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Marketplace 2019

December 8, 2019

An eBay vendor offered a whale-oil lantern recently. He claimed it was the type of lantern used by members of the Wide Awake marching club. Such claims typically have no basis in fact. The lantern had nothing on it to indicate a political usage. Its form was not the typical one seen in period engravings and photographs of Wide Awake marchers. In addition, it was made of clear glass, rather than the red or blue glass used on lanterns carried by officers of the organization. That said, it does match the lantern seen in a period ambrotype of a Wide Awake marcher that is coming up for auction in November. Now, there is a big difference between an item that was actually used for political purposes and one that is “of the type” used for that purpose. Apparently, bidders were willing to make that “leap of faith”, resulting in a price realized of $1425.

A Lincoln memorial ribbon with a great slogan related to the abolition of slavery sold for $256 on eBay. It was found inside an 1856 family Bible that had made the trek to California.

Cowan’s held an online Books & Manuscripts sale which closed on September 3rd. It had a rare imprint from 1860, M-76, which contained an extensive account of the proceedings of the Wigwam Convention in Chicago. It also listed the names of the national ticket on the cover. It generated a great deal of activity, selling for $2500. An identical example is currently being offered by bookseller James Arsenault for the same price.

C. Howard Collectibles of Leipsic, Ohio had a slabbed and graded example of AL-1860-59 which it sold on September 5th. Assigned a high grade of MS65, it realized $525.

An eBay vendor listed a rare 1860 campaign cover postally-used and cancelled in 1861 in Vincennes, Indiana. Starting at $99, it ended its journey at $430.

Michaan’s Auctions of Alameda, California offered a lot comprised of five tokens & coins on September 8th. The “diamond in the rough” was a gold specimen of the U. S. Mint Lincoln assassination medal designed by Pacquet. We were unable beforehand to find any auction records for this rarity. The other items in the grouping were of nominal value. It did not go unnoticed, selling for $3175.

Cowan’s of Cincinnati held a sale on November 15th that included a pair of unpublished, previously unknown quarter plate tintypes of Jefferson and Varina Davis. Estimated at $40,000-$60,000, the pair failed to sell.

An eBay seller offered this Civil War era brush which he thought might be an anti-Jeff Davis item. Could be, but similar brushes were made for Andrew Jackson, John Quincy Adams, Henry Clay, Benjamin Harrison and Winfield Scott Hancock. It’s not necessarily a boot-jack brush, but a clothing or all-purpose brush. It sold for $868.

This 11” diameter marble funerary plaque had all the markings of an 1865 period piece. When first offered, we thought it might have some connection to Lincoln’s temporary tomb at Oak Ridge Cemetery in Springfield, or perhaps the receiving vault. There are no contemporary images showing it in place and there was no period documentation. Given that and the small size, the consensus was that it was a privately-commissioned work, perhaps issued in conjunction with some monument or shrine. With a starting bid of $600, there were no takers.

An eBay vendor listed this small salad/cereal/nut/berry bowl with the claim, based on where it was sourced, that it was used by Lincoln during his visit to Kalazamoo in 1859. A label on the bottom made that rather dubious claim, as well, saying Lincoln ate strawberries from it. A “berry” interesting story, but hard to swallow. After two attempts to move it, it found a new home for approximately $400.

The dial to a Lincoln memorial pocket watch was recently offered on eBay. It came out of an old-time collection, but the owner apparently never had the time to match it up to an appropriate watch of the period. So, his attempt to “dial down” his collecting activities were a “waste of time” when no one would pay the opening bid of $499.

Turner Auctions, LLC of San Francisco, auctioned the “Peck Family Historical Collection” on June 30th. A two-page draft of a Lincoln autograph letter, apparently unrecorded, was a highlight. Neither signed or complete with name of intended addressee (possibly Horace Greeley), the letter did have a pencil date of December 12, 1863. It dealt primarily with Lincoln’s Proclamation of Amnesty issued in conjunction with his December 8, 1863 State of the Union Address. The letter had great content dealing with issues of reconstruction and the sending of representatives to the U. S. Congress by the reconstructed states. Lincoln suggests that some of his positions detailed in the letter should not be made public. Like some other Lincoln letters, it was probably never sent, but filed away until needed. The estimate was $1,000-$1,500. It crossed the block for $39,975.

An unlisted Jefferson Davis token offered on eBay, 30 mm in diameter, white metal, was an enigmatic piece. Undated, it seemed to be something issued during his Presidency, but could have been a commemorative piece or part of a set. Despite flaws, it realized $293 with spirited bidding.

Christies helds a manuscripts sale on June 12th. Here are a few highlights:

LINCOLN, Abraham (1809-1865). Autograph letter signed (“A.Lincoln”) to Norman Judd, Chairman of the National Republican Committee, Springfield, Illinois, 29 April 1859. – Document signed (“Abraham Lincoln”). Letter: one page, 246 x 194 mm (visible), (docketed on verso, lightly browned, a toned spot at bottom, not affecting text, evidence of old mounting, central fold repaired from verso). Matted and framed together with portraits of Lincoln and Judd.

Lincoln proposes the purchase of a printing press to promote the Republican cause among German-American voters—written to Norman Judd, who first proposed the Lincoln-Douglas Debates. A very interesting unpublished letter to the chief Republican Party strategist, in which the Presidential hopeful asks about a plan to purchase a press and type: “You remember it was said last winter that the press and type for a German paper was here, and could be bought for [$400.00], and Gov[ernor Gustav Philip] Koerner and one or two other German friends were deputed to enquire and decide whether it would be [in] our interest to buy them. I believe they decided in the affirmative. Dr. Canissius resides here now, and this morning he showed me a letter from […] Koerner, expressing a wish that the thing may be done. If the thing can be started for [$400.00], and then kept going without more, I too think it ought to be done. By our recent elections here, we seem to be gaining with the Germans; and perhaps it is right to press our own luck while it runs favorably. But I suppose it would be better done by the Central Committee; and if they think proper to do it, I suppose the money could be raised here, on their checks. I will pay fifty dollars any day you draw. Think of this too…” Lincoln also encloses a letter from an anonymous Shawneetown resident written to him proposing a campaign fundraising scheme in which “200 menu” each take $250 in “bank stock.” While Lincoln admitted that the scheme “did not strike me favorably,” he supposed that the letter’s author be “entitled to a respectful hearing”. Not in Basler and Supplements, and apparently unpublished.

Norman Buel Judd (1815-1878), a prominent Republican, had forced Lincoln to throw his support to Anti-Nebraska Democrat Lyman Trumbull in the balloting of 1855 for Illinois Senator. By 1858, however, the two had reconciled; Judd delivered Lincoln’s 1858 letter to Stephen A. Douglas proposing the famous Lincoln-Douglas Debates and later nominated Lincoln for President at the Chicago Republican Convention in 1860 (Neely,The Abraham Lincoln Encyclopedia, New York: McGraw-Hill, 1982, pp. 168-169). As a reward for his support, Lincoln appointed Judd United States Minister to Prussia, as evidenced in the document of 21 March 1862 ordering the Secretary of State to affix the Seal of the United States to the document nominating Norman B. Judd to the post.Provenance: Christie’s, New York, 17 May 1996, lot 153. [With:] An unsigned autograph letter to Lincoln from an unidentified recipient, Shawneetown, 18 April 1859, asking him to contribute $250 to the Republican party. Sold for $28,125.

LINCOLN, Abraham (1809-1865). Autograph letter signed (“A. Lincoln”) as President, to Major General John Charles Frémont, Washington, 21 December 1861. Two pages, 205 x 126mm, bifolium (contemporary ink spot touching a couple letters on second page).

Lincoln admonishes Fremont over the Lyon’s defeat at Wilson’s Creek: “We must find a way to put the strength of our game – superior numbers – into the play.” Lincoln, who had dismissed Frémont from command of the Western Department in November, offers a pointed critique over the former commander of the Western Department’s failure to bring support to an exposed Nathaniel Lyon who was defeated by a much larger Confederate force at Wilson’s Creek. Lyon would be killed in that battle earring him the dubious distinction of being the first Union General killed in the Civil War. The setback led Frémont to impose martial law in Missouri and order freedom to all slaves held by those supporting the rebellion—a move that threatened to alienate the critical border states, especially Lincoln’s home state of Kentucky. The controversial policy forced Lincoln to order Frémont’s removal from command in November 1861. “Your Telegraphic dispatch to Head Quarters giving a report of the expedition from Bird’s Point on Charleston, has been shown me. Although the result, as reported, is satisfactory, it was, as usual with us in this war, a contest between an inferior force on our side, against asuperior one on the side of the enemy. How to reverse this, is our problem. The only strength of our game is superior numbers; and this is utterly worthless to us, if in every contest, we bring to the scratch only an inferior number. We must find a way to put the strength of our game – superior numbers – into the play. Please remember this.”

Mindful of Frémont’s political clout (he had been the fledgling Republican Party’s first presidential nominee in 1856), Lincoln was careful to keep from further alienating an important political ally: “Be assured, my dear General, I am not complaining of you, or any one; but only suggesting that with superior numbers on our side, we must not be constantly fighting one of our men against four of theirs; and thus getting our best men, and officers killed in detail, as in the case of Gen. Lyon; and, indeed, in nearly all cases, as yet.” At the time of writing, Lincoln was coming under increasing pressure from the Radical Republicans to give Frémont another command. In March 1862, Lincoln relented and appointed Frémont head of the Mountain Department and made him responsible for guarding the Shenandoah Valley. Frémont there found himself outclassed by the wily and cunning Stonewall Jackson. A string of defeats followed, and when his corps was merged into the Army of Virginia, commanded by his rival, John Pope, Frémont resigned his command in June 1862.

Lincoln letters to Frémont are rare in private hands. A search of Rare Book Hub reveals only two other examples (ALS, 24 October 1861, Anderson Galleries, 25-26 January 1917; ALS 2 August 1861, Sotheby Parke Bernet, 28 November 1979). Not published in Basler. Provenance: John Raymond Howard, an aide to Frémont to his descendants – Sotheby’s, New York, 16 December 1994, lot 204. Sold for $101,562.

CIVIL WAR – SOUTH CAROLINA ACT OF SECESSION. The State of South Carolina. At a Convention of the People of the State … begun and held at Columbia [17-20 December 1860]. An Ordinance to dissolve the Union between the State of South Carolina and the other States … done at Charleston, 20 December 1860. Charleston, S.C.: Evans & Cogswell, n.d. [c. March 1861]. Folio broadside (864 x 660 mm). Lithographed in black ink on heavy wove paper (marginal losses at top left and near bottom left corner well clear of text, a few marginal tears, backed with archival paper).

South Carolina votes to secede from the union: a rare broadside, one of the first Confederate imprints. One of only 200 copies printed, an imposing, large-format, lithographic facsimile of the original engrossed and signed manuscript Act of Secession, carefully prepared from the original engrossed document. The document features facsimile signatures of D.F. Jamison, President of the Convention, and 169 delegates to the Secession Convention convened by Governor Pickens (even the ink blots which mar the original are carefully reproduced by the lithographers). The historic resolution, which revoked South Carolina’s ratification of the U.S. Constitution, was largely the work of Robert Barnwell Rhett, editor of the Charleston Mercury, which printed a well-known broadside announcement of the vote, the day it was taken, proclaiming “The Union is Dissolved!”. The resolution was passed unanimously at 1:15 p.m. on 20 December. It was accompanied by a longer, legalistic Declaration of Causes, maintaining that South Carolina was justified in secession as the Northern States had ceased to comply with their obligations under the Constitution, especially as concerned slavery and the enforcement of the Fugitive Slave Law. Shortly after adoption of the Ordinance, Evans & Cogswell, printers to the convention, were asked to prepare a copy for use by the members. As reported in the March 28, 1861 entry of the Journal of the Convention of the People of South Carolina, the work was done “in a style creditable to the art; and by a careful comparison with the original, the Committee [on Printing] find it to bear a very notable similarity to it.” Satisfied with the printer’s proof, the Convention immediately authorized Evans & Cogswell to print 200 copies of the Ordinance, to be distributed as directed by the President of the Convention. Very rare: according to ABPC, only two other examples have sold at auction in at least a quarter century (one copy sold at Christie’s, New York 24 May 2002, lot 33, $55,000 and 3 December 2007, lot 110, $46,600). Crandall 1887 (cites 2 copies); Parrish & Willingham 3794 (11 institutional copies); Sabin 87444; see J. A. May and J. Reynolds Faunt, South Carolina Secedes, 1960, pp. 20, 36-37. Sold for $40,625.

Abell Auctions in Los Angeles held an auction on May 19th that was almost exclusively decorative arts. The only piece of historical Americana was a fabulous Lincoln portrait flag from 1860. It measures 18” x 26” and had a rather homely portrait of the Railsplitter Candidate. Condition was generally outstanding. Well-advertised, it did not slip through the cracks, achieving a very strong $110,000 hammer price. The buyer’s premium ranges from 18% to 23%. depending on the means of submitting bids.

Garth’s of Columbus, Ohio held a two-day online auction on May 10th and 11th. A 7.75” soup plate from the Solferino service used in the Lincoln White House realized $8750. At that price, there may be some money “left on the table”.

An unusual Lincoln & Johnson name ribbon on cyan silk caught the eye of at least two Lincoln specialists before getting knocked down for $1063.

Leslie Hindman’s book and manuscript auction in Chicago on May 1st included an interesting relic owned by Mary Lincoln… but WHICH Mary? The offering is detailed in the auction as follows:

LINCOLN, Mary Todd (1818-1883). Personal monogrammed handkerchief. Square linen handkerchief, silk border, “ML” monogram to one corner, 11 1/8 x 11 1/4 in. Provenance: Mary Todd Lincoln; by descent to Robert Todd Lincoln Beckwith (1904-1985) great grandson of President and Mrs. Lincoln; to Ralph Geoffrey Newman (1911-1998) noted Abraham Lincoln scholar; by descent to present owner. RARE: Ralph Geoffrey Newman, Lincoln scholar and dealer, hosted a monthly gathering in Chicago called the Civil War Round Table. He first briefly met Robert Todd Lincoln Beckwith at the Library of Congress on 26 July 1947 when the Robert Todd Lincoln papers were unsealed. Afterward, Newman and Beckwith were not in contact again until 1964. Ralph Newman chaired the Illinois Commission for the New York World’s Fair, working with Walt Disney to create the Land of Lincoln Pavilion, which included an animatronic figure of Lincoln; Newman invited Beckwith to an event celebrating “Illinois Day” at the fair, and a friendship between the two began to develop. Martha Todd Lincoln’s handkerchief was stored at Hildene, the Vermont summer home of Robert Todd Lincoln, for many years; on the death of his sister, Beckwith inherited Hildene and all the contents of the house. Estimate $1,000-1,500

Here’s the problem… there were three (yes, 3!) Mary Lincoln’s in that family: the First Lady; Robert Todd’s wife; the granddaughter. And, while Hildene was built by Robert, the First Lady’s son, and there were in fact personal items (some) from the President and Mrs. Lincoln that made their way to Vermont, the “provenance” tied to the final member of the family, the last of the progeny, Robert Todd Lincoln Beckwith, casts everything in doubt. In an interview with the late Ralph Newman, Beckwith’s friend and the original owner of the Abraham Lincoln Book Shop in Chicago, he recalled that every time Beckwith was short on cash — he lived the life of a playboy; gambling, fast cars, fast women — he would show up with a stack of “Mary’s kerchiefs”, would sit in the book shop, and sign letters of provenance. It hammered for $2,500.

Rumsey Stamp Auctions held an auction on April 18th that featured an item that was appealing for Lincoln collectors, political collectors or philatelists. Here is the catalog write-up:

1857, 3¢ dull red, type III, tied by “Cleveland O. Jul 23, 1860” cds on cover with spectacular Abraham Lincoln and Hannibal Hamlin campaign cover to Des Moines Iowa; design shows beardless Lincoln portrait design with “The Cold Water Candidate” heading and additional overprinting “Temperance and Freedom” advertising on face by “The Analyst” newspaper weekly of Cleveland Oh., flap with additional subscription info, minor flap opening tear, Very Fine and choice; with 2019 P.F. certificate. Milgram No. AL-36 var.
Scott No. 26 Estimate $5,000 – 7,500.


Temperance advocates embraced Lincoln as their choice for president in the 1860 election, naming him the “Cold Water” candidate. Envelope designs using this temperance theme are rare, and they were all published by M. H. Allardt of Cleveland. The Analyst newspaper was started in 1858 by J. A. Spencer, who apparently sold it to M. H. Allardt before 1860. Including this cover, we are aware of only four examples of the AL-36 design, but no other examples with the additional temperance overprint on face.

It realized $11,500.

Swann Galleries held a printed & manuscript sale on April 16th. The top-selling lot was a from-life portrait of Lincoln by Matthew Henry Wilson. He had several sittings with the President in February 1865 and made use of a photograph taken at the same time by Alexander Gardner. The oil on canvas was 26 1/2” x 21 1/2” [sight]. The original. signed and dated April 1865, is in the Indiana State Museum. It was commissioned by Gideon Welles at a cost of $85. Welles paid the artist on April 12th. Wilson made an additional seven copies of which this unsigned and undated example is one. It realized $55,000.

A 12” x 4 1/2” extra from the Detroit “Advertiser & Tribune” announces the sad news of the President’s assassination and death, and identifies John Wilkes Booth as the assassin. Contrary to most reports issued on April 15, 1865, the account is more-or-less factual. It went for $15,000 which likely establishes a new record for the genre.

An uncut sheet of melainotype or ferrotype portraits of the four 1860 presidential candidates, in oval format, likely produced for insertion in brooches, hit the mid-range of the estimate with a $10,000 final bid. There were thirty images altogether.

A small size Lincoln “Brady” single portrait ribbon in unusually good shape made a strong $4,000.

Finally, a pre-election printed circular from Virginia Governor John Letcher asked for a list of poll watchers from each county and city to supervise the casting of presidential ballots. He mentioned the need of reliable representatives for John Bell, Stephen Douglas and John Breckinridge. No mention at all was made of Lincoln. Why bother? It sold for $1063.

“A long way from home”. A seller in Auckland, New Zealand listed a 2 3/8” x 9” ribbon on eBay. It was part of a scrapbook album that contained various bits of ephemera, including Confederate currency and non-political ribbons. The album was likely assembled by a Union soldier who sojourned in the South during the war. Inscribed “Georgia Resumes Her Sovereignty, January 19th 1861”, it was issued to commemorate the day that Georgia adopted its Ordinance of Secession becoming, however briefly, the Republic of Georgia. It is very similar in style to the ribbon issued in conjunction with Abraham Lincoln’s visit to Philadelphia on February 22, 1861. It realized $2000.

A never-before-seen Lincoln memorial ribbon showed up on eBay. Measuring 3 7/8” x 6 7/8”, it apparently was worn by a member of the United States Military Rail Road Corps during the transportation of Lincoln’s coffin from Alexandria, Virginia on April 19, 1865 to its final resting place in Springfield. It sold for the opening bid of $300.

An eBay vendor listed a one-page letter dated May 10, 1864, from E. D. Morgan, Chairman of the Republican National Committee and Edward McPherson, Secretary of the Committee. It was sent to committee members seeking their opinion on a proposed change of date for the National Union Convention to be held in Baltimore. We don’t know if the date change was adapted, nor do we know the result of the auction, as the seller ended the listing early. It was bid up to $12.50, so he may have gotten a little anxious and decided to pull the plug.

Potomack Auction Company of Alexandria, Virginia held a sale on April 13th that included a very impressive Lincoln item. We reprint the catalog description in full:

Important Abraham Lincoln Presentation Silver Tray To Commodore John Rodgers (1812-1882) Commemorating His Victory as Commander of the Monitor Weehawken, June 17, 1863. W. Gale & Son. 925 Sterling, New York and mark G & S, 1862, inscribed “for his gallant conduct and scientific ability in capturing the Rebel Atlanta, while in command of the Monitor Weehawken, June 17th, 1863”. Engraved with scene of the naval battle and names of the Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles, Assistant Secretary of the Navy G. V. Fox, and names of the ship’s builders and others involved in the construction: Joseph Colwell, C. H. Delameter, George W. Quintard, Zeno Secor, John Ericsson, Charles L. Frost, Charles Knapp, Alexander Swift, Harrison Loring, George C. Bestor, George B. Stetson and James Gregory. Engraved by H. L. Pearce (over handles), 31.75 inches, 145 ozt. Provenance: By descent in the John Rodgers family: Sion Hill Estate, Havre de Grace, MD. Estimate $15,000-$25,000. It hammered for $35,000 (plus 25% buyer’s premium). The sale also included other pieces presented to Rodgers at the same time and for the same event, none of which specifically mentioned Lincoln. They included a centerpiece with basket & extended bowls ($2500), a tea service ($9500) and a tray ($6500).

A very rare CDV showing people gathered around the Lincoln catafalque or funeral car in Columbus, Ohio was recently offered on eBay. It had some serious faults, but still managed to sell for $222. At the same time this photograph was taken, Lincoln’s body and casket were lying-in-state in the Capital building.

Bonhams sold “Treasures from the Eric Caren Collection” on March 14th. We saw one item of interest which doesn’t quite qualify as a “treasure”, but it was interesting nonetheless. It was a coated stock card promoting the election of Bell & Everett, incorporating a quote by Henry Clay foreseeing the formation of the Constitutional Union Party. It traded hands for $765.

A trade card for the Buffalo merchant Pond & Hambleton, offered on eBay, was unusual on more than one level. Most significantly, it had an unpublished albumen photo attached depicting Lincoln’s funeral cortege in Buffalo. Despite two small stains, it realized $721 which we feel is still below its true worth. The albumen was slightly larger than CDV size.

An 1863 ribbon touting Clement Vallandigham for Governor of Ohio was offered on eBay. We have never seen this example before which had a thinly-veiled anti-Lincoln slogan “Liberty vs. Despotism”. Measuring a rather modest 2 1/2” x 4 3/4”, it was hotly contested and sold for $1525.

An eBay vendor offered an interesting fragment of an 1864 letter written by a Union soldier to his father. The soldier says he is a “Heavy Dog for Old Abe” but gets to hear only one side of the story, as the Nashville papers are all pro-Lincoln, due to the influence of Tennessee’s military Governor Andrew Johnson. He requests copies of the Louisville, Kentucky papers. It sold for $112.

Garth’s Auctions of Columbus, Ohio, hosted their annual Thanksgiving auction this past November (when else?!?) and offered their usual selection of wonderful Americana; furniture, decorative arts, etc. Among the items to reach the block was this 47” tall folk art Lincoln carved from a tree stump! They speculate it might be a “campaign stage item” (providing the natural pun a “stump on the stump!”). Definitely 19th century, the piece branched-out from a $200-$400 estimate to leaf the auction room for $1,800.

A most unusual cabinet card of U. S. Grant appeared on eBay. It dates circa 1879 when the former president toured Asia. The photograph was taken during a stopover in China, as it has the blind-embossed name and backmark of a Peking photographer. It traded hands for $3055. The seller also offered photographs of Grant’s son, Frederick, their transport ship and Grant’s personal escort for the trip.

The “broken column” Lincoln memorial medal by William Key is fairly common and typically sells in the $100-$200 price range. We have never seen a “cased” example, but one appeared on eBay and was hotly contested. It sold for a record $572.