chevy Chase Antiques Show and Sale.
Here’s a riddle for you. What is the difference between these two Stephen Douglas engraved portrait ribbons? The answer is simple. $13,245. Albany collector Ray Farina sold one on eBay for $1,525. The other example, known as a “Brady” ribbon, was sold by Gene Dillman of Old Politicals Auction in North Carolina. It made a record $14,770. The less expensive variety is actually much rarer than the “Brady”, but assembling a set of “Brady” ribbons is much easier and the Douglas is key to completing the set. We assume two condition-conscious collectors, each needing the Douglas to complete the set, went toe-to-toe on this one. Money shouldn’t be an issue but, when it comes time to sell, someone’s going to be taking a real hair-cut!
Schuyler Rumsey Philatelic Auctions of San Francisco held on auction October 20-23. Here is the catalog description and picture of a Lincoln item that sold for $6,907.
“Abraham Lincoln, 1809-1865, 16th President of the United States 1861-1865. Clear bold ‘A. Lincoln, MC’ free frank signature as Congressman on folded cover to General D. Campbell at Abingdon Va., no postal markings; central file fold, Very Fine.
Estimate $5,000 – 7,500. A RARE AND BOLD ABRAHAM LINCOLN FREE FRANK AS CONGRESSMAN FROM ILLINOIS.
Lincoln served for only one term in the House. His free frank as congressman is far rarer than as President.”
An eBay vendor offered this 10 1/2″ x 7 1/4″ handbill titled “Eternal Vigilance is the Price of Justice!”. Dated April 21, 1865, it was issued in Skaneateles, New York (Finger Lakes region) and announced the formation of a “Vigilance Committee” to aid in the possible capture of the Lincoln conspirators who were still at large and might be heading towards the Canadian border. Such handbills were not publicly posted, but handed out to local citizens who were to report the comings-and-goings of any strangers passing through the town. Found in the trunk of a Civil War soldier, it appears to be the sole survivor of a vigilante movement among American citizens to track down the conspirators. It captured a final bid of $1,287.
A very rare carte-de-visite by E. S. Walker depicts people filing into the Columbus, Ohio state house to view the body of President Lincoln. Never before seen, it sold for $2,380 when listed on eBay.
Swann Galleries in New York held a manuscripts sale on September 17th. Here are the results of a few lots, utilizing the catalog descriptions as printed.
(CIVIL WAR.) Recruitment letter for underground sleeper cells to oppose Lincoln and the draft. Printed circular letter, 11 x 6 inches; folds, minor wear. (MRS) Philadelphia, 1863. Estimate $4,000 – 6,000.
“we are in the midst of one of the most desperate and cruel despotisms that ever disgraced the civilized world.” Many northerners opposed Lincoln, the draft, and the war effort in general. While most of these opponents worked within the system as the “Copperhead” branch of the Democratic Party, a handful attempted organized resistance by force. The author of this circular letter urged men to form “Decemvirates”–underground cells of ten resisters in which only their captain knew the identity of the other nine. Decemvirate members would then branch out and form their own cells “until every citizen in the land opposed to Lincoln becomes an enrolled soldier, ready to resist by armed force his tyrannical usurpations.” These Decemvirates were to take no immediate action; each member is to “provide himself with the best arms he can obtain and keep them in perfect order, and out of view.” However, “when the hour for open and armed resistance arrives–A. for example, will notify his Decemvirate B., C., D., &c; and they in turn will notify those whom they have enrolled, and so on ad infinitum.” This plan sounds effective on paper, but apparently never met with any success. No other copies of this letter have been traced, nor do we find any mention of Decemvirates in the Civil War context. This letter evokes similar concerns to the underground Knights of the Golden Circle, but does not demonstrate any overt interest in the preservation of slavery or sympathy for the Confederacy. The author simply hated Lincoln and his abuse of the Constitution. The letter closes: “Friends, every where, Organize Speedily! The heel of the tyrant is upon you! Don’t hesitate or delay to join a Decemvirate! . . . One efficient man in the neighborhood can put the system in successful operation; and thus in a very few days, the whole country may be thoroughly organized and ready for action.” Space is given for the signatures of the “Committee,” but this example is unsigned. $5,280.
(CIVIL WAR–PRINTS.) The Outbreak of the Rebellion in the United States 1861. Hand-colored lithograph, 20 x 27 inches; several short closed tears, faint scrape across top part of image, laid down on archival paper. New York: Kimmel & Forster, 1865. Estimate $500 – 750. To the left, President Buchanan naps at his desk while corrupt Secretary of War John Floyd scoops coins into a sack, and Jefferson Davis leads an unruly army while Justice looks on sternly. To the right, Lincoln addresses an adoring crowd. Reilly 1865-21; none known at auction. $1,200.
LINCOLN, ABRAHAM. Facsimile of the Emancipation Proclamation. Lithograph broadside, 29 3/4 x 24 inches, minor damp staining and toning; original embossed seal of authenticity in lower left. Chicago: Thomas B. Bryan, 1863. Estimate $800 – 1,200. Edward Mendel lithographed the text of the proclamation from the original manuscript, which was then in the possession of Thomas B. Bryan, president of the Soldier’s Home in Chicago. These facsimiles were sold as a fundraiser for the United States Sanitary Commission. The manuscript was then lost to in the 1871 Chicago fire. Mendel produced several versions of this broadside; this is the vertically formatted issue with an engraved portrait of Lincoln in the upper left. Eberstadt, Emancipation Proclamation 35 and page 16. No examples of any Mendel printings are known at auction since 1995. $2,040.
Heritage Auctions in Dallas sold part III of the Merrill C. Berman Collection on September 26th. The collection should generate over $2M when all items are finally liquidated next year. A Wide Awake hat badge (DeWitt AL-1860-1) was a very special offering. We know of one example in private hands, another one in the DeWitt Collection and the Zabriskie example (heavily tarnished). This was a very pleasing specimen and sold for $14,375.
A scarce Douglas ribbon touting him as the “Little Giant of the West” sold for $2,750, just about where it was expected to land.
A small oval ferrotype brooch for John Breckinridge, the only example we have seen, made a strong $3,500.
A Lancaster Locomotive Works Democratic Club McClellan ribbon on blue taffeta silk matched the Douglas, selling for $2,750.
Finally, a Nashville Union Extra dated April 15, 1865, announcing the assassination of Lincoln (“The Rebel Fiends at Work”) saw lots of action, selling for $2,625. Although we notice some key Lincoln items selling around the $15,000 level of late (a popular price point, it seems), there are still nice items selling at “affordable” levels, relatively speaking. The next Heritage sale will take place on November 7th and will include many items from the estate of Gideon Welles. We advise our readers to check it out.
A 4″ x 5 1/2″ broadside-style handbill advertising the public exhibition of Francis Carpenter’s painting of “The First Reading of the Emancipation Proclamation” was offered on eBay and sold for $350. The painting was put on public display prior to the making of a mass-produced engraving in 1866. Carpenter tried without success to sell the painting to the government, but it eventually sold to a private citizen and now hangs in the Capitol.
Dave Taylor’s Civil War Antiques of Sylvania, Ohio, now blast-emails offerings presented in a lovely catalog-style format with wonderful graphics and photographs. From his most recent list: “From Life Albumen CDV Photograph by Mathew Brady of Boston Corbett … the man who shot John Wilkes Booth. Corbett is dressed in his fatigue uniform consisting of a standard enlisted 4-button fatigue blouse with sergeant’s chevrons on each sleeve. Outstanding clarity, contrast, and condition. Bears Brady’s Washington, D.C. imprint on mount front and back. Bottom front bears full historical printed data. Corbett personally shot John Wilkes Booth to death at Garrett’s tobacco barn in Virginia … gaining himself some big time, though short lived, fame. Thomas “Boston” Corbett (est. 1832-1894) was born in London and immigrated to the U.S. with his family, where he found work as a hatter in New York City. After the war he reportedly castrated himself based on a skewed interpretation of Biblical instruction regarding lust. Some have speculated that the mercury exposure from his hatter’s profession caused his later mental problems. The phrase ‘mad as a hatter’ does indeed have basis in fact. A very significant piece of Civil War photo history, and also very rare. $595.”
An eBay vendor listed a mechanical cane of Lincoln with a starting price of $1,250. A button at the back of the neck activates the stove pipe hat which collapses when activated. A rather charming piece, possibly unique, but there were no takers.
The Rare Book department at Heritage Auctions in Dallas conducts weekly internet-only sales that typically contain around 400 lots of books and assorted ephemera. Their September 10th sale had a small folio Currier & Ives print by Thomas Worth entitled “Preparing for Congress”. It depicts a recently freed slave getting spruced up under the gaze of Lincoln, whose portrait hangs on the wall. We have seen a CDV of this, but not the original upon which it is based. Worth did most of the comical prints for Currier & Ives, most notably the offensive “Darktown” series. The print in the original frame sold for $400.
A 3 1/4″ x 5 1/2″ Douglas Invincibles ribbon from White Pigeon, Michigan (near the Indiana border) attracted a lot of attention when listed on eBay recently. There were thirteen different bidders who pushed the price up to $2,280. You can’t beat that!
An envelope issued by a Fitchburg, Massachusetts missionary and anti-liquor/anti-tobacco crusader, George Trask, just sold on eBay for $33. It likely dates from the 1870-1875 period and has a picture of Lincoln with the declaration “Abraham Lincoln Never Used Tobacco.”
If you were in war-torn Shanghai in May 1940, during a lull in the fighting, you might have gone to the Nanking Theater and seen a special preview of “Abe Lincoln in Illinois” starring Raymond Massey. This postcard sent to a local resident advertises the showing. We don’t know if the film was dubbed or subtitled in Chinese, but assume it was patronized solely by English speaking residents. The item was offered on eBay with a Buy-It-Now price of $150, but no one had a yen for it, so it remains unsold.
Kurt and Gail Sanftleben of Montclair, VA issue fixed-price catalogs under the business name of Read’Em Again Books. Two items caught our attention in their fixed-price catalog 15-1: “Diaries, Scrapbooks, and Photo Albums with Some Books and Other Things too”. The first is perhaps the priciest (and rarest!) example of Lincoln funeral sheet music we have encountered: “Funeral March Dedicated to the Memory of Abraham Lincoln . . . Played at the Obsequies of the Late President of the United States By the U. S. Marine Band” (Inside title: “March Funebre”) composed by Bvt. Major General J. C. (sic J. G.) Barnard. Wm. A. Pond, New York, 1865. Priced at $5,000, they state this is the official music of Lincoln’s funeral procession that marched from the White House (where the funeral was held) to the Capitol (where his body would lay in state) on 19 April 1865. It was played by the U.S. Marine band, which was positioned near the front of the official participants in the procession. It was composed by Army Brevet Major General Barnard, who had served as the Chief Engineer of the Defenses of Washington and the Chief Engineer of the Armies in the Field. Barnard also served in the funeral Honor Guard.
Exceptionally scarce. Not listed in Monaghan. As of 2015, two copies listed by OCLC (The Lincoln Presidential Museum, and The Lincoln Financial Foundation Museum at Ft. Wayne) plus one copy at the Library of Congress and one at Brown University; no auction sales on record at ABPC or the Rare Book Hub. The catalog also includes a copy of the New York Times detailing President Abraham Lincoln’s Assassination. (Vol. XIV, No. 4230, April 15, 1865.) While they catalog this as the FIRST reports, we now know this is one of the earliest but not the true first news reported in Gotham. (An earlier edition hit the presses with a small run likely about three-hours before this issuance.)
Nicely framed, it is offered for $950 and features the headline, “AWFUL EVENT / President Lincoln Shot by an Assassin. The Deed Done at Ford’s Theatre Last Night. THE ACT OF A DESPERATE REBEL”. It includes the first (“Midnight”) report of the event, “The President is reported dead. Cavalry and infantry are scouring the city in every direction for the murderous assassins, and the city is overwhelmed by excitement. Who the assassins were no one knows, though every body supposes them to have been rebels.” (The report of Lincoln’s death was premature, as the President hung on to life until around 7 am the following morning.)
Now, here’s a question that is truly vexing. Is it possible for members of the German American Bund, sympathizers with Adolf Hitler, to be admirers of Abraham Lincoln? The answer is apparently yes, judging by this ticket for a 1936 social event at Carpathian Hall in Detroit. Divided loyalties did not preclude being a fan of both Adolf and Abraham. We guess both were looking for a “new birth of freedom”, although their definition of freedom varied greatly. The ticket sold for around $12 on eBay and comes in a brown paper wrapper.
We saw a good buy recently on eBay… a 1892 Wide Awake re-union ribbon. Condition was excellent and, if you’re into Lincoln association items, the Buy-It-Now price of $25 seemed eminently fair.
Heritage Auctions sold part II of the Merrill C. Berman Collection on June 27th. The third installment is scheduled for September and the fourth and final installment for early 2015. A Lincoln-Hamlin jugate ribbon in red silk, considered the best design of all the 1860 Lincoln jugate ribbons, sold for $9,375. It had been glued to an album page on all four sides. A white example from the Berman collection previously sold for a thousand dollars more, but it had been spot-glued on the four corners and was likely removable.
The matching Bell-Everett jugate ribbon by the same maker (removed from an album with paper remnants at top and bottom) made $5,250. A very unusual Stephen Douglas ribbon worn by a member of the “Diamond State Club” of Delaware realized $3.250.
A rare Lincoln silvered brass shell stickpin went for $4,250. It was attached to a card that indicated it had been worn on the inside of their coats by Unionists in Richmond, Virginia, and flashed to like-minded individuals at secret meetings as a sign of identification. Truly a cock-and-bull story. The stickpin, however, was right-as-rain.
Finally, in the “Believe it or not!” category, a pristine condition 1864 Lincoln ferrotype badge, normally a $600-$800 item, shocked everybody when it hammered for $5,000. Can these prices be sustained? Time will tell.
Sotheby’s held a manuscripts sale on June 19th. We spotted two nice Lincoln lots which, as things would have it, failed to sell. The sale included 150 lots of which 88 sold for a sell-through rate of 58%. That makes things hard for both buyers and sellers and doesn’t engender a great deal of confidence. But, that’s the way it is. None of the four Lincoln lots offered found buyers.
ORIGINAL PENCIL DRAWING BY PIERRE MORAND OF ABRAHAM LINCOLN AT WILLARD’S HOTEL, ACCOMPANIED BY MORAND’S AUTOGRAPH MANUSCRIPT ACCOUNT OF THE EPISODE, TITLED “ABRAHAM LINCOLN AT WILLARDS” AND SIGNED WITH INITIALS (“P.M.”) The drawing on stiff paper (7 1/2 x 4 3/8 in.; 191 x 112 mm), titled lower left “At Willard’s June 1864,” depicting Lincoln standing at full length at a window, facing three-quarters left, wearing a black three-piece suit and top hat, and holding a rolled up newspaper in his right hand; lightly browned, a tiny hole at top margin, a tiny surface abrasion at left margin, remnant of earlier mount on verso. The manuscript on paper on wove paper (8 1/2 x 7 3/8 in.; 216 x 187 mm). A lost Morand portrait of Lincoln, with the artist’s account of the circumstances of the drawing. Little is known of Pierre Morand, other than that he was French and that during the Civil War he was acquainted enough with Lincoln to make a number of informal pencil drawings of the President, most of which are now in institutions. The present drawing is recorded in the 1899 Grolier Club exhibition catalogue of A Collection of Engraved and other Portraits of Lincoln, no. 149, and it was sold as lot 386 in the auction of the “Library of the late Major William H, Lambert, Part V, Lincolniana, Third Section: The Portrait Collection” (Anderson Galleries, April 30, 1914). The drawing has, however, been lost to sight for the last century. This Morand portrait of Lincoln is of particular interest because his accompanying narrative includes a characteristic example of the President’s humor: “In June 1864, Mr Lincoln had been calling upon some sick statesman at the hotel, when in the hall he met Hon. J. B. Blair of WVa. and Hon Joseph Segar, of loyal Virginia, both of the House of Representatives, in whose company I happened to be. After putting down the window shade, Mr Lincoln rested his elbows upon the sill, crossed his legs and, with a semi-humorous twinkle, asked what noise that was going on down stairs. “‘Nothing of consequence, Mr President,’ replied Mr Segar, [‘]only Senator Saulsbury cutting up in the barber-shop.’ “‘I thought it sounded like that,’ pensively remarked Mr Lincoln.” Willard Saulsbury was a Democrat Senator from Delaware and one of Lincoln’s most intemperate critics in Washington. In 1863, while apparently intoxicated, he attacked the President in what John Hay described as “language fit only for a drunken fishwife.” Reprimanded by Vice President Hannibal Hamlin, presiding over the Senate, Saulsbury was eventually removed from the chamber, but not before threatening the sergeant-at-arms with a revolver. Est. $60,000-$80,000
AUTOGRAPH LETTER SIGNED (“A. LINCOLN”) TO SAMUEL CALDWELL. 1 page (9 5/8 x 7 3/4 in.; 247 x 195 mm) on a leaf of wove paper, Springfield, 27 May 1858; lightly soiled on verso, two tiny pinholes at intersecting folds. Accompanied by the original autograph envelope, directed to “Samuel Caldwell, Esq. | (Yale College) | New Haven | Connecticut,” bearing Springfield postmark and three-cent stamp; frayed at edges. Also accompanied by 10 documents relating to Samuel Caldwell, including his law license and Illinois State Militia appointments; some lightly soiled and with fold separations. An unrecorded letter by Abraham Lincoln, written three weeks before his nomination by the Illinois Republican Convention as a candidate for the U. S. Senate, advising a Yale student that he “will find many better opportunities here than in my office.” Samuel Caldwell was born in Pennsylvania but relocated at a young age to Farmington, Illinois, with his family. He attended college at Yale and after graduation he planned to return to Illinois to study law. Caldwell wrote to Lincoln (perhaps among other Illinois attorneys), who was then in practice with William Herndon, seeking a place to learn the practice of law. Lincoln must have given some consideration to the request, because he kept the letter for two months before responding. Ultimately he turned Caldwell away, alluding to his semi-annual absences to travel the Eighth Judicial Circuit and cushioning the disappointing news with characteristic self-deprecation: “Your letter of the 17th of March, asking an opportunity to study law in my office, I have had a long time. It would afford me pleasure to oblige you; but you perhaps are not aware that I do not keep office in a way that is most suitable for a young man to study law in. I am from home perhaps more than half my time, so that as preceptor, I should be of no value. You will find many better opportunities here than in my office.” Samuel Caldwell did return to Illinois but did not immediately study law. He worked as a printer before joining the Illinois Volunteers in July 1861, serving successively as Second Lieutenant, First Lieutenant, and Captain in Company E, Eighth Infantry Regiment. He was discharged from service on May 4, 1866, at Baton Rouge. Later that year he was licensed to practice law in Illinois. Caldwell died in September 1872, at the age of thirty-eight. $50,000-$70,000
Cowan’s held a sale on June 12th that included two items of note. The first was an 11 1/2″ x 16″ campaign flag from 1860 with the added name of an Iowa candidate for Congress. Archivally framed with strong colors and an unusual star configuration, it sold within expectations for $13,800.
The other lot was a small 8-page booklet of the “Proclamation of Emancipation” (M-235, Eberstadt 15). This was a companion piece to a similar booklet published by John Murray Forbes of Boston that contained the text of the preliminary Emancipation Proclamation. This example has the text of the final proclamation and was likely published a month later in January 1863. The back cover has a War of 1812 period quote by Andrew Jackson to the free colored inhabitants of Louisiana, urging them to join in the fight against the British. As such, the booklet was probably distributed in Louisiana where Union forces occupied large portions of the state, headquartered in New Orleans under the command of Nathaniel Banks. It is considerably rarer than the earlier version. Our research indicates the last one to be sold was offered by Goodspeed’s in 1967 for $15. This time around, it sold for $7,800.
A porcelain egg cup from the Lincoln White House service just sold on eBay for $7,150. The vendor cited the sale of an identical cup by Wes Cowan for $19,000. There were 48 cups produced in the two orders submitted by Mary Todd Lincoln and President Andrew Johnson four years apart. There is no way to differentiate between the two orders, as the pieces are not marked. The difference between this piece and the Cowan example is that the Cowan example had Robert Todd Lincoln Beckwith in its provenance… a strong indication it was actually used in the Lincoln White House.
A CDV album with some interesting and rare images “took off” when recently offered on eBay. We picture the best four cartes in the album. Besides these, there was a routine portrait of John Wilkes Booth and a memorial view that incorporated Lincoln’s Farewell Address to the Citizens of Springfield. The core value resided with the four images depicted. The image of the funeral train was supposedly taken in Springfield, Illinois. Frankly, we were shocked by the final price of $6,100. Are CDV’s making a comeback?
Our focus is and always will remain Lincoln. That said, can never extricate Abe from those remarkable lives he interacted with. In all our counsel to fellow Rail Splitters we always note the rule “content is King!” when buying missives, autograph letters, diaries, etc. W.T. Sherman is someone who left a large body of autograph material to obtain. And, as collectors, we might hold out for something that has something of a personal, military, or social-commentary quality… not just an autograph but something with real insight! Skinner’s had an on-line only auction with about as GREAT a Sherman letter as we have ever read. Written very early in the War, this one reveals a great deal of the character of the man. With the buyer’s premium, it sold for $4,000 against a $700-900 estimate. (Clearly others recognized this as a special item!) Sherman, William Tecumseh (1820-1891) Autograph Letter Signed, Moscow, Tennessee, 7 July 1862. To the New York publishers D. Appleton & Co., declining their request that he write an autobiographical sketch for their American Encyclopedia. “I cannot overcome a deep natural repugnance to write of myself. I cannot believe the public feels any interest in one who has struggled for obscurity from the beginning of this horrid unnatural but necessary war. I still desire to remain in obscurity as far as the public is concerned, simply doing my duty plainly and zealously as a Division Commander. Success is the only criterion in war and so vast is the country and so inveterate our enemy that failure may overtake the most careful and vigilant commander. After which a Biographical sketch would be wasted words. So on every ground I prefer to remain unknown until this war cloud begins to dissipate and light once more shine on the Land whose precious freedom was but a few months since the admiration of the whole civilized world. When that day comes if I can be instrumental in bringing it about I will consider myself worthy a Page in the Cyclopedia, otherwise I prefer to remain known simply by my circle of personal friends.”
Heritage Auctions held a political sale on May 18th that contained a nice assortment of Lincolniana. There were some Lincoln political pieces mixed in with the Isaac Rudman Collection of Anti-Slavery Tokens & Medals. A copper specimen of DeWitt AL-1860-37 made a record $1,250. The much more common white metal version of the same piece was also offered and likewise exceeded past sales, realizing $875.
A unique 7″ x 18 1/2″ 1864 Lincoln banner/flag established a record for any Lincoln campaign item offered at auction when it traded hands for $106,250. We believe it may have been part of a small transparency or, less likely, a lantern. Until recently, it was in the Merrill Berman Collection. Merrill purchased it ions ago from New York collector Stan King for $4,500 which, at the time, was a strong price. Gone are the days!
A small brass match safe, made to be carried on ones belt, was a bit of an enigma. It was engraved “The Wide Awakes” on the hinged lid and had a bearded portrait of Lincoln made out of bone or ivory, attached to the front. It gave all signs of being a period piece, but when exactly was it made? Since it was a bearded portrait, we ruled out 1860. It may have been made for Lincoln’s first inauguration or for the election of 1864 or for a Wide Awake re-union in the 1880’s. The uncertainty kept the price down to $975.
The sale contained three examples of uncut ferrotype sheets. Our favorite was an example with six “belt buckle” ferrotypes of Lincoln. These are actually stamped “Melainotype Plates for Neff’s Patent”. Despite that, collectors today call them tintypes or ferrotypes. Whatever! It sold for $8,750.
Finally, a 16 3/4″ x 18 1/2″ bronze plaque of Lincoln by William O’Donovan, signed by the artist in 1880 and housed in its original frame, made $5,250. O’Donovan fought for the Confederacy during the Civil War. He collaborated with Thomas Eakins on the Soldiers’ & Sailors’ Monument in Grand Army Plaza in Brooklyn, New York.
A badge consisting of two 1 1/4″ buttons, one for Lincoln and the other for Pennsylvania war-time Governor Andrew Curtin, was both colorful and charming. Issued circa 1911-1913, it attracted a good deal of attention when offered on eBay and sold for $147.
An eBay vendor from Boston who sells a lot of German and Russian material listed a very fine copy of an 1860 Lincoln campaign biography in German, published in New York and designated Monaghan 3733. It had two Bremen library stamps on the front cover along with some other identifying notations, but was in remarkable condition otherwise. It sold for $897. Five years ago, another copy in lesser condition sold on eBay for $456. Despite the two appearances, the imprint is considered excessively rare. It demonstrates perhaps that, despite some shortcomings, eBay remains a key source for material.
This CDV issued, we believe, in 1864, compares the monetary policies of “Black Republicanism” (Lincoln) vs. that of “Democracy” (McClellan). One side depicts an assortment of fractional currency and a packet of matches with a revenue stamp applied. The other side depicts an assortment of U. S. coins. The vendor thought it might have something to do with Bryan and the silver issue in 1896, but we knew better. Never before seen, it sold for a reasonable $178.
Freeman’s of Philadelphia held an auction on April 22nd. A 35 1/2″ x 28 1/4″ oil on canvas of Lincoln, modeled after the Wenderoth & Taylor photo, likely executed sometime in the 19th century, sold for $3,250.
An eBay seller from Virginia Beach, Virginia listed an extremely rare hand-colored lithograph of Lincoln & Hamlin published by Rease of Philadelphia. This print has been extensively reproduced, but original copies are like the proverbial hen’s teeth. Freeman’s sold an example in September 2004 for $16,500 to dealer Dan Weinberg. That one had narrow borders and was printed in brown & black. This one had full borders and was hand-colored, likely at the time of production. According to the vendor, it came out of a northern Maine estate containing many 19th century items and had been hanging in his home since 1980. The starting bid was only $495, but the piece definitely got noticed with many would-be buyers making their pitch. Two collectors made matching offers of $15,000, so the vendor had a tough decision to make. After speaking to the two principals, he ended the listing and sold the piece outright to a most-worthy mid-West collector who, by the way, had been the underbidder on the Freeman example. One winner and one loser, but you give it your best shot. Sometimes, you do get a “second bite at the apple!”
A nice example of the Douglas & Johnson Currier & Ives “Grand National Banner” surfaced on eBay. Housed in its original ogee frame, with lavishly applied colors, it sold for a strong $3,188.
Swann Galleries of New York City held a sale on April 14th. The nicest Lincoln piece was a 42-page songster from 1860 titled “Republican Song Book” in pictorial wraps. The covers had separated, but been reattached using a thin strip of archival tape. Still, the presentation was quite decent. This is only the second copy we have seen, so the final price of $2,750 came as no surprise.
Profiles in History of Calabasas, California handles a wide range of historical artifacts and autographs. They held a sale on December 16, 2014 that included many interesting items. We were somewhat surprised to see a desk supposedly used by Abraham Lincoln during his tenure in the Illinois legislature. Surprised because we hadn’t seen the piece advertised – in addition, the consignor had been shopping it around for some time, offering it to multiple auction houses. As detailed in the catalog, the desk (measuring 49″ wide, 30″ tall and 28″ deep) matches an example in the Museum of Lincoln College, according to a 1976 letter from Curator James T. Hickey of the Illinois State Historical Library. In part: “Wayne Temple has referred your letter of recent date concerning the desk to the undersigned. It is our opinion that the desk which you have was probably one used in the House of Representatives in the State House at Vandalia, Illinois, and was moved to Springeld in July 1839 when the state government was officially moved by Proclamation of the Governor. On May 3, 1840, the commission in charge of construction on the new State House in Springfield entered into a contract with C. M. Polk to make new desks for the House of Representatives after a plan made by John F. Rague, who was also the architect of the new building. They were to be delivered by November 15, 1840. Presumably they were and the House of Representatives met for the first time in the new building on December 7, 1840, and concluded the session March 1, 1841. This was the only time Lincoln sat as a legislator in the Old State Capitol at Springfield… We are most interested in your desk as possibly being from the Vandalia State House where Lincoln sat longer as a member of the House of Representatives…” We note the words “probably” and “possibly” in Hickey’s letter. The provenance that accompanied the desk was fairly extensive and details its line of ownership from 1858 to 1976. After Lincoln, the next identified owner was John G. Graham of Fulton County who served in the legislature from 1858-1864 and supposedly used this desk according to a note dated 1857 pasted to the underside of the chair, now lost, that read: “This desk was used by Abraham Lincoln during his last two terms as a member of the Illinois Legislature from 1838-1842. It was afterwards occupied by J.C. Graham a personal friend of Lincoln who acquired its possession and ownership when the state replaced the old fashioned desks by new ones.” We’re not sure if J. C. Graham and John G. Graham are one-in-the-same. The desk subsequently wound up with the operator of a Springfield boarding house who sold it for $2 in 1898 to Mr. C. E. Kuhlthau, a tenant in one of her furnished apartments. Kuhlthau donated it to the Delaware [Ohio] Public Library in 1920, after having written an affidavit detailing its history and acquisition. Based on a series of letters between Lincoln scholars Wayne Temple and James Hickey to John W. Bricker (Ohio Governor and U.S. Senator), it seems that Bricker owned the desk as of 1976. It is possible the desk passed into the hands of the consignor after Bricker’s death in 1986. The story is very interesting and we’ve left out a lot of the details, but none of it proves that Lincoln used this desk. It is our understanding that the legislature met briefly at a Springfield church while the new State House was under construction. Once the work was completed, the old desks were left behind. Being government property, we think it unlikely that the occupant of each desk carved his name in them. In other words, if there were fifty desks, there was no way to know who occupied any of them during their useful life. They likely had many occupants. By the time this fellow Graham served in that chamber, all the desks were new, so he could not have occupied Lincoln’s desk. The story only holds water, we believe, if Lincoln kept his old desk as a keepsake when the work at the State House was completed in 1841 and gave it to Graham at that time. It’s plausible, but there is no documentation and the 1857 note by Graham no longer exists, having disintegrated or fallen off when Kuhlthau sent the desk for repair in 1898. Lincoln’s name is not inscribed on the desk, Graham’s name appears nowhere in “Lincoln Day by Day”, there is no letter from Lincoln presenting the desk to Graham and the original note by Graham no longer exists, except in the recollection of Mr. Kuhlthau, as evidenced by an undated affidavit that accompanied the desk. Still, despite some gaps and questions directly linking the desk to Lincoln, it still managed to sell for $144,000.
The sale also included a wonderful letter from Lincoln to New York political powerhouse Thurlow Weed penned during the election of 1860. Mentioning all his presidential opponents by name, Lincoln expresses concern about opposition strategies that might prevent him from winning New York State come November. It reads, in full: “Private Hon. T. Weed— Springeld, Ills— Aug. 17, 1860. My dear Sir—Yours of the 13th. was received this morning. Douglas is managing the Bell-element with great adroitness. He had his men, in Kentucky, to vote for the Bell candidate, producing a result which has badly alarmed and damaged Breckinridge, and, at the same time, has induced the Bell men to suppose that Bell will certainly be President, if they can keep a few of the Northern States away from us, by throwing them to Douglas. But you, better than I, understand all this. I think there will be the most extraordinary effort ever made, to carry New-York for Douglas. You, and all others who write me from your state, think the effort can not succeed; and I hope you are right; still it will require close watching, and great effort on the other side. Herewith I send you a copy of a letter, written at New-York, which succinctly explains itself, and which may, or may not, give you a valuable hint. You have seen that Bell tickets have been put on the track, both here, and in Indiana. In both cases, the object has been, I think, the same as the Hunt movement in N.Y.—to throw the States to Douglas. [Washington Hunt and James Brooks were former Whigs and ex-representatives in Congress, actively leading the Bell movement in New York.] In our state we know the thing is engineered by Douglas men; and we do not believe they can make a great deal out of it. Yours very truly A. Lincoln”. It sold for $87,500.
Finally, a lot that contained three plaster busts by Guzton Borglum (two Lincoln and one Jefferson) was offered. The largest Lincoln, twice-signed by Borglum, was 3″ x 6″ x 3″. According to the catalog: “The archive originates from the estate of Camille Yuill, who was the city editor of the Deadwood Pioneer-Times. He met and befriended Borglum when Borglum first visited the Black Hills to begin the Mount Rushmore project. Borglum presented this ochre Lincoln cast to Yuill in 1938…The small plaster models, pocket-size, (such as the Jefferson and Lincoln casts included in this lot) were always available on-site for the drillers and carvers to reference while working on the mountain. In addition, in 1934, Borglum agreed to make very few similar signed plaster casts of the heads for presentations to well-heeled donors as a way of funding the Mount Rushmore project, which was plagued by a lack of funding.” The three pint-size castings sold for a monumental $16,800.
We picture a most unusual “Union Republican Ticket” that sold recently on eBay for $50. Although the vendor resided in Virginia, he speculated that the ballot originated in Pennsylvania because it was found in the papers of his grandmother, a long-time resident of that state. It looked more like a post-Civil War Virginia ballot to us. It urged the election of George Rye as a delegate to an upcoming convention, likely for the purpose of writing a revised state constitution in the Reconstruction South. In fact, that is the case. The ballot features a beardless woodcut of Lincoln we have not seen before, making him appear more homely than he actually was. The slogans advocate various civil rights issues. The key to pinpointing the year of origin is identifying George Rye. Fortunately, we located a most informative fifteen-page article on Rye which can be accessed here. His is a fascinating story and we strongly urge readers to check it out.
To summarize, George Rye (1810-1890) was a resident of Shenandoah County, Virginia who lived in Edinburg, but worked in Woodstock, An orphan, he became an indentured servant and learned the saddlery business. Though he had limited formal schooling, if any, he educated himself to such a degree that he later was appointed a judge and served for three years as State Treasurer. He was a vocal abolitionist who was arrested in 1837 for printing a pamphlet urging emancipation, though he claimed the work was never distributed and the case was eventually dropped. He served on an organizing committee at the first Republican National Convention held in Philadelphia in 1856 and served as a Lincoln presidential elector in 1860, even though Lincoln received but 13 votes in the county. He stood up to many years of verbal abuse and threats, even sitting in the back row at a meeting called to formulate actions to eject him from Woodstock and put an end to his agitation. After the war, he was attacked by a hooligan with a piece of rawhide. The perpetrator was brought to trial and found guilty, but only fined “one cent” for his deed. He was elected as a delegate to the Virginia Constitutional Convention which met in Richmond from December 3, 1867 to April 17, 1868, serving as Secretary of the Convention. Although forgotten today, his is a story of courage, fortitude, determination and integrity that should serve as a model for all Americans.
We occasionally see cartes-de-visite that depict patriotic citizens with American flags, but rarely see ones that depict Confederate soldiers with the Confederate flag. One such carte recently appeared on eBay. It shows two soldiers, identified on verso, proudly pointing to a First National flag with thirteen stars. The scene was photographed in New Orleans, likely in 1861. Despite offers from interested parties to end the listing early, the vendor saw it through to the end, and was amply rewarded when it realized $1,025. We believe the photographer was Jewish and one of the soldiers, as well. Funny, he doesn’t look Jewish!
A very unusual 2 3/4″ x 3 1/2″ Lincoln silk ribbon from 1864 appeared on eBay. Two Lincoln specialists ran it up to a final price of $1,542. The second under bidder was “way back” at the $500 level.
Heritage Auctions in Dallas sold the first part of the Merrill C. Berman Collection of Political Americana on February 28th. There will be three more installments. All of the material being offered were “smalls” acquired by Merrill over the course of fifty-plus years of collecting. One of the highlights of the collection was a set of eight “belt buckle” ferrotype badges from the election of 1860, depicting all four presidential candidates and all four vice presidential candidates. The set was in pristine condition and likely were manufacturer’s samples that originated in Waterbury, Connecticut. The set sold as a unit for $58,750.
A pristine Lincoln & Hamlin back-to-back ferrotype doughnut, measuring 47 mm. across with “hand-written” names and six-pointed star on the Lincoln side, made a record $16,250.
A Brady Lincoln & Hamlin jugate ribbon with overprint of the “Union Wide Awakes” of New York City is the only example known and came out of a New York City Collection. We don’t know if it remains in New York, but it crossed the block for $15,000.
A “Union & Liberty” hand-painted shield ferrotype stickpin was another standout, selling for a record $14,375.
Finally, a unique perpetual calendar with a ferrotype portrait of Lincoln copied from an engraving (likely of European origin) also sold for $15,000, despite some faults and lack of aesthetic appeal. Your editor was present when a “walk in” at a New York City coin show sold it to Charles McSorley for $60. I had around $25 cash on me and was helpless to intervene and secure it for myself, subsequently passing when it was offered to me for $500. A lot of water has flowed under the bridge since then!
A 6th plate ruby ambrotype was offered on eBay, described as either a “fireman” or a uniformed gentleman connected with the Lincoln presidential campaign of 1860. The young partisan wears a glazed kepi and slicker and holds a torch. His hat has a linen panel attached that reads “Stevens Guard”. We feel fairly confident the man is a member of the Wide Awakes. The slicker matches one shown on the cover of the “Wide Awake Quick Step” of 1860. The torch is similar to the “Hurrah for Lincoln” torch in the Becker Collection at the Smithsonian. The hat, clothing (ornately-patterned vest) and format (ruby ambrotype) all scream out 1860. The youthfulness of the marcher is also consistent with the Wide Awakes. The vendor speculated the marcher might have been a campaigner for Thaddeus Stevens. In 1860 Stevens was running unopposed for re-election to Congress. Since there was no need to campaign on his own behalf, he campaigned for Lincoln. We think it likely that this fellow was a member of an escort assigned to protect Stevens at one of his speaking engagements. Politics was a dangerous business in 1860. Besides the “Lincoln Life Guards” of Philadelphia mentioned in a previous article, we note the “Everett Guards” of West Roxbury, Massachusetts lantern from the Chick Harris Collection as examples of political rally “security” in 1860. This outstanding image sold for a reasonable $622.
While Confederate ballots are quite plentiful in the market, not so with poll books dating from the general election of November 6, 1861. As a matter of fact, we don’t recall ever seeing one. We show two shots of an example that recently sold online for $995. The “icing on the cake” is the fact that it was assembled for the use of Confederate soldiers, members of the Virginia 6th Cavalry Regiment stationed at Centerville. Of the total number of votes cast, two were deemed fraudulent and tossed out. Apparently, there were no legal obstacles placed in the way of rebel soldiers voting in this election. In all fairness, though, it should be stated that that Jefferson Davis and Alexander Stephens ran unopposed… a “slam dunk” if ever there was one.
James D. Julia of Fairfield, Maine held a three-day auction in the first week of February that included a pair of reading glass that belonged to Edwin Booth. They sold for $750. The accompanying certificate of authenticity is from a Florida dealer we are not familiar with. He states that the glasses are authentic “to the best of my knowledge”, were purchased from a family member (whose family?) who wished to remain anonymous who had owned them for several decades (meaningless) and who had personally “authenticated them”. While they are very likely authentic, the certificate is deficient on many levels. Unfortunately, this seems to be the case with a large number of historical artifacts. We just urge buyers to be discerning and keep such shortcomings in mind when contemplating a purchase, as it will have a bearing when they attempt to resell the item. We reprint the catalog description below.
CASED COIN SILVER READING GLASSES BELONGING TO EDWIN BOOTH, FAMOUS ACTOR AND BROTHER OF LINCOLN’S ASSASSIN ALONG WITH A FINE ADVERTISING BROADSIDE. Booth’s silver glasses have a makers mark “A. Wood” in cartouche on right temple. The fitted glasses case top escutcheon has Booth’s initials in script “ETB” for Edwin Thomas Booth. Glasses case is patented January 24th 1860. There is a COA from dealer who sold these glasses stating provenance. Accompanying this lot are two display boards, one a copy of an image of Edwin Booth and the second a copy of an ad for a Columbus, Georgia playing of Edwin Booth show in 1859 that interestingly says that tickets are 75c or 25c for a “colored person”. The broadside is in beautiful condition printed on yellow paper by Boston printer advertising a week of plays by Shakespeare and one by Victor Hugo at the Boston Globe Theater. SIZE: 35″ h x 16-1/2″ l. PROVENANCE: Certificate of Authenticity included. From the Greene Museum of Southern History. CONDITION: Case and glasses are good overall, the left lens is loose and appears too small for the glasses. Case is very good overall with some wear to high spots but markings are excellent. Broadside is fine as framed. (600-800)
A 3 1/2″ x 5 1/2″ invitation or pass to the raising of the U.S. flag at Fort Sumter on April 14, 1865 was offered on eBay for $875 or best offer. After a few days, a deal was consummated and the listing ended. The ceremony took place exactly four years after the fort was surrendered to Confederate attackers in Charleston harbor and on the same day President Lincoln was shot at Ford’s Theatre. It is the first example we have seen. Stereo views of the event are also known.
We noticed this graphic Vallandigham for Governor ribbon on eBay. It dates from 1863 when John Brough won the gubernatorial election over his Democratic rival. It may be the sole surviving example which may account for its final price of $1,632.
Jeff Bridgman is a dealer in vintage patriotic flags and textiles. He is widely regarded for savvy in buying material culture in the “hobby” communities that he then brokers to more rarified folk-art buyers. Jeff sets up at all the high-end venues and antique shows with booths that reveal an eye for great historical Americana. But these shows charge a small fortune to dealers who need to monetize their wares well above otherwise accepted “price points.” Mind you this doesn’t mean he is selling his flags at a premium… nor does it mean that hobby auctions sell at a bargain. The truth lies somewhere between! At the Metro “satellite show” to the Winter Antiques Show in Manhattan during Americana week, this Lincoln name flag was priced at $42,000.
Heritage Auctions in Dallas just concluded its auction of the “Donald P. Dow Collection of Lincolniana”. The publicity that was generated for this sale was both extensive and overwhelming, as was bidder participation. The cataloger estimated the collection at around $520,00 but, so far, it has generated $820,000 and there are still a handful of items that may sell in the two-week Post-Auction-Buy period. The 302 lots took 6 1/2 hours to cross the block. As of this writing, the sell-through rate is 97.6%. Records fell like rain in many categories and it seems doubtful that the results can be replicated anytime soon. We report on just eight items.
A fragment of a letter written by Lincoln to Reverdy Johnson on July 26, 1862 though containing a mere eleven words is, in true Lincolnesque fashion, pregnant with meaning and straight to the point. “I shall not surrender this game leaving any available card unplayed.” $12,500.
A handsome, framed display with an engraving of Lincoln reading the Emancipation Proclamation before his Cabinet along with clipped signatures and captions of all the people depicted far exceeded expectations selling for $22,500. This was a notable “exception to the rule” where the tasteful framing and presentation greatly enhanced the value of the individual components.
A person who attended the White House reception for Lt. General Ulysses S. Grant managed to shake hands with both Lincoln and the Union commander. They saved one of their gloves which collectors couldn’t wait “to get their hands on.” $7,500.
A manuscript warrant for John Wilkes Booth’s arrest, written on April 15, 1865, directed a contingent of soldiers to search trains going to and from Baltimore, in hopes of finding Booth or his accomplices. $21,500.
An admittance ticket to Lincoln’s White House funeral in the East Room, with contemporary inscription on the verso, was a “hot ticket” on sale day, crossing the block for a record $11,875.
A mounted plaster wall plaque showing angels lifting the “earthly veil” and escorting Lincoln into heaven, was $2,150. Quite appropriate, as Edwin Stanton said, “Now he belongs to the ANGELS.”
Finally, a formal oil on canvas painting of Lincoln, dated 1863 by an as yet unidentified artist, realized $11,250. It was a stellar day for Lincoln collectors and a fitting tribute to Donald P. Dow and his forty year love affair with Lincoln. Heritage will offer Don Dow’s Civil War collection in December. It will contain a handful of Lincoln items, as well.
Tom French (a.k.a. U S Americana) held a sale on January 21st that consisted exclusively of items from the collection of the late Tom Berg of Denver. Although Mr. Berg was known primarily as a William Jennings Bryan specialist, he had a representative general collection of presidential campaign items. A 3″ x 3″ ballot had a caricature of a black man within a split rail fence. It was both an anti-Black and anti-Lincoln item. We believe it was issued in New York state for the general election of 1860 when a ballot initiative was in place asking voters to decide whether to annul the law that required black citizens to own $250 worth of real estate before they would be allowed to vote. The person who cast this ballot was obviously in favor of keeping this provision and not liberalizing the law to expand the franchise. Two opposing bidders battled it out before it sold for $805.
An unusual McClellan back-to-back ferrotype incorporated a brass frame that had a slogan specific to his candidacy, in contrast to most frames which were multi-purpose and interchangeable for all candidates in the contest. Ferrotypes of Little Mac appeared on both sides. It made $748.
Finally, a unique John Bell figural parade torch, 24″ in length, could only manage two bids (“The bell tolled two”) before settling in at $1,265. There is still one more installment of the Berg collection to come.
Christie’s in New York held offered a polychrome carved wooden statue of Lincoln in their January 23rd sale, part of Americana Week. It was neither signed nor dated, but likely made in the late 19th century. It sold for $13,750.
A “nice” CDV of Lincoln by Gardner was offered on eBay with an opening bid of $300, then the listing was ended early. Apparently, someone made a private treaty purchase offer and the item reappeared a week later with a Buy-It-Now price of $5,500, selling on one bid. We suspect the over-anxious buyer would have been better served if he had “entered the fray” and let the auction run its full course. But, as long as the seller and buyer are happy, who are we to complain or find fault?
Mel Zapata of Glen Cove, NY is offering a set the three variants of John Rogers’ “Council of War”, reproduced in resin and each standing 14 1/2″ tall. The trio of replicas is currently on eBay with a Buy-It-Now price of $3,000.
Pook & Pook of Downingtown, PA held a sale on January 17th. The highlight was a 30″ x 25″ oil on canvas of Lincoln dated 1918 and signed by George Henry Story (1835-1923). Story did meet Lincoln at the White House and drew some sketches of him. This outstanding example sold for $20,400.