Birth of USA
Chronology : 18th century 1770-1779 1780-1789
1776 The Dunlap Broadside
2000 SOLD for $ 8.1M including premium by Sotheby's
narrated in 2020
On July 4, 1776 the original manuscript of the Declaration was signed by John Hancock, president of the Continental Congress and especially of this memorable session, and by Charles Thomson, secretary of the Congress. From then they had to act in a hurry to propagate the information in the thirteen colonies and to the army. They had no time left for preparing a clean copy of that draft amended during the debates or a fortiori to have it signed by the delegates who have just approved its text.
The manuscript is forwarded to John Dunlap, a printer operating in Philadelphia who is the usual contractor for official Congress documents. The broadside is printed during the night of July 4 to 5. The manuscript no longer matters : it is lost in this operation. Hancock organizes the distribution of the document while urging each recipient to disclose the text by any appropriate means.
The quantity of copies of the Dunlap broadside is not known although the figure of 200 seems fair. 25 copies survive. Almost all are in US institutions or museums.
One of them was found in 1989 by a bargain hunter in the backside of the frame of a torn painting that he had just bought. It was sold for $ 8.1M including premium by Sotheby's on June 29, 2000, a record at the time for an Internet auction.
The buyer was the television producer Norman Lear supported by Internet entrepreneur David Hayden. Lear is not a collector. He immediately organized the Declaration of Independence Road Trip, a non-profit organization committed for displaying this historic document to as many people as possible through tours from city to city.
1776 Silver, Brass and Pewter
2015 SOLD for $ 1.53M including premium
This early US metal coinage remained confidential and was limited to the year 1776, but a significant quantity has been achieved, probably to test the capability of mass production. Heritage estimate that about 1,000 of them survive.
Some variations exist, because the dies were made by craft and wore out quickly, but also because a few engravers were involved. The operators also had to correct misspellings. Three metals were used: silver, brass and pewter. The majority of them are in pewter, abundant in North America at that time. This surprising diversity is certainly due to the still experimental nature of the project.
The earliest variant, described under code 1-A by Newman, was soon abandoned because its dotted rings were too difficult to perform repeatedly.
The sale by Heritage in Orlando on January 7 and 8 includes no less than fifteen of these Continental Dollars. Two are in silver, three in brass and the other ten in pewter.
The Newman 1-A brass coin is graded MS63 by NGC (lot 5834, January 8). It is the best from three 1-A known in brass. The Newman 1-A in pewter is the only known specimen of the original sub-variant in this material, identified by Heritage during the preparation of the auction (lot 4004, January 7).
The two silver coins are a Newman 1-C graded XF40 by NGC, the best from two known silver 1-C (lot 5838, January 8) and a Newman 3-D graded MS62 by NGC (lot 5842, January 8). Only one other silver 3-D is known. Graded MS63 by NGC, it was sold for $ 1.4 million including premium by Heritage on May 16, 2014.
RESULTS INCLUDING PREMIUM :
Both silver dollars : $ 1.53M each
Brass dollar : $ 376K
Pewter dollar : $ 118K
1776 The Dollar of the Continental Congress
2014 SOLD 1.4 M$ including premium
The $ 1 bill is an immediate failure, probably because it would require to print huge quantities to meet the need. Metal coins are minted in pewter, brass and silver.
These $ 1 Continental Currency coins are extremely rare and were not documented in their time. Some dies are signed. For such a small amount of money, it cannot be a private mint but indeed the pattern experiments to develop the coinage of the future independent state.
In silver, only four units are known. One of them is in remarkable condition, graded MS63 by NGC. It is the most correct variant, after and before misspellings in the word 'currency' and signed by the engraver (EG).
This coin was acquired in 1956 by Eric P. Newman. It is the top lot in the sale held on May 16 in New York by Heritage dispersing nearly 700 coins of colonial North America from the collection of the now centenarian numismatist. it is lot 30423 is the catalog.
Note on the reverse the circular chain of the thirteen colonies. Each one is identified in a ring. In 1793, when this symbol was reused without naming the states, the chain cent will be booed by the patriots as a symbol of slavery and almost immediately withdrawn.
POST SALE COMMENT
This highly rare silver coin of the American Revolution was sold for $ 1.4 million including premium.
1776 Announcement in Salem
2018 SOLD for $ 1.2M including premium
The official broadside of the Congress is printed by Dunlap in Philadelphia in the early morning of July 5, 1776 and passed on to the delegates for disclosure in the thirteen colonies without waiting for the ratification. This document is directly or indirectly the source of all early publications of the Declaration.
The Declaration reaches Boston on July 13 and Watertown three days later. The executive Council of Massachusetts meeting in Watertown decides on July 17 a new edition of the broadside for use by religion ministers. It adds in post scriptum a requirement to read the text aloud after the Divine service of the very first Lord's Day following the receipt of the document.
This edition by order of the Massachusetts Council is commissioned to the official printer of the colony, Ezekiel Russell, working in Salem. Very similar to the Dunlap edition, it is typed in a single broad column.
Russell was also the printer of Salem's only newspaper, The American Gazette. The Council was unaware that the Declaration had already been published in the No. 5 of this new weekly paper on 16 July in four narrow columns spreading over two pages. During the composition of this issue the same four columns had been printed as a 43 x 36 cm broadside, perhaps by the Gazette's publisher for his personal trade. A copy was sold for $ 570K including premium by Sotheby's on June 17, 2010.
On July 23 the No. 6 of The American Gazette is devoted to the Declaration as authorized by the Council, with a few words apologizing to readers for that exclusive content. The authorized broadside 50 x 40 cm was certainly printed simultaneously. A poor copy was sold for $ 510K including premium by Heritage on April 5, 2016. A very fresh copy passed at Sotheby's in New York on June 19, 2015 and is estimated $ 1M in the same auction room on January 17, lot 176.
On August 5 the Council approves its official broadside. Both examples discussed above identify on their back the recipient Reverend and his parish. The American Gazette had permanently ceased its publication after its No. 7, probably due to a break of partnership between publisher and printer.
1776 The Signature of John Hancock
2020 SOLD for $ 1.04M including premium
The Congress debates the strategy concerning England : equitable reconciliation or separation. The supporters of independence form a committee in charge of preparing a declaration which is written by Jefferson.
Hancock chairs the session of July 4, 1776 during which the delegates accept the text of the committee of the independence. Now time is running out. John Adams will say later : "We were all in haste". The document prepared by Jefferson is signed by Hancock and attested by the Congress secretary, Charles Thomson. It is immediately supplied to John Dunlap, the official printer of the documents of the Congress.
During the night of July 4 to 5, Dunlap prints a broadcast in approximately 200 copies. To accompany the broadcast, Hancock prepares a letter encouraging its public proclamation. The letter is written by a clerk in thirteen copies on July 5 and 6, and mailed to either a personality or a committee in each of the thirteen colonies. A similar shipment was made to two war leaders including Washington.
Each letter is signed by Hancock. His powerful signature, very legible and underlined with a small monogram, is still proverbial in the United States.
On January 27 in New York, Sotheby's sells one of the letters signed by Hancock, lot 2271 estimated $ 600K. The name of the recipient state has been scratched. It is not one of the nine letters to states whose addressee has been identified. By elimination, it is the announcement of the Declaration by Hancock for use in Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina or Virginia. Five letters from the nine for which the recipient is documented are currently lost.
Delegates were not invited to sign beside Hancock and Thomson during the July 4 session. The original manuscript is lost, possibly destroyed by Dunlap after use. On July 19, the Congress decides to prepare a new manuscript copy on parchment to receive all the signatures.
Our upcoming Fine Manuscript and Printed Americana auction in #NYC features a selection of works from some of the most iconic figures in America's history. Delve further into these trailblazers' stories and the objects they've left behind. https://t.co/0EqETZtagv— Sotheby's (@Sothebys) January 24, 2020
1778 Presented by Lafayette to Washington
2002 SOLD for $ 2M including premium by Christie's
narrated in 2020
The involvement of the Marquis de La Fayette in the American Revolution is inextricably linked to his admiration for George Washington. The two men had met in August 1777, two months after Lafayette's arrival in America. The young French officer then participated in the difficult episodes of Brandywine and Valley Forge.
Lafayette knows that he has the means to help Washington. After the official alliance between France and the Americans, he returned temporarily to France in 1779 to contribute to propaganda and send reinforcements, spending at that time $ 200,000 on his personal fortune.
The steel mounted pistols inlaid with silver and gold are signed by Jacob Walster, a gunsmith operating in Saarbruck (Saarbrucken), little documented but whose competence is attested by the supply of a pair of pistols to King George III. La Fayette probably made this acquisition while he was garrisoned in Metz, between August 1775 and June 1776. The gift was probably made in 1778.
Transferred by inheritance from Washington to one of his nephews, these historic pieces are offered by the son-in-law of the nephew to Andrew Jackson in 1824 in testimony of support for his first presidential campaign, where he was overcome by John Quincy Adams. When he died, Jackson bequeathed the pistols to the son of Lafayette, who had also been a godson of George Washington. They will remain in Lafayette's family until 1958.
1779 George Washington at Princeton by Charles Willson Peale
2006 SOLD 21.3 M$ including premium by Christie's
narrated in 2020
Washington is towering by his tall stature and by his phlegm, and surprises his assistants by his abnegation and his virtues. It is not enough. He had never exercised a command on the battlefield and his weak and inexperienced army has everything to learn.
Everything seems easy for the British in December 1776, to the point that they decide to take up their winter quarters in New Jersey, waiting for the sunny days to capture Philadelphia. George Washington will soon be unable to pay his exhausted troops. In a heroic burst, he surprises the British garrisons in Trenton and Princeton. These were the first ever victories of the American army.
The war remains undecided, and they must continue to set an example. On January 18, 1779, the Supreme Executive Council of Pennsylvania commissions a portrait of General Washington to Charles Willson Peale.
The young artist had made an early portrait of the hero at Mount Vernon in 1772. He had been part of the reinforcements from the militias of Pennsylvania who had contributed to the victories of Trenton and Princeton, and had been appreciated by the soldiers for the miniature portraits painted on the field of battle.
The work which responds to the order from Pennsylvania is a full-length standing portrait of Washington after the Battle of Princeton. The hero is displayed in his signature attitude of modesty, without the face or the clothing having been embellished. He puts his hand on a cannon. Symbols of victory include a column of British prisoners with their red coats. This oil on canvas 246 x 149 cm is kept at the museum of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts.
The strengthening of the young nation also includes an international propaganda to its new French and Spanish allies. Autograph replicas are made by the artist. One of them, oil on canvas 244 x 156 cm dated 1779, was conveyed to Spain by an American diplomat. The political message gradually lost its force and the painting ended up being bequeathed to a Capuchin school in the Basque region, where it was bought around 1918 by an antiquarian dealer from New York.
This portrait of Washington at Princeton was sold for $ 21.3M including premium by Christie's on January 21, 2006, lot 547, over a lower estimate of $ 10M. Please watch the video prepared in 2015 by the auction house to remind the sale of this outstanding painting, the last of its type in private hands.
1781 Rochambeau to the Rescue of America
2010 SOLD 1.15 M$ including premium
A few days after the victory, a French officer sketched a detailed map of the battle. A simplified copy, 35 x 60 cm, of this historic document was given to Washington and was thereafter preserved in the archives of the President's secretary, Colonel Lear. A legend shows the different phases of the siege.
James D. Julia sells on February 5 in Fairfield, Maine, a large collection of books, documents and memorabilia from the Colonel. In its press release, the auction house frankly tells that it does not know to evaluate the price of the Yorktown map. The announced price range extends from 5 to 50 K $!
Americans love their history and the maps of their territory. I take for example a map of the Mississippi basin, 1858, 150 x 75 cm, sold 270 K $ hammer price in November 2009 by Neal Auction in New Orleans from an estimate of 18 K$.
POST SALE COMMENT
This lot was outstanding, obviously. It was sold $ 1.15 million including premium.
Here is the image, shared after the sale by Maine Antique Digest.
1783 The USA desire a Monetary System
2013 SOLD 1.18 M$ including premium
Everything remains to be done in 1781, even to choose the name of the new currency. The project was entrusted to a young assistant named Gouverneur Morris who will make a brilliant but unconventional career. In 1783 a few prototypes were struck in silver and in copper under the generic name of Nova Constellatio.
At that early time Morris had understood the political importance of the decimal system to definitively distinguish the future currency from the colonial currencies circulating in the thirteen states. He suggested that 1440 units are exchanged against one Spanish dollar.
Very few of these pattern coins have survived : one 1000 units, two 500 units in two different types, three 100 units and one 5 units. The discovery of the coin of 5 units in 1977 was sensational because its existence implied that other values were probably also prepared.
The silver coins of 500 units were named quints. The unique surviving type 2 quint is for sale by Heritage in Schaumburg (Chicago) on April 25. Here is the link to the catalog. Of course, it has not circulated since this first system was immediately stopped. Its condition is graded AU53 by PCGS.
Its importance is extreme. It anticipates by 9 years the final adoption of decimal currency by the U.S. Congress. It is also four years earlier than the famous initiative of Brasher, the private goldsmith who received the permission to create and circulate American coins.
Its beam radiating to the thirteen stars of the States, centered on an eye that sees the world, is an amazing futurism.
POST SALE COMMENT
This piece is an extraordinary survivor of the first tests for a federal coinage. It was sold $ 1.18 million including premium.
Please watch the video shared by Heritage.
1784 The Map of Abel Buell
2010 SOLD for $ 2.1M including premium by Christie's
narrated in 2020
The Treaty of Paris, signed on September 3, 1783, ended the War of independence and defined the new external borders. It was ratified on January 14, 1784 by the US Congress and became applicable on May 12.
For Buell, this recognition of the United States is an opportunity. He prints a wall map, in four sheets with vertical joints for a total dimension of 115 x 129 cm, which he announces on March 31, 1784. McMurray's map, which refers to the same treaty, is manuscript and smaller, 67 x 96 cm.
Buell's map is the first map of the United States printed by an American in American land, and one of the very first US documents to receive a copyright. It is titled A New and Correct Map of the United States of North America. The title block includes the thirteen-star US flag.
Buell is not a geographer. His map reuses the work of colonial cartographers. The borders between the thirteen states are not yet fixed, and he takes the opportunity to extend his state, Connecticut, to Mississippi.
This map was only printed in two successive variants, before and after the copyright inscription. The first state is known in a single copy kept at the New York Public Library.
One of the six surviving copies of the second state was sold on December 3, 2010 by Christie's for $ 2.1M including premium, lot 32. It has been hand colored and is one of the best preserved copies despite some misses on the edges of the sheets. The image of this specific copy is shared by Wikimedia.
The purchaser, David M. Rubenstein, entrusted its conservation to the Library of Congress. This philanthropist had bought three years earlier the last copy in private hands of the Magna Carta to lend it to the National Archives
1787 Doblons for New York
2014 SOLD 4.6 M$ including premium
Meanwhile, business transactions use large foreign gold coins, dominated by those from the Spanish colonies in South America. Banks and grand merchants are the only users of such coins. To deal against counterfeiting, they have their gold checked by specialists, the assayers, who put their own punch on the controlled pieces.
Ephraim Brasher is a goldsmith operating in New York City where he is a neighbor and supplier of George Washington, the President, known as a great lover of silverware. Brasher appreciates that he can play a role in the fight against the monetary anarchy, but his offer in early 1787 to carry out a copper coinage for the state of New York is rejected.
Brasher is an assayer. He knows well the doblon of Lima, a large gold coin worth 8 escudos and weighing 26 grams, whose name is anglicized to doubloon. Circa 1786, he produces in his workshop some Lima-type doubloons which are not fakes because their gold content is correct.
Brasher changes his theme in 1787 for producing doubloons and half doubloons to the use of New York identified under the Latin name Nova Eboraca. The pieces are stamped with his initials, EB, with two possible positions on the wing and on the breast of the eagle. Although their centering and cutting are awkward, they are beautiful coins whose design is sharp enough to discourage counterfeiting.
The only known Brasher doubloon with the mark on the breast was sold for $ 7.395 million in a private sale in December 2011, although its condition is only graded AU50 by PCGS.
On January 9 in Orlando, Heritage sells one from only two units in mint condition from an overall surviving total of six wing marked doubloons. The coin for sale is graded MS63 by PCGS. Here is the link to the catalog.
The coin for sale had been the first Brasher doubloon that was described in the nineteenth century. It was at that time in the estate of an important dealer importer named Gilmor also known as an early collector of coins.
This mercantile provenance strengthens the argument that the Brasher doubloon, earliest gold coin made for circulation in the United States, was designed to supersede the foreign currencies in large commercial operations. Other assumptions are however not rejected such as a promotional operation or a demonstration of know how.
POST SALE COMMENT
This great coin was sold for $ 4.6M including premium.
PRIVATE SALE IN 2018 :
1787 Washington promotes the Spirit of the American Constitution
2009 SOLD 3.2 M$ including premium
George Washington, the hero of the War of Independence, is one of the most active proponents of this reform. In a letter written to his nephew on November 9, he explains that power is not given to people but will always be with the people.
This autograph letter of four large pages is presented for auction by Christie's in New York on December 4. We anticipate a price equivalent to the major political manuscripts of Lincoln. It is estimated $ 1.5 million.
I would not discuss the U.S. Constitution without mentioning the great legislator who designed the mechanism for implementing such a political masterpiece. His name was James Madison. His unsignificant presidential output undervalues him in the American memory, and it is a pity. The U.S. Constitution is still in force today without fundamental changes, while the French Revolution, which began two years later, is mostly leaving an emotional memory.
POST SALE COMMENT
As I expected (or better: as I hoped in the preparation of my auction barometer) this letter of Washington met the prices of the two political manuscripts of Lincoln recently sold (with less than 10% accuracy range).
$ 3.4 million including premium at Sotheby's in New York on April 3, 2008, and the same price at Christie's in New York on February 12, 2009.
For Washington, yesterday: $ 3.2 million including premium.
See the image of that lot, shared before the sale by AuctionPublicity.
1787 The Federalists in New York
2015 SOLD for $ 1.45M including premium
The difficulty comes from New York where a strong majority of delegates is hostile to the new project. The anti-Federalist publicists begin publishing pamphlets.
Alexander Hamilton counter-attacks with great energy. With his political friends John Jay and James Madison, he publishes in the New York newspapers under the collective pseudonym Publius no less than 77 essays, starting in October 1787. Hamilton's goal is to provide to the federalist orators the best arguments to persuade their opponents that a weak or divided state will always be ineffective against foreign threats.
John Jay quickly suspends his contribution for health reasons, but his essays numbered 2 to 5 in the series are highly effective. The autograph manuscript of the essay number 4 of November 7, 1787 is estimated $ 600K for sale by Christie's in New York on December 8, lot 242.
This pamphlet boldly refers to the enemy as an example of political strength by the cohesion between its elements, England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland. The manuscript includes republican thoughts that were not maintained in the published text, probably because the author wisely realized that they could open unnecessary controversies.
The collection extended to 85 texts and titled The Federalist is published in two volumes 18 x 11 cm just in time for the New York State Convention held in Albany. The rallying of this extremely important state to the Constitution on 26 July 1788, saving forever the federal state, is undeniably due to Hamilton's skill as publicist and negotiator.
A copy of this highly rare book is estimated $ 300K in the same sale as above, lot 243.
I invite you to watch the video shared by Varney and Co for Fox Business.
RESULTS including premium :
draft of essay by John Jay : $ 1.45M
book : $ 320K
1789 Creation of American Freedoms
2012 SOLD 9.8 M$ including premium
The founders of the nation are now trying to redefine the delicate balance between the executive and legislative branches while considering also the need for autonomy of each state. Their work is outstanding, since the system defined between 1787 and 1789 is still the foundation of the US law.
George Washington is one of the key figures in this success. On June 22 in New York, Christie's sells his personal copy of the main acts of Congress. This collection gathers the Constitution, various acts including the creation of major Executive Departments, and the first draft of twelve articles known as the Bill of Rights for an effective and pragmatic definition of freedoms.
This collection was a working document for the new President. It is also a much valuable autograph: signed on the title page, it includes handwritten notes in the margin of several acts.
This collection of 53 sheets 30 x 19 cm assembled in 1789 in a binding probably made in the same year remains in excellent condition. It is difficult to predict the price of such a treasure, but the auction house tries an estimate: $ 2M to 3M. Here is the link to the catalog.
POST SALE COMMENT
US people know to recognize their historical documents of great importance. This extraordinary witness of the birth of the Constitution was sold $ 9.8 million including premium.
I invite you to play the video shared before sale on YouTube from Fox News :