New England Auctions had a sale on January 15, 2023. One “mixed lot” caught our eye. It featured a signed ticket for the trial of the conspirators issued to Dr. Robert K. Stone, Lincoln’s personal physician and one of the doctors in attendance during Lincoln’s final hours in the Peterson House. These typically sell in the $3,000 range, but this example went “bonkers”, selling for $10,880.
Selkirk Galleries in St. Louis held an auction on January 15, 2023. A limited edition 30” bronze bust of Lincoln, titled “The Candidate”, by Edward James Fraughton (b. 1939) sold for $9375, despite dating from 1993. Size and quality made the difference!
A CDV of Illinois General John A. Logan, with Goldin of Washington, D.C. back mark, was offered on eBay. A most unusual pose, it depicted the “Black Eagle” wearing a “Forty Rounds” corps badge on his uniform and a Lincoln memorial ribbon badge on his sleeve. It closed on January 23, selling for $228.
Sotheby’s held an “Americana Week” sale on January 23, 2023. The only Lincoln item was a good one… an Imperial albumen of O-79, measuring 16” x 20” overall. It was taken by Alexander Gardner on November 8, 1863, just eleven days prior to the Gettysburg Address. Estimated $30,000-$50,000, it failed to attract the $18,000 opening bid.
Christies held their traditional Americana Week “Printed and Manuscript Americana” sale on January 27th. A very rare example of the first separate printing of the Gettysburg Address was offered. Printed by the Washington Chronicle on November 22nd or 23rd, it is one of only five copies extant, four of which are housed in institutional holdings. Titled “Gettysburg Solemnities”, the sixteen-page pamphlet includes the lengthy oration by Edward Everett, followed by the brief, but inspiring, remarks by President Lincoln. Christies previously sold the Malcolm Forbes example in 2004 for $307,000. This example realized $252,000. A 7.75” x 6” broadside “Proclamation” of Lincoln’s preliminary Emancipation Proclamation was another noteworthy item, catalogued as possibly the first broadside printing of this important document. Both this, and a similar broadside, lack the name of the printer, but are attributed to J. M. Forbes of Boston. A different example was sold by Christies in 2006 for $26,400. This one was acquired from Ralph Newman of the Abraham Lincoln Book Shop in Chicago and crossed the block for $37,800.
Richard Withington Auctions of Hillsborough, New Hampshire conducted a sale on February 17th that included an unusual Lincoln item. It was a framed engraving on silk, measuring approximately 10” x 12”, that featured the “Tousled Hair” portrait of Lincoln taken in 1857 by Alexander Hesler of Chicago. It had a facsimile signature of Lincoln and the date “1860” below the portrait. It included credits for the photographer, Hesler, and the engraver, H. C. Shotwell of Rockford, Illinois. Rockford is situated close to Chicago and it is entirely feasible that Shotwell obtained a copy of the photograph from Hesler, or may have had some licensing or profit-sharing agreement. The portrait was used on three 1860 campaign ribbons that we are aware of, as well as three different engraved prints issued during the campaign. Some online research revealed that the mother-in-law of a past owner (Mrs. Charles Rader of Mercer, Pennsylvania) was born in 1860. Meaningless, perhaps, but who knows? Housed in the original frame, this handsome piece sold for $1320.
A nice Lincoln ribbon from 1860 sold on eBay March 5th. It had some faults, including two “bites” out of the edge, a small hole on the flagpole finial and a “panel” of discoloration on the flag from the old piece of adhesive tape, still present on the verso. Still, it displayed quite nicely and had a bright sheen. Someone paid $1624 to make the acquisition.
A bifolium sheet of unusual Lincoln & Johnson campaign stationery surfaced on eBay in March. Reflecting “March Madness”, it rebound to a record $1288.
Locati, LLC of Pineville, PA held a live auction on March 19, 2023. It featured eight lots related to Dr. Charles A. Leale (1842-1932) who attended the ill-fated performance of “Our American Cousin” at Ford’s Theatre. He was an assistant surgeon at a local military hospital who specialized in gunshot wounds. He was the first doctor to reach the presidential box and initiated examination and treatment of the mortally-wounded President. He directed that the President be carried over to the Peterson House, joining Mrs. Lincoln, Secretary Stanton and Drs. Taft , Barnes & Stone, supervising care until the President expired. He was credited with keeping Lincoln alive for as long as possible, despite the dire prognosis. The material was advertised as the property of a “Main Line” consignor, likely a descendant of Leale. The archive contained family photographs, photographs of Leale from 1860 and beyond, his marriage license, medical licenses and personal papers. Of particular note was a gold & enamel Medical Staff badge inscribed to Leale (“C. A. Leale Capt. and Assistant Surgeon N.Y.V. 1865”), a circa 1866-1868 CDV of Leale wearing the badge, his military commissions from 1866, a manuscript speech titled “Lincoln’s Last Hours” given in New York in 1909, a two-page manuscript commenting on the positioning of Lincoln on the bed in the Peterson House with an explanation of his wounds and treatment, an 18-page manuscript article published in Harper’s Weekly in 1909 and a 13-page manuscript reminiscence titled “The Assassination of Abraham Lincoln”. The eight lots sold for a total of $26,500 hammer. We could not determine the buyer’s premium charged by the auction company for in-house bidders, but the LiveAuctioneers platform charges 25%, bringing the total to $33,125. A gentleman in the audience purchased seven of the eight lots. The only one he passed on was a single CDV portrait, a duplicate of examples that were included in the archive. Though marked on the back “April 1865”, it had to be taken shortly after Leale left military service in 1866, returning to New York City. It should be noted that the manuscripts (with annotations) dealing with the assassination were all written decades after the event, with some possible inconsistencies and lapses of memory. A letter written by Leale in May 1865, recalling the events, was part of the Lattimer Collection, selling for $86,000 years ago. We suspect this archive might appear on an “upscale dealer’s” web site, at a substantial markup, given the provenance and historical significance.
Stacks/Bowers held a “Numismatic Americana” online auction on March 21, 2023. An extremely rare example of a John Bell campaign medal (DeWitt JBELL-1860-3) caught our eye. It is the first and only example we have seen for sale. It did not go “unnoticed”, realizing $1680.
Hake’s of York, Pennsylvania, held an auction on March 21st. It included a 4” x 6” bifolium post-1860 election invitation from St. Charles, Missouri. These celebratory soirees apparently were commonplace in the electoral landscape of the time. It made a strong $1428.
University Archives held an auction on April 19th. It included a most unusual 7” x 4” note written by Lincoln on November 2, 1864. The cataloger speculated that it was addressed to Robert Todd Lincoln, a recent graduate of Harvard. Since there is no documentation to establish this fact, it remains open to speculation. Our guess is that it was sent to the son of a member of the White House staff who addressed the President as “Mr. L” and that this unknown youngster was about to enter into public service or the military. Estimated at $40,000-$60,000, it wound up at $57,600.
A large size woven silk Lincoln memorial ribbon made in Switzerland in 1866 generated a lot of bidding activity when recently offered on eBay. An exceptional example, it made a record $1136.
Morphy Auctions of Denver, PA held a sale on April 13, 2023. It included a silver match safe that purportedly belonged to Abraham Lincoln. The safe was engraved “A” on one side and “Lincoln” on the other, in Old English font. It came out of the Dr. John K. Lattimer Lincoln Collection and included some identifying paperwork to that effect, but with no period documentation. The estimate was a modest $1,000-$2,000 with an opening bid of $500. Personalized artifacts of Abraham Lincoln, while not unknown, are incredibly rare. Whether Lincoln would have gone to the trouble of personalizing such a mundane artifact is subject to conjecture, although it may have been a gift. We did notice that the engraved letter “A” had developed a dark, black patina in the recesses while the recesses in the word “Lincoln” appeared shiny. Bidding activity was “heated” with the artifact realizing $18,450.
Sotheby’s held an auction on April 22nd that featured items from the “Wolf Family Collection”. A 9.75″ seated bronze of Lincoln by Daniel Chester French realized $57,150 (obviously not your typical cheesy bookend!) A 16.5″ bronze bust of Lincoln by Augustus St. Gaudens, cast in 1923 by the Roman Bronze Works, did even better at $63,500. Finally, a 16.25″ bronze standing figure of Lincoln by George Bissell, rounded things out, selling for $8255.
James Cummins Bookseller of New York City, offered an important Lincoln printed document in his May 2023 fixed-price catalog. The price is $125,000. A partial description follows:
Washington, D.C: April 15, 1861. Broadside, 10 x 8 inches. 4to. Lincoln’s First Presidential Proclamation and De Facto Declaration of War. Penciled date at top of sheet. Fine. In a blue morocco case, gilt. President Abraham Lincoln’s first proclamation, calling for troops to suppress the rebellion of the secessionist states and “maintain the existence of our National Union,” issued two days after the fall of Fort Sumter. A document of the greatest consequence for the nation, this momentous proclamation was also an important antecedent of the Gettysburg Address, embodying Lincoln’s first official articulation of a central theme of his presidency and the war effort – the “perpetuity of popular government.” This Department of State circular is the only separate, contemporary printing and – for an officially printed state paper of such profound significance – is exceedingly rare; the only known copies are the present one and the copy in the National Archives.
An Anthony/Brady CDV of John Nicolay, in very nice condition with full borders and back mark, sold on eBay on May 7th for $1525. It is only the second example we recall seeing and sold for exactly what we expected.
Sarasota Estate Auction sold a Lincoln & Hamlin “Grand National Banner” small folio lithograph on May 21st. With some damp stains and irregularly trimmed side border, it realized $2772.
A group of five railroad passes for 1865 and 1866, made out to Navy Secretary Gideon Welles and family members was sold on eBay for $510. No doubt, other perks and “comps” were available to government officials.
A high grade Lincoln & Hamlin ferrotype was offered on eBay, selling for $1532. We thought this might be a record or, at least, a very strong price. Au contraire, mon ami! Research indicates the record for a 25mm Lincoln & Hamlin back-to-back ferrotype is actually $7365, achieved in 2011. The #2 spot is $4433 from 2006. Still, paying a record price seems a dubious distinction.
An eBay vendor is currently offering an 8” x 10” pro-Lincoln 1864 election handbill for a Buy-It-Now price of $1997. It is directed towards the “Laboring Classes” and warns that, in the event of a Southern victory, slavery will extend throughout the United States, forcing them to compete with slave labor and slave wages. It also notes that most Southern states have a property qualification to hold office and that presidential electors in South Carolina are not elected by the voters, but by the House of Delegates.
Does it pass the “smell test?” Selkirk Auctions in St. Louis sold what was possibly an important Lincoln relic on June 9th. It was “the purported child’s chair of Abraham Lincoln.” The hickory chair measured 21.75” high with a rush covered seat measuring 14.25” x 10”. It was accompanied by a newspaper article from 1902 picturing it and detailing its history. It also had a modern handwritten provenance and a damaged caption card from a previous exhibition at a G.A.R. post. The caption card said the chair was made by Nancy Hanks (she may have woven the seat) while the manuscript history said the chair was made by Thomas Lincoln (who is known to have made furniture). It further states the chair was given away when the Lincoln family left Kentucky for Indiana, at which time young Abe was supposedly 12 years old. The Lincoln family actually left Kentucky in 1816 when Abe was 7 years old and his sister 9 years old. Given the small size of the chair, the fact that Thomas Lincoln made furniture, and the common practice of discarding unwanted items prior to moving, all give credence to the claim. The recipient in 1816 was a lady neighbor who had a small daughter. The chair descended in her family. They eventually relocated to Missouri. It was put on exhibit from time to time, but souvenir hunters sliced off slivers of the wood, prompting the owner to stop loaning it out. Given all the facts, it appears that “family lore” likely is accurate, which isn’t always the case. Bidders must have felt likewise as the relic sold for $18,200.
Concept Art Gallery of Pittsburgh held a sale on June 10th that included a 5.25” x 7.25” salt print of Lincoln, attributed to Roderick Cole circa 1858. On November 12, 1859, William E. Frazer wrote a letter to Lincoln requesting a photograph, to be displayed next to one of Simon Cameron. In addition, Frazer argued, there were people who had never seen Lincoln and would appreciate a portrait. Accordingly, Lincoln complied and dispatched this image which was subsequently trimmed to fit into an oval frame (not present). The starting bid was $5000 and it sold for $7620.
An eBay seller offered a rare 13.5” x 15.75” lithograph of a beardless Lincoln published by Child & Bradley of Springfield, Massachusetts. It seemed rather nondescript and was incorrectly described as circa 1858, coinciding with Lincoln’s campaign for the Senate. The “Bradley” in the publisher’s credit was none other than Milton Bradley, who later opened a business manufacturing children’s board games. He excelled in this endeavor and made quite a name for himself. Hotly contested, it realized $1375.
Hindman Auctions held an online sale on June 16th. A 9” x 7” albumen of Lincoln delivering the Second Inaugural Address (O-108), on the original unmarked photographer’s mount, is attributed to Alexander Gardner. We recall an example selling many years ago for $14,000. This one did as well as expected, trading hands for $18,900. The conspirator Lewis Powell appears in the crowd, just below the President. A nice 1864 ferrotype in an ornate frame, mounted on a black mourning rosette with two attached red, white and blue ribbons, went reasonably for $945.
An eBay vendor in New Hampshire recently acquired a group of Civil War artifacts and ephemera. A 6” x 9.5” Southern Guardian Extra, dated December 20, 1860, announces the passage of the South Carolina Ordinance of Secession. It sold for $1135, cheap in comparison to the more frequently seen Charleston Mercury broadside. A 12.5” x 18.5” broadside, titled “Secession Notice”, Columbia, South Carolina, December 21, 1860, notes the passage of the ordinance the day before, and directs all members of the public to celebrate the event and engage in demonstrations of “unqualified joy”. It was bid up to $2212, with both items going to the same buyer.
Fontaine’s Auction Gallery in Pittsfield, Massachusetts held an auction on June 23, 2023. It included a 29” x 24” oil on canvas portrait of Lincoln signed “Schmit 1864”. It had some craquelure and areas of in-painting. Not a great artwork, but done during Lincoln’s lifetime and ready to hang. Starting at $300, it went out the door for $819.
Heritage Auctions held a “Platinum Sale” of “high-end” manuscripts on July 8th. An 8” x 10” document signed by Lincoln on April 19, 1861 authorized a naval blockade of seven Southern states which had seceded from the Union. Following the attack on Ft. Sumter and absent a Congressional resolution, it was the equivalent of a declaration of war. It realized a well-deserved $471,000.
A two-page letter, Washington, D.C., April 16, 1865, contained a first-hand account related to the Lincoln assassination. The writer, George Lovett, was attending the play “Aladdin” at Grover’s Theatre when the announcement was made that the President had been shot (Tad Lincoln also being present). Lovett immediately went to Ford’s Theatre, just in time to view the President’s body being transported across the street to the Peterson House. It sold for $47,500. A partial transcript of the letter reads:
I cannot let the present historic time pass with out expressing my feelings of commiseration at the loss which we as a people have to mourn. The American nation today mourns the loss of the best, the truest, the wisest, and the most purest of statesman. Abraham Lincoln, our chosen and respected chief is no more. He has fallen by the hand of the foul and cowardly assassin….You have the full particulars and it is unnecessary for to say anymore about the matters. But from actual observation I shall speak. I was in Grovers Theater on the eventful Friday night listening to Effie Germon as Aladin [sic]. At 10 o’clock and 20 minutes precisely the ushers came to door of the Parquette and announced that President Lincoln had been assassinated in his private box at Fords. The frantic audience rushed to the door. When it was announced it was a lie and vengeance sworn against the author, the larger portion returned to see the play finished, when the manager immediately came forward upon the stage and announced the truth of the report. President Lincoln shot Sect. Seward’s throat cut. In as few steps as possible I made my way over every obstacle into the street, and down to eleventh st. to the scene of the murder. On my way I cannot bring myself to believe that such is the case. But alas it is true. I reach the front of Fords Theater. Some 6 or 8 men are in military uniform carrying the almost inanimate body of a man across the street followed by several women, one in the habiliments of an ader[sic]. The women scream, wildly and one faints in the street, and is taken by more stalwart hands and carried in the same direction of those preceding with the man. I rushed for the door into which they apparantly [sic] were going and by strenuous effort reached it before they entered with the body of the man – and ah heavens what a sight – Abraham Lincoln is the man that is a carrying almost lifeless. Imagine my feelings when I held the friend of humanity struggling in his death agonies by a murderous hand. His face on the left side was covered with blood and breathed in a rattling sound. His eyes were sinking fast. There I gazed a few seconds upon the fast sinking remains of all that is good as a man and exalted and magnanimous as a ruler. Cursed forever be the man that has thus deprived society of its best…
I asked the Dr. as soon as he came out what was his hopes. He told me he can’t live but a short time. The murderer has done his work effectually. The brains is protruding. The pulse at eleven was reported at 41. At half past one was up to 86, and at six failing, and at twenty two minutes past seven He Was Dead, April 15th, 1865. So died the great martyr of freedom and right vengeance – Vengeance to all Rebels and their sympathizers.
Garth’s in Columbus, Ohio held an online-only auction on July 11th. A limited edition pewter bust of Lincoln, produced by Chilmark in 1993, numbered 313/350, stood 15.5” high and hammered for $225.
Freeman’s of Philadelphia held a Books & Manuscripts sale on July 25th. A rare John Bell campaign ribbon, with some acceptable faults, realized a healthy $4410. The matching Lincoln, with some fold lines, but quite nice overall, was a better deal, in our estimation, crossing the block for $3024.
Hake’s of York, Pennsylvania held an auction on July 25th. A 30mm Douglas donut ferrotype caught our eye. When viewing the enlarged photo of the obverse portrait, it appears to have a circular mark and scratch on the left eye and the mouth has been retouched, producing an “Emmet Kelly” clown-like frown. We don’t know if this was an inept attempt at restoration or a deliberate application of graffiti, post-election. It sold for $236, warts and all! A Jefferson Davis ferrotype stickpin mounted on a silk rosette was quite attractive. The portrait comes in various formats, including an Abbott rectangular tintype and an insert in an “oreo” thermoplastic case. This version appears totally original and untouched. It realized $1817. A pair of ornate Lincoln and McClellan ferrotypes were sold separately. The Lincoln appeared quite minty in the catalog, although additional close-up images provided by Hake staff shows a general pattern of surface wear and dullness. It was hotly contested through the closing hours, topping off at $4307. The ferrotype portrait on the McClellan mate was in much better shape, although the frame did not display as well. It went for $1070. Finally, a standard Lincoln-Johnson back-to-back ferrotype in choice condition achieved what may be an auction record of $4307. Prices quoted include an 18% buyer’s premium, reduced to 15% if payment is made by cash or check.
Eldred’s of East Dennis, Massachusetts held a sale on July 27th. It included a 32″ tall plaster bust of Lincoln, made by Caprioni of Boston, dated 1907. It sold for $1512.
Rolands is an estate auction house on Long Island that has offered interesting properties over the years including the Dr. Alan York collection of political Americana, a major sale back in 2016. On July 29th, they offered a bronze of the famous life-mask of Lincoln by Clark Mills (1810-1883). The original casting was made on February 12, 1865. Stamped “Gorham & Co. Founders.” and encused “Abraham Lincoln 1865.” we of course appreciate the historic significance…but are of the mind this is as UGLY as it gets! The elongated chin and overall presentation is part man part ape! $6,000.
An eBay vendor offered a very rare, if not unpublished, CDV of a public viewing of President Lincoln’s remains in Cleveland, Ohio. The event took place on April 28, 1865 in the town’s Public Square (Monument Park). It was the only outdoor viewing of the open casket during the series of funerals that stretched from Washington, DC to Springfield, Illinois. At 10 PM that evening, the casket was closed and a solemn procession escorted it to the train station, en route to the next stop, Columbus, Ohio. Unfortunately, the item failed to meet its opening bid of $750 and is still available.
Leatherwood Antiques of Sandwich, Massachusetts currently is offering a 9″ x 12″ cast-iron silhouette wall hanging of Lincoln, modeled on the famous historical painting by Jean Leon Gerome Ferris. The asking price is $1450.
Fleischer’s Auctions of Columbus, Ohio held a Civil War and historical Americana auction on August 5th. It focused heavily on documents and vintage photographs. A rare CDV of Booth with J. Carbutt of Chicago back mark, hammered for $1100. The cataloger could not locate any auctions records for it. That seems to also be the case for the unmarked CDV of John Surratt, showing the youthful co-conspirator in a standing pose. It went for $1800. A Brady CDV of all the members of the assassination conspirators trial, a from-life image seldom seen, sold for $1700. Finally, a ninth-plate ambrotype of a child wearing a kepi and a Stephen Douglas campaign ferrotype mounted on a rosette handed hands for $2200.
RR Auctions of Boston held a sale on September 23rd. There were two high-end Lincoln items. We reprint their catalog descriptions:
Civil War-dated LS as president, signed “Yours truly, A. Lincoln,” one page, 8 x 10, Executive Mansion letterhead, May 3, 1864. Letter addressed in Lincoln’s hand to “Hon. Secretary of the Navy,” Gideon Welles, regarding the devastating massacre of Union soldiers (many of them part of the United States Colored Troops) at Fort Pillow on April 12, 1864. In full: “It is now quite certain that a large number of our colored soldiers, with their white officers, were, by the rebel force, massacred after they had surrendered, at the recent capture of Fort Pillow. So much is known, though the evidence is not yet quite ready to be laid before me. Meanwhile I will thank you to prepare, and give me in writing, your opinion as to what course, the government should take in the case.” In fine condition, with a very light, uniform block of toning. Passed against an estimate of $100,000-$150,000.
Exceedingly rare pair of original front-row balcony tickets to the production of ‘Our American Cousin’ at Ford’s Theatre on April 14, 1865, during which President Abraham Lincoln was shot by assassin John Wilkes Booth. Each ticket measures 4.25 x 1.75 and is stamped at the center: “Ford’s Theatre, APR 14, 1865, This Night Only.” The left sides of the tickets are imprinted, “Ford’s Theatre, Friday., Dress Circle!,” and are filled out in pencil with section (“D”) and seat numbers (“41” and “42”). The right sides are clipped, evidently by the ticket-taker when presented for admission, and carry the printed signature of “Jas. R. Ford, Business Manager.” Includes an envelope annotated in a contemporary hand: “Front Seats, Dress Circle, Reserved, Complimentary, Fords Theatre, April 14, 1865, (Night of Assassination of President Lincoln).” The tickets are in very good condition, with fragile central vertical folds, some light creasing, and one with a chipped lower corner. Sold for $262,500 all-in.
An eBay vendor of architectural salvage is currently offered a “life-size” terra cotta plaque of Stephen A. Douglas, removed from a Flanders & Zimmerman designed school in the Windy City. Dating from the 1885 period, the asking price is $3500.