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Marketplace 2018

December 8, 2018

Leslie Hindman held a sale on November 13th which included items consigned by the Blair Family of Maryland. Of particular note was an Abraham Lincoln ALS in which he basically fires Postmaster Montgomery Blair who had been an internal critic and source of contention. We reprint the catalog description:

LINCOLN, Abraham (1809-1865). Autograph letter signed (“A. Lincoln”), as President, to Montgomery Blair. Washington, D. C., September 23 1864.

1 page, 4to, bifolium, with integral leaf blank, Executive Mansion stationery; silked on both sides, short tears to center fold (not affecting any letters), minor toning, some minor ink burn. Provenance: Montgomery Blair (1813-1883), Maryland politician and lawyer, Postmaster General to President Lincoln; by descent to Montgomery Blair Jr.

LINCOLN REQUESTS MONTGOMERY BLAIR’S RESIGNATION

Lincoln writes to Blair, Postmaster General and member of his Cabinet: “You have generously said to me, more than once, that whenever your resignation could be a relief to me, it was at my disposal. The time has come.” With one ink emendation in Lincoln’s hand.

After Lincoln’s 1860 election, Blair was appointed Postmaster General; he was the sole cabinet member who stood with Lincoln in support of resupplying Fort Sumter at the outset of the Civil War in 1861. Blair was a devout abolitionist, and prior to Lincoln’s election, he served as counsel to Dred Scott in the 1856 Supreme Court case Dred Scott vs. Sanford. By 1863, when the Union began to plan for the end of the war (which would not come for another two years), Reconstruction was a topic of much debate in the Republican Party; Blair’s views of reconstruction were at odds with the radical wing of the party.

The Republican Party was deeply divided by the 1864 election and the radical Republicans issued an ultimatum – they would not support Lincoln in his bid for reelection unless Blair was removed from his cabinet. Lincoln faced a challenge from third-party candidate John C. Frémont, the nominee of the Radical Democracy Party, which criticized Lincoln for being too moderate on the issue of racial inequality. In September 1864, Lincoln learned that Frémont would withdraw from the race if Montgomery Blair would resign from his cabinet. Frémont renounced his candidacy on September 22, 1864; the next day, Lincoln accepted Blair’s resignation. Blair, in a letter to his wife, Elizabeth Woodley Blair, speculated, “I suppose, however, that he thinks it will help to appease the Frémonters’ and Radicals, if I am dropped.” In their biography of Lincoln, Nicolay and Hay note: “the opposition to Blair was not confined to the radical demonstrations in the Baltimore Convention and out of it… Some of the most judicious Republicans in the country, who were not personally unfriendly to Blair, urged upon the President the necessity of freeing himself from such a source of weakness and discord” (Abraham Lincoln: A History, Vol. IX, p.337). Lincoln’s retained secretarial copy of this letter signed by the President is in the Robert Todd Lincoln papers at the Library of Congress. Estimate $30,000-50,000. Property from the Estate of Montgomery Blair Jr., Washington, DC. Selling price: $37,800.


Cowan’s held a sale on November 16th that included a 5” x 7” oval salt print of a beardless Lincoln, nicely framed, attributed to Roderick Cole. The portrait was extensively used in the campaign of 1860. This example far exceeded expectations, achieving a record $18,000.


Hake’s Auctions of York, Pennsylvania held an auction on November 13th. The “pop culture” icon always has a fine assortment of political Americana. A copy of “Honest Abe Song & Chorus” with words by “A Wide Awake” realized $1751. An example in great condition sold many years ago for $3300, so the record still stands.

A copy of the “Douglass [sic] Grand March” was more reasonable, selling for $649. This, too, has sold for more in the past ($1700), but the market for sheet music now seems a little soft.

A pair of Lincoln covers from 1860 and 1864 was bid up to $253. The 1860 example is quite rare and distinctive because of the funky portrait of Lincoln where one eye is higher than the other.

Finally, an oval Breckinridge “belt buckle” ferro slightly exceeded the estimate, reaching $5092. This is a great rarity and only the second “no name” example we are aware of.


Slotin Auctions of Buford, Georgia specializes in outsider art. On November 10th, they sold a 20” carved wooden statue of Lincoln by Earnest Patton. Though unsigned and likely of mid-20th century vintage, the stovepipe hat and beard served to identify the subject. It realized $875.


“Don’t cry for me, Argentina”. We picture a periodical issued in Buenos Aires, Argentina following the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. The “Correo Del Domingo” is known to have published at least two issues with Lincoln featured on the cover in the year 1865. Complete issues typically sell for $75. This example, recently offered on eBay, was only the cover.


Swann Galleries sold “The Harold Holzer Collection of Lincolniana” on September 27th. The single-owner catalog consisted of 176 lots amassed over the course of nearly 50 years by the noted Lincoln scholar, author and host of assorted symposia and roundtables. The results were generally impressive and indicate a continued strong market for Lincoln material. A signed Department of the Interior appointment issued to William O. Stoddard to work as “secretary to the President to sign patents for lands” sold for $18,750. Stoddard handled these duties as well as answering presidential correspondence for an annual salary of $1500 up until 1864.

A 13” 16” oval portrait on board, attributed to John C. Wolfe, was described as a from-life portrait, though seemingly copied from the photograph taken in June 1860 by Joseph Hill (Ostendorf 25). Though unsigned, it may be an original dating from 1860 or one of thirty copies made by Wolfe in the 1865-1881 period. Though part of the Ostendorf Collection auction, it was incorrectly cataloged as a photograph with over-painting. Scientific analysis at the Metropolitan Museum of Art proved it otherwise. It realized $40,000.

A very rare “Fourth Edition” of the small folio “Wigwam” print of Lincoln, by Franklin H. Brown and H. Rounds, is considered the first print of Lincoln produced. Printed in blue & black, copies were supposedly distributed to Lincoln supporters in the galleries who showered them down to the convention floor at the exact moment Lincoln went over the top and was awarded the nomination. Two examples of the first edition are housed in the Lincoln National Life Foundation Collection in Ft. Wayne. There is only one example of the third edition and one of the fourth edition (this example). It made a very respectable $21,250.

An anti-Lincoln cartoon from 1860, titled “The Political Rail Splitter” shows him splitting the Union using an ax with the head of a negro. Greeley and Seward are spectators to the event. Though rather crude in execution and theme, it is a very rare print published in New York by J. Leach. The catalog was able to identify only four copies extant. It crossed the auction block for $9375. Not a record for a Lincoln cartoon, but most respectable.

Finally, a 10 1/2” plaster bust by Sarah Fisher Ames was offered. Ames worked as a volunteer nurse in Washington, D.C. military hospitals. She became personally acquainted with the President and was offered a commission to produce a bust of him for the United States Senate. She accompanied Lincoln to Gardner’s Photographic Gallery on November 8, 1863, joined by Nicolay and Hay. She produced five marble busts of Lincoln between 1863 and 1868. This slightly smaller plaster bust is signed and dated 1865. It had some chipping and had been repainted white, covering the original green finish. It underperformed, trading hands for $4000.


Robert Siegel Galleries of New York City sold the William H. Gross Collection on October 3rd. Here are two items that caught our eye. We reprint the catalog descriptions:

One of two recorded Abraham Lincoln “Split Rail and Flat Boat” Campaign covers to a foreign country–an outstanding cover from several perspectives: Lincoln, Transatlantic Mail, 1857 Issue and the Civil War. 12¢ Black, Plate 1 (36), horizontal pair, tied by “Dubuque Iowa. Aug. 18” (1860) circular date stamp with “PAID/24” rate hand stamp on light salmon cover with Beardless Lincoln Portrait, Split Rail Fence and Riverboat Scene, 1860 Campaign design, Baker imprint, “‘Honest Abe Lincoln’ on his flat boat” slogan at bottom, addressed to a Miss Teat in Waltham on the Wolds, England, red “19” credit hand stamp also ties pair, Melton-Mowbray back stamp (September 3). $27,780.

This cover depicting Lincoln’s assassin, John Wilkes Booth, and imploring the public to “Hunt the villain down,” is one of two known–a visually striking and historically significant artifact of postal history and the Civil War. 3¢ Rose (65), tied by “Lewis Del.” circular date stamp (date unclear) on cover addressed in pencil to Dr. Seth Arnold, Woonsocket, R.I., with John Wilkes Booth “Hunt the Villain Down” Wanted Design with woodcut engraving of Booth, engraver’s imprint “J. D. EHLERS ENG.”, lengthy caption imploring citizens to search for the assassin with final encouragement “It may be by your means that a benignant Government shall mete out justice to one for whom there should be no mercy.”, publishers imprint “Sold by C. H. Anderson, Bookseller & Stationer, 458 7th St., near cor. F, Washington, D.C.” $17,110.


This 24-page 1860 Lincoln campaign songster recently sold on eBay for a Buy-It-Now price of $1000. Published in Ithaca, New York, it in unlisted in Monaghan. In near-mint condition, it is marked with the original retail price of five cents.


Heritage Auctions in Dallas just concluded their Americana & Political sale on August 24th. It contained a wide variety of Lincolniana, including a handful of lots associated with photographer Alexander Gardner. We report on three of these. A cross-section of the crutch used by John Wilkes Booth during his attempted escape made its first auction appearance. It was given to people who attended Booth’s autopsy on board the “Montauk”. Gardner was present and made a sketch of the event for use in “Harper’s Weekly”, but he was prohibited from taking a photograph. It made $4750.

A pass to the trial of the conspirators, signed by Gardner on the front, realized $4250. Ironically, Gardner would go on to photograph their hanging.

An 1861 printed & manuscript pass signed by Winfield Scott, allowed Alexander Gardner and Timothy O’Sullivan of “Brady’s establishment” to pass through the lines unimpeded, in order to take photographs of the encampments and battlefields. It reached $4000.

A very distinctive 1860 Lincoln campaign ribbon from Elizabethtown, Pennsylvania (found in a book published in 1811) went to a Pennsylvania collector who submitted the winning bid of $6000.

A carte-de-visite by Corbutt depicted Lincoln’s funeral train while in Chicago. It may be a unpublished view, but is certainly quite rare, as reflected in the $4125 price.

A handsome and expressive 11” bronze bust of Lincoln on a red marble base by sculptor Leo Nock, exceeded expectations, crossing the block for $8125.

Finally, a folding paper campaign lantern for George McClellan made an appearance. These are rare as “hen’s teeth”. We know of three different examples for McClellan, but none for Lincoln. This one was formerly in the collection of Norm Flayderman and was in poor condition, but brought back gloriously to life by an expert restorer. It made an expected $6875, in line with other sales.


A Georgia vendor on eBay offered this 8 1/2” x 5 1/2” coated stock souvenir card of the South Carolina Ordinance of Secession printed by Evans & Cogswell of Charleston in blue and gold ink. It had been preserved pasted at the four corners in an album, which accounted for its great condition. There exists a much smaller card titled “Independence Declared December 20, 1860” with the Ordinance printed on the verso which used to show up once-in-a-while. We have never seen this more dramatic and visually striking card before. It went for a very reasonable $699.


A previously-unseen copy of the “Southern Flag Songster” sold on eBay for $1136. It was complete at 48 pages with index. Printed in Richmond, it probably dates from 1861 or 1862 at the latest.


A great ribbon showed up on eBay and generated a lot of excitement with 20 different bidders and 74 bids executed before closing at $13,433. We know of only one or two other specimens with this design and a variation that has a different portrait and the slogan “The Rail Splitter” at the bottom. There was one other bidder at that level with the second underbidder at $10,000+. We believe it to be the second highest price achieved at auction for a single portrait Lincoln ribbon. Collectors will “step up to the plate” when items of this quality cross the auction block.


For a Buy-It-Now price of $150, you can purchase this business card for Ferdinand Shavers (1832-1920), an African-American gentleman who worked as a barber after the war. His obituary stated “He was very proud of a medal testifying to his having been a member of President Lincoln’s bodyguard and always wore it conspicuously.” A lot of people enhanced their careers and standing in society with tales of a personal connection to President Lincoln. Some of these stories were true and some were not. In this case, we have been unable to validate the claim, but still a fun item!


For a Buy-It-Now price of $175,000, you can purchase this remarkable manuscript [size unspecified] from a Wisconsin eBay vendor. Here is his description:
“This is an extraordinary, unique Civil War broadside with hand-drawn artwork that is the only known document bearing the signatures of the Union leadership, presidential, political and military, as the war commenced in 1861. It is signed by Abraham Lincoln and his Cabinet; heroes like Robert Anderson of Fort Sumter fame; Army generals like Winfield Scott, George B. McClellan, and Ambrose Burnside; early emancipation promoters like John C. Fremont and Benjamin Butler; founders of important fighting units like Thomas Meagher of the Irish Brigade; Navy notables like John Dahlgren and Charles Wilkes; and many others. This document was created in 1861 at the start of the Civil War when the Union was organizing its forces and the “Patriots of 1861”, among them President Lincoln and the Team of Rivals took up the pen together in support of the sick and wounded of Bull Run and the escalating conflict and it is the first document Lincoln and his Team of Rivals signed in support of the Sanitary Commission. There are scores of other important signatures and this rare unique document has been properly preserved in a beautiful museum quality frame.”


A copy of Jefferson Davis’s inaugural address generated a lot of interest on eBay. The 8-page uncut pamphlet (Crandall 607) attracted eighteen bidders, selling for $2700. A copy previously sold at Bonham’s in 2014 for $3750. It strikes a different tone compared to Lincoln’s first inaugural address. The first two sentences of the last paragraph are worth repeating, especially in view of the inherent contradictions and irony: “It is joyous, in the midst of perilous times, to look around upon a people united in heart, where one purpose of high resolve animates and actuates the whole – where the sacrifices to be made are not weighted in the balance against honor, and right, and liberty, and equality. Obstacles may retard, they cannot long prevent, the progress of a movement sanctified by its justice, and sustained by a virtuous people.”


The “Elk Valley Times” of Fayetteville, Tennessee recently printed an interesting story about a man who owns a rifle that he believes was owned by Abraham Lincoln and given as a gift to George D. Blakey of Kentucky. The stock on the Colt revolving rifle is crudely inscribed “Abe Lincoln 1864”. The article states that Blakey was a Congressman who nominated Lincoln for the Republican Presidential nomination in 1860.
The owner makes some claims that we find dubious. He says most of these guns were provided to “… the Indians… It was something that improved their ability to defend themselves”. He also says that each cylinder of the rifle had to be repeatedly greased “then loaded with gunpowder and a ball… As the hammer struck the strike plate on each cylinder, it could easily set off other chambers.”

The owner has a signed pass issued to Blakey by Lincoln in 1861. He also has an old Louisville Post newspaper article which references the rifle and its owner, W. T. Duncan, a grandson of Blakey. Another Louisville Post article talks about the sale of the rifle in 1939 to gun collector Bill Smoot, mentioning an affidavit attesting to the gun’s origin. Smoot attached a tag to the rifle identifying it. The owned inherited the rifle from his grandfather and father, both gun collectors. He says: “As far as providence [sic] and documentation, they claim you can’t get better than this.”

Well, where do we begin? We assume the owner meant George T. Blakey, not George D. Blakey. Blakey was never a Congressman, but did serve in the Kentucky state legislature. He was a delegate to the 1880 Republican National Convention, not the 1860 convention in Chicago. There is no period documentation whatsoever, only some newspaper articles, written decades after-the-fact, that repeat family lore that the rifle was a gift of Lincoln. That, along with the 1939 tag written by gun collector Smoot, is the “whole she-bang”. Now, Lincoln was interested in new inventions and is known to have tried out new rifles foisted upon him by inventors angling for an army contract. Production on the revolving rifle began in 1856, so it was not a new invention. In fact, its use by the military ceased altogether in 1864, according to the article. If Lincoln owned one and wanted to give it to someone as a gift, he would have ordered an engraved inscription on the metal frame. More importantly, he would not have used the name “Abe”. He NEVER referred to himself in that matter.

Right now, the owner is hiding his identity and the location of the gun (fearful of foul play). He is willing to sell for the right price to the right buyer. If he was smart, he’d have someone alter the gun’s inscription to read: “Vote For Abe Lincoln 1864” and lose the story.


Hake’s Americana & Collectibles held a sale on July 10th. It included a rare anti-Lincoln booklet, M-151. This is the most desirable of the trio of similarly-themed race-baiting anti-Lincoln tracts disseminated in 1864 that include “The Lincoln Catechism” and “Abraham Africanus I”. This same exact copy last sold on eBay in 2002 for $535. Prior to that, Swann Galleries sold a custom-bound volume in 1988 for $77. This time around, it realized $2783. Interestingly, the inside back cover had a 1922-dated note signed by Eugene Field II stating that the copy belonged to his father, Eugene Field (an infamous forger). The back cover had a notarized statement dated 1933 indicating the book had been in President Lincoln’s library and had been gifted to Lincoln’s coachman, William P. Brown, by Mrs. Lincoln. As it turns out, this was a total “crock” and a ploy to enhance the value of the book to prospective buyers. The person who signed the first name even neglected to add the letter “r” in Brown! Still, despite the spurious inscription, it remains a great piece. We reprint Ted’s catalog description in part:
5 5/8” x 9″. Eight-page pamphlet published by “Waller & Willetts” New York. “What Miscegenation Is! And What We Are To Expect Now That Mr. Lincoln Is Re-elected” with graphic of a grotesque depiction of an African- American man kissing a Caucasian woman. Miscegenation was a term for race mixing created and popularized by Ohio Congressman Samuel Cox with the help of David Goodman Croly, a New York newspaper editor at “The World” during Lincoln’s 1864 Presidential campaign. “The World” pushed the made-up theory that Lincoln planned to create a new American race by encouraging inter-racial procreation. This pamphlet, published shortly after Lincoln’s re-election, illustrates how deeply the hoax was believed during its era. Ink and pencil inscriptions on reverse with notary stamp dated “Aug. 13, 1933.”


Guernsey’s of New York held a sale on July 26th. It included a typed fragment supposedly written by Malcolm X as part of his autobiography. In it, he quotes Lincoln several times and makes the case that Lincoln was not in favor of Negro equality nor did he favor a mixing of the races, but favored segregation or separation. From the estate of Alex Haley, it passed with an overly aggressive estimate of $4,000-$6,000.


PBA Galleries of San Francisco held a sale on July 12th that included two lots that caught our eye. One was a letter written from Brockport, New York in October 1860 in the which the letter-writer inaccurately relates a fatal altercation that occurred between a Douglas supporter and a Lincoln supporter. The catalog entry gives the correct background story:
“…. We had one of the awfullest murders here last nite that ever was known. There was a Douglas meeting here last nite & S.E.Church spoke. Thomas Duffy broke into [the] corner grocery & got one of his big meat knives & went in the corner grocery stabbing Oscar Nobles in the stomach & he died in a few minutes after. The blade of the knife blade was 16 inches long and ½ wide. They have got the man that done the act in the lock up. …” After an alcohol-fueled rally for Democratic candidate Stephen Douglas, addressed by former Lt. Governor Sanford Church, Peter Duffy, a young Irish blacksmith of “notoriously quarrelsome disposition”, belonging to the pro-Douglas “Little Giants”, got into a fist fight in the street with George Brannan, a “Wide Awake” Lincoln supporter of “unrecorded pugnacity”. Egged on by a mob of inebriated on-lookers, the fight moved to a grocery store and meat market on the canal docks, where Duffy grabbed a butcher knife and cut off Brannan’s thumb. When Oscar Nobles, a 23 year-old carpenter, tried to intervene, Duffy made a “furious lunge”, stabbing him in the abdomen. Nobles ran out into the street, where he collapsed and, carried to a hotel, soon died. Duffy was immediately arrested, soon brought to trial and convicted. To avoid what might have been a “dangerous inflammation of rivalry” between the Wide Awakes and Little Giants, Duffy’s Catholic Priest strongly condemned the slaying, a foretaste of the savage internecine conflict of Civil War. The letter realized $270.

The other item was an 1839 pamphlet discussing the failed attempt by Simon Cameron to defraud the Winnebago Indians out of $60,000. A whistle-blower “dropped a dime” on Cameron, thereby putting the kai-bosh on his nefarious plan. He later briefly served as Lincoln’s Secretary of War. That whistle-blower was Ethan Allen Hitchcock, who later served as a Union General during the Civil War. The first edition of this pamphlet was published in Washington in 1839. This second edition was published the same year in Cameron’s home state of Pennsylvania. It traded hands for $125.


Sotheby’s held an on-line only auction on June 28th. It had a very good Lincoln letter which shed some light on Lincoln’s views on the relationship between the races. Unfortunately, it had a very unrealistic estimate, so predictably did not sell. We reprint the catalog description in full:
ESTIMATE: $200,000 – $300,000 Abraham Lincoln writes a letter of recommendation for William Johnson, perhaps the nearest to an African-American friend that Lincoln had while in the White House. William H. Johnson was a free black servant—a valet with some barbering duties—who accompanied the president-elect on his journey from Springfield to Washington, D.C. The ‘New York Times’ of 19 February 1861 described Johnson as “‘a very useful member of the party[,]’ whose ‘untiring vigilance’ as ‘he took care of the Presidential party is entitled to high credit’” (quoted in Burlingame, 2:24). Because of Mrs. Lincoln’s unpredictable temper, there was a great deal of turnover among the White House staff during her husband’s administration. Johnson initially worked in the Executive Mansion stoking the furnace, but he was made unwelcome, not by the First Lady, but by other white House workers: “the other black employees, all light-skinned, objected to his dark complexion so vehemently that Lincoln had to find him another post” (Burlingame, 2:252). This circumstance is confirmed by both the content and the date of the present letter, sent to the Secretary of the Navy just twelve days after Lincoln’s inauguration. Indeed, even earlier, on 7 March 1861, Lincoln had written a general recommendation for Johnson “To whom it may concern,” (now in the New York Public Library; Basler 4:277), describing him in terms similar to those used in his letter to Welles, but not explaining, as he did to Welles, why Johnson had left his employ:

“The bearer (William) is a servant who has been with me for some time & in whom I have confidence as to his integrity and faithfulness. He wishes to enter your service. The difference of color between him & the other servants is the cause of our separation. If you can give him employment you will confer a favor on Yours truly A. Lincoln.”

Welles was evidently not able to offer Johnson a position, and on 29 November 1861, Lincoln wrote to another cabinet member, Treasury Secretary Salmon P. Chase, on Johnson’s behalf: “You remember kindly asking me, some time ago, whether I really desired you to find a place for William Johnson, a colored boy who came from Illinois with me. If you can find him the place [I] shall really be obliged” (National Archives; Basler 5:33).

Johnson was was eventually hired as a porter at the Treasury Department, but Lincoln continued to monitor his progress; on 24 October 1862, he wrote another recommendation him: “The bearer of this, William Johnson (colored), came with me from Illinois; and is a worthy man as I believe” (Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum; Basler 5:474). Lincoln wrote at least two further memoranda regarding Johnson (17 December 1862, unlocated, Basler 6:8–9; 22 January 1863, New York State Library, Basler 6:69), both were evidently intended to help Johnson get a day off from his Treasury Department duties, although in the first note Lincoln was at pains to make clear that his request not “be construed as an order.” Lincoln also wrote at least one personal check to Johnson, for $5.00 on 11 March 1862.

Lincoln may have sought time off for Johnson because the President occasionally hired him for short-term jobs and particularly for travel. Most significantly, Johnson accompanied Lincoln, as valet and bodyguard, to Gettysburg for the dedication of the Soldiers’ National Cemetery. This trip was particularly consequential for Johnson. The President developed varioloid, a mild version of smallpox, on his return from Washington, while Johnson himself contracted a fatal case of smallpox; he died in January 1864. It is possible that Johnson caught the disease from the President, although Lincoln himself did not believe that was the case.

Still, Lincoln’s solicitude for William Johnson extended beyond the latter’s death. The Chicago ‘Tribune’ of 19 January 1864 carried a story from its Washington correspondent describing how he came upon Lincoln counting out Johnson’s pay, while explaining, “a President of the United States has a multiplicity of duties not specified in the Constitution or acts of Congress. This is one of them. The money belongs to a poor negro who is a porter in one of the departments and who is at present very bad with the smallpox. … He is now in hospital, and could not draw his pay because he could not sign his name. I have been at considerable trouble to overcome the difficulty and get it for him, and have at length succeeded in cutting red tape” (quoted in Burlingame, 2:578). Another newspaper reported that Lincoln purchased a coffin for Johnson and helped settle a loan he had taken from the First National Bank of Washington. When the arrangements had been concluded, the bank’s cashier, William J. Huntington, said, “‘After this, Mr. President, you can never deny that you indorse the negro.’ ‘That’s a fact!’ Lincoln exclaimed with a laugh; ‘but I don’t intend to deny it’” (quoted in Burlingame, 2:578–79).

While Lincoln’s role as the “Great Emancipator” is recognized as his greatest achievement, this letter of recommendation for William Johnson—the only Lincoln letter wrote for or concerning Johnson not in an institutional collection—it is a rare emblem of his personal interaction with an individual black American.


An eBay vendor in Cincinnati recently listed this folk art wooden panel with a beardless portrait on Lincoln based on the Hesler photograph of June 1860, measuring 20” x 27”. He speculated it may have been a campaign item or a memorial item. Given the two stars and two red, white and blue shields, we gravitate towards the campaign attribution. More importantly, the format strongly indicates use as a political bandwagon panel. What other purpose could it have been used for? It wound up selling for a most reasonable $850.


Skinner’s held a timed online auction of Books & Manuscripts that ended on June 8th. The top lot was a signed Lincoln CDV (O-75) intended as a gift for General John A. Dix, head of the Department of the East. It made a strong “spot-on” $110,700.


Philip Weiss Auctions of Lynbrook, New York held a sale on April 19th. It included a very rare item, namely an 8” x 14” New Jersey Railroad timetable for the transportation of Abraham Lincoln’s body through the Garden State en route to its ultimate destination of Springfield. Despite being in terrible condition with tears, tape stains and discoloration, it still sold for $840. Hopefully, a skilled paper conservator can bring it back to life.


A 66” x 82” 23-star flag was recently offered on eBay. Termed an “exclusionary” flag, the 23 stars represent the loyal Union states in 1861, after subtracting the eleven seceded states from the South. The nine stripes represent the original thirteen states after subtracting the four states that subsequently seceded in 1860-1861. According to a card that accompanied the piece, it was homemade by Mary Ann Verton of Southold, Long Island in 1861 and given to a Long Island regiment. The vendor obtained the flag in Georgia, so it may have been war booty captured by the Rebels. It was hotly contested and realized $16,800.


Swann Galleries held their “Printed & Manuscript African Americana” sale on March 29th. A pair of slippers supposedly worn by Gideon Welles to Lincoln’s Second Inauguration was included, by virtue of their maker, Elizabeth Keckley. We reprint the entire catalog entry below. The pair sold well-below estimate at $6,500. Either bidders didn’t believe the story or they did not assign too much value on an article of footwear used by a Lincoln Cabinet Member. It seems to us rather disrespectful for a Cabinet Member to wear slippers for such an important official function, especially on a brisk winter day, but perhaps Welles had gout or a similar medical reason for doing so.
(WOMEN.) Pair of slippers said to be made by Elizabeth Keckley for cabinet member Gideon Welles at the time of Lincoln’s second inauguration. Pair of crocheted men’s silk yarn boudoir slippers in a red, white and blue patriotic pattern sewn to leather soles, the soles being 10 1/4 inches long and 3 inches wide; light fading and soiling, half-inch areas of wear at the back of each slipper, but generally well-preserved. [Washington, March 1865] Estimate $10,000 – 15,000

Elizabeth Keckley (1818-1907) was perhaps the leading seamstress in mid-19th century Washington. She was born into slavery in Virginia, and was able to buy her own freedom in 1855. She arrived in Washington in 1860 and very quickly developed a brilliant reputation; she was best known as dressmaker and confidante to the president’s wife Mary Todd Lincoln. Her other prominent customers included Mary Jane Hale Welles, the wife of Lincoln’s Secretary of the Navy, Gideon Welles.

The slippers offered here were consigned by a great-great-grandson of Gideon Welles. According to family lore, they were created by Elizabeth Keckley for Gideon on the occasion of Lincoln’s 4 March 1865 second inauguration. While they are not signed and cannot be definitively attributed to Keckley, several pieces of historical evidence support the family’s assertion. Keckley did some work for Mary Jane Welles in the summer of 1861. Keckley’s best customer Mary Todd Lincoln regarded Mrs. Welles as her only close friend among the wives of Washington politicians. Keckley was actively involved in the 1865 inauguration, sewing a white silk dress for Mrs. Lincoln and helping her wear it; she attended the special “colored” reception and congratulated President Lincoln personally. After Lincoln’s April 1865 assassination, Keckley and Welles were the grieving widow’s primary support network. In short, Keckley had a long relationship with the Welles family by the time of the second inauguration. See Jennifer Fleischner’s book “Mrs. Lincoln and Mrs. Keckley,” pages 222, 259, 271, 279-280, 286, and 288.

The slippers are clearly of the appropriate style and period. Lynne Zacek Bassett, an independent scholar specializing in historic costumes and textiles, notes that this was “common shape of men’s boudoir slippers from the 1850s to the 1870s,” similar in design to other examples held by the Metropolitan Museum of Art and other institutions. Miss Lambert’s Hand-Book of Needlework, a popular work which first appeared in 1842 and went through numerous editions, gives directions for a crocheted slipper with red and white stripes. Bassett’s report is available by request.

The slippers are accompanied by other Gideon Welles family papers and photographs which don’t mention the slippers specifically, but help establish the Welles family provenance: a cabinet card portrait of Mary Jane Hale Welles in a funeral dress, said to be sewn and designed by Keckley for the funeral of her son Hubert Gideon Welles in 1862, and again worn at Lincoln’s funeral in 1865, on a Henry Ulke mount from 1866 * Carte-de-visite photograph of a boy said to be Hubert Gideon Welles (1853-1862), on an Ulke mount from 1865 * Cabinet card photograph of Gideon Welles on a Mathew Brady mount * Autograph Letter Signed from Mary Jane Hale Welles (“M.J.W.”) to Gideon, 15 August [1863] * and finally, an Autograph Letter Signed from Secretary Gideon Welles to his son Thomas, discussing the second inaugural: “The inauguration passed off pleasantly and well. There was a great crowd, exceeding any previous one I have ever witnessed at an inauguration,” 5 March 1865. The lot is also accompanied by a signed statement by the consignor.


This large gem (1” x 1 1/4”) albumen campaign badge recently sold on eBay. The image is O-73, taken by Alexander Gardner in August 1863. We’ve never seen it in this format before. Supposedly, it was acquired from a family whose ancestors lived in Washington, D.C. during the Civil War. The image is light, as are most CDV versions from this sitting. It sold for $389.


An eBay vendor listed this 11” glass vase or fireplace mantel “garniture”, describing it as “goofus” glass. We have never seen another example and wondered if some “goofus” had replaced a photo of Auntie Em with a period engraving of Lincoln. We’ll probably never know. Likely issued at the time of the Lincoln centennial in 1909, it generated a lot of bidding activity and topped out at $355.


Stacks-Bowers held the first installment of a multi-part numismatic auction in Baltimore on March 21st. It included a large consignment of political tokens, medals and ferrotypes from a long-time collector. A copper specimen of AL-1860-3 established a record for a Lincoln campaign token when it sold for $7800. Following the lead of DeWitt, the cataloger described it as an inauguration medal whereas, in fact, it is a campaign medal produced by Childs of Chicago. It was graded MS65, but evidenced some collapse of the die, visible in the left obverse field.

In contrast, a medal actually produced to commemorate the inauguration, AL-1860-32 in silvered white medal, graded MS64, realized $2160.

A gorgeous Stephen Douglas medal in copper, SD-1860-1, was MS64 and had fabulous toning on the obverse. It made a reasonable $720.

Finally, a brass specimen of JF-1864-2, Mint State, with beautiful toning, especially on the reverse, was another good buy at $384.


The “best of the best” (a.k.a., “costliest of the costly!”) for rare books, maps, manuscripts are to be found at the ABAA New York annual show. Dealers from all over the world descend on the Park Avenue Armory to fill their booths with only the most remarkable; paying thousands for the trip to NYC and cost of the expensive venue requires that. It is great fun to just gawk and not necessarily feel compelled to buy. One Lincoln item caught us with mouths agape: a five line unsigned fragment of notes written by Abe in which the catalog description details “Lincoln Accuses Stephen Douglas of Trying ‘To Fix Extreme Abolitionism Upon Me.’” The accompanying write-up references this as an Autograph manuscript fragment signed (his name in the body of the text) written in preparation for the fifth Lincoln-Douglas debate held on October 7, 1858 in Galesburg, Illinois. The notes are from Lincoln’s rebuttal to charges made by Douglas in the first debate of August 21st. Lincoln used this prepared response during the fifth debate, as recorded in contemporary newspapers. This previous unknown and unrecorded fragment is one of very few surviving examples of Lincoln debate notes, the only one relating to the Galesburg debate, and the only one in private hands. This was priced at $187,500 by Bauman Rare Books and was sold on the first day of the show! (We only wonder about the odd number… why $187,500 and not $185,000 or $190,000? But then again… who are we to fathom how to market to the well-heeled!)


Bonhams held a sale on March 9th that included two items of interest. We reprint their catalog descriptions in full.
LINCOLN, ABRAHAM. 1809-1865.
THAYER, ALEXANDER WHEELOCK. 1817-1897.
Document Signed (“Abraham Lincoln”) as President, partially printed and accomplished in manuscript, 1 p, folio (354 x 457 mm), Washington, November 1, 1864,
US$ 4,000 – 6,000

THAYER, ALEXANDER WHEELOCK. 1817-1897. Document Signed (“Abraham Lincoln”) as President, partially printed and accomplished in manuscript, 1 p, folio (354 x 457 mm), Washington, November 1, 1864, appointing A.W. [Alexander Wheelock] Thayer as Consul to “Trieste and all the other parts in the Austrian Dominions on the Adriatic Coast, except those which belong to the Lombardo-Venetian Kingdom,” also signed by Edwin Stanton (1814-1869) as Secretary of State, with wafer seal, toning, mounted on board and re-framed.

Provenance: Alexander Wheelock Thayer (1817-1897) author of the first scholarly biography of Ludwig van Beethoven and US Consul in Trieste; by descent to the present owner. SIGNED LINCOLN APPOINTMENT FOR ALEXANDER WHEELOCK THAYER, who wrote the first substantial—and still standard—biography of Beethoven, first published in German in 1866. Working at the Harvard Library while a student there from 1843-1848, Thayer discovered the works of Beethoven. Dissatisfied with the only extant biography of the great composer (by Anton Schindler, and later revealed to be based on forged documents and full of inconsistencies), Thayer began to gather materials for his own biography, traveling to Germany in 1849 and writing for publications such as the Grove Dictionary of Music. In order to support his Beethoven work, he took a job at the Austrian Consulate in Vienna in 1864, and this appointment later that year as Consul to Trieste greatly improved his prospects and enabled him to write. The first volume of his extensive three-volume (eventually extended to five) Ludwig van Beethoven’s Leben was published in German to great acclaim in 1866, and remarkably, though written in English and translated, would not see English publication until 1921. Written from primary sources, it is still considered to be the most authoritative work on the composer. Sold for $6,875.

THE ONLY PRESIDENTIAL INAUGURATION BIBLE IN PRIVATE HANDS

INAUGURAL BIBLE OF ULYSSES S. GRANT, 1869.
[GRANT, ULYSSES S. 1822-1885.]
The Annotated Paragraph Bible: containing the Old and New Testaments, according to the Authorized Version, arranged in Paragraphs and Parallelisms; with Explanatory Notes. London: The Religious Tract Society, 1861.
US$ 80,000 – 120,000

[GRANT, ULYSSES S. 1822-1885.] The Annotated Paragraph Bible: containing the Old and New Testaments, according to the Authorized Version, arranged in Paragraphs and Parallelisms; with Explanatory Notes.London: The Religious Tract Society, 1861.
4to (265 x 195 mm). 1,471 pp, engraved plates, diagrams, and maps, some with hand-coloring. Contemporary black morocco, spine in six compartments,gilt lettered in second, cloth slipcase. Bookseller’s ticket (“Wm Ballantyne / Bookseller & Stationer / 519 Seventh St / Washington DC”) to rear pastedown. Lightly rubbing to joints and edges, front flyleaf torn and repaired, touching a few letters of inscription.
Provenance: Mrs. Philip D.L. Sang, her sale, Sotheby’s, March 27, 1985, lot 53.

THE ONLY PRESIDENTIAL INAUGURATION BIBLE IN PRIVATE HANDS, given to First Lady Julia Grant by Salmon P. Chase, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. Inscribed on the front flyleaf “Mrs. U.S. Grant, presented by Chief Justice Chase; being the Bible on which her husband took the oath of office as President of the United States; March 4, 1869.”

Most of the Bibles used in presidential inaugurations are held by the Library of Congress, presidential libraries, and other institutions. In 1968/1969, the Washington National Cathedral hosted an exhibition of presidential inauguration Bibles, and the catalog for that exhibition stated “General Grant took the oath of office twice, but only his second (1873) Bible has survived.” The presentation of the Bible to Julia Grant is documented in The Papers of Ulysses S. Grant, stating that Chase presented the Bible to Mrs. Grant on March 5, “in the name of some religious society,” and that he also wrote her a letter concerning the Bible. In that letter, dated March 5, 1869, Chase wrote “… Col. Parsons, the Marshal of the Supreme Court will place in your hands the Book in which your honored husband took the oath of office yesterday. His lips pressed the 121st Psalm. The Book will, I am sure, be to you a precious memorial of an auspicious day; destined, I trust, to be ever associated in American remembrance with the perfected restoration of peace & with the renewal & increase of prosperity throughout our Country.” Sold for $118,750.


We occasionally see flyers advertising the sale of campaign uniforms and accoutrements. We also see newspaper ads for tokens, medals and badges. It is very unusual to find a stand-alone flyer offering a single campaign medal. It would have to be a well-executed, premium medal to justify the expense and effort. Such is the case for this handbill promoting the sale of DeWitt GMcC-1864-86 (52 mm white metal). A dealer of Civil War tokens is currently offering the medal and the flyer for $1,000.


An eBay vendor just listed and sold three CDVs related to U.S. currency. All were marked on the verso with the name of the owner and the date. March 6, 1864. The best one, featuring pictures of Chase and Lincoln, titled “The Northern Star”, sold for $239. Its counterpart, titled “The Southern Cross” depicted Jeff Davis and sold for $40. The third in the series, titled “The Almighty Dollar” showed Salmon Chase and traded hands for $100.


Americana dealer Rex Stark of Gardner, Massachusetts is currently offering this unsigned oil on canvas depicting Stephen A. Douglas. Asking price: $3,250.


Nadeau’s Auction Gallery of Windsor, Connecticut auctioned this 10.75” bronze bust of Lincoln by Adolph Weinman on January 1st. It crossed the block for $9,375.


Heritage Auctions recently concluded the second installment of the David & Janice Frent Collection of Political & Presidential Memorabilia. This collection, assembled for a fifty year period, is the most extensive general collection of presidential campaign items extant and will be dispersed over a 2-3 year period. A Lincoln & Johnson jugate ribbon, likely the finest example known, sold for $21,500.

A single portrait Lincoln ribbon, titled “Rail Splitters”, made a strong $4,000, despite some fold lines.

A cigar box that housed “A. Lincoln” cigars was a rare survivor. The paper label included a copyright date (“Entered according to Act of Congress”) of 1860, indicating it was distributed in the election that year. It realized $2250.

An opalotype pendent with transfer photo of Lincoln (the “tousled hair” portrait of Lincoln taken in 1857, Ostendorf #2) changed hands for $2000. The cataloger opined that this portrait on milk glass may have been manufactured and marketed by Hesler himself.

A Lincoln joke book from 1867, M-884 (“Lincoln’s Anecdotes”), sold to an astute dealer for $3,750.

An ornate, large-size Lincoln ballot from Virginia, of all places, circa 1860, achieved a record for any Lincoln ballot, selling for $5500.

Finally, a graphic 19” x 24” Lincoln & Johnson broadside from 1864, printed on yellow paper with terrific slogans, also headed to a dealer’s inventory, making $16,250.


Wes Cowan of Cincinnati had a timed, on-line auction that closed on February 26th. A cabinet card copy-image of William Marsh’s 1860 portrait, supposedly made for the benefit of New Jersey Governor Marcus Ward, made a strong $1080.


A 4 1/4” x 6 3/4” ballot promoting Andrew Johnson for Governor of Tennessee in 1853 recently sold on eBay for a reasonable $98. As can be seen, it is quite “busy” with popular patriotic woodcuts including another “Andrew”; namely, Andrew Jackson.