Development of USA (from 1778 to 1789)
See also : Political writing Autograph Coin Coins 1776-92 Gold coins 18th century painting US painting before 1940
Chronology : 18th century 1770-1779 1780-1789
1778 Set of 3 US Colors
2006 SOLD for $ 5.1M by Sotheby's
Lot 1, sold for $ 12.3M, is a flag of the 2nd Continental Light Dragons taken in 1779 at the Battle of Pound Ridge.
The other three flags were sold together for $ 5.1M, lot 2. They constitute the 3rd Virginia Detachment color set, taken at Waxhaws in 1780.
One of them is in gold-yellow silk 128 x 115 cm painted with a beaver dropping a palmetto tree and sewn with a block of sky blue silk bearing the thirteen silver stars in the disorder of a constellation. The other two, a little smaller, are respectively in gold-yellow and blue silk. Their terminus post quem is the definition of their style by the Continental Army in 1778.
1779 Washington at Princeton by Charles Willson Peale
2006 SOLD for $ 21.3M by Christie's
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 by Christie's on January 21, 2006, lot 547, from 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.
1786 Joseph Brant by Gilbert Stuart
2014 SOLD for £ 4.1M by Sotheby's
The Mohawk captain Joseph Brant had been an unwavering ally of the British in the wars against the French and then against the American rebels. His mastery of the English language enabled him to become the most important negotiator of the Iroquois cause, and he was honored as such by King George III. He was a pious Anglican. Brant is an alteration of the first name given by white people to his father.
He made two diplomatic stays in London, in 1775-1776 and 1785-1786. Like the Polynesian Omai whose portrait was painted by Reynolds in 1776, he aroused curiosity in aristocratic salons, skillfully exploiting his "noble savage" personality and not hesitating to show himself in public in an Iroquois costume.
His second stay in London follows the Treaty of Paris of 1783, because of which the British could no longer keep the promises made to their native American allies. Joseph reunites with his only white friend, Earl Percy, of whom he had been a comrade in arms during the New York campaign in 1776. Percy acceded in 1786 to the Duchy of Northumberland.
Percy, who had a strong temperament, supported the Loyalist American painter Gilbert Stuart, in exile in England since 1775. A portrait of Joseph by Stuart, oil on canvas 76 x 61 cm, had been commissioned by him in 1786. Still in the ownership of the Dukes of Northumberland, it was sold by Sotheby's on July 9, 2014 for £ 4.1M from a lower estimate of £ 1M, lot 21.
The 43 year old Mohawk warrior has a tall feathered headdress and large silver ornaments on his coat. His upright and intelligent manner is in line with his diplomatic mission. The image is shared by Wikimedia.
1787 Brasher Doubloon
2021 SOLD for $ 9.4M by Heritage
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.
The independence of the United States had created the need for a national emblem which will be affixed from an official seal. The project was accepted by Congress after six years, in 1782. It was double-sided, so that it could be printed at the end of a ribbon, but in practice only the face with the heraldic eagle would be used. The popular iconography seized on this patriotic symbol in 1786, with the engravings prepared by James Trenchard for the first two issues of Columbian Magazine.
The eagle with its outstretched wings, the thirteen stripes on the breast shield, the olive branch and the arrows also appeared in 1787 on the reverse side of the Cent and Half Cent from Massachusetts.
Brasher was a metallurgist and definitely not an artist, which had been amply demonstrated by his Lima-style doubloon prepared in 1786. In the meantime he partnered with the designer John Bailey. His new doubloon is superbly engraved on both sides. The centering is very good, with full readability all around.
Both sides are inspired by national emblems. The eagle has all of its attributes, including the constellation of thirteen stars around its head. On the other side, the Eye of Providence shines its radiant light from above a pyramidal mountain. The inscription conforms to the federal motto E Pluribus Unum but the production is located in Nova Eboraca (New York).
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 rather awkward, they are beautiful coins whose design is sharp enough to discourage counterfeiting.
Brasher's Lima-type and New York-type doubloons were not documented in period, which confirms how limited their use was. The gold alloy had undoubtedly been recovered by the melting of some jewelry. Brasher assayer's punch EB gave these coins an authorization for circulation and they are considered regular by numismatists.
The finest of the seven known examples, graded MS65 by NGC, was sold for $ 9.4M by Heritage on January 21, 2021, lot 3934.
The only known Brasher doubloon with the mark on the breast was sold for $ 7.395M in a private sale in December 2011, although its condition is only graded AU50 by PCGS.
A half doubloon is kept at the Smithsonian. It was made with the same dies and a thinner planchet. Unlike the doubloons of the same year but in accordance with the two known Lima style doubloons, some trimming was required to adjust the weight. This half doubloon was perhaps an intermediate version for testing the dies.
Heritage Auctions will offer the Donald G. Partrick Collection in a series of auctions over the next year, making available one of the most historic collections of American colonial coins ever assembled.https://t.co/lZtpZzLOKC#Coins #DonaldPartrick pic.twitter.com/0a798TEqkh— Heritage Auctions (@HeritageAuction) August 11, 2020
Join us tomorrow for a little F-U-N!— Heritage Auctions (@HeritageAuction) January 20, 2021
It is a coin any collector would love to own, but only one will be able to possess. We could only be talking about the 1787 New York-Style Brasher Doubloon!
Jan. 20-24 FUN US Coins Auction #HeritageAuctions #coins https://t.co/Jq3TVG58jP pic.twitter.com/wysPjhL8uk
2014 SOLD for $ 4.6M by Heritage
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.
It was sold privately in 2018 for a reported $ 5M.
2005 SOLD for $ 3M by Heritage
It is the only New York type Brasher doubloon with the EB punch mark on the eagle's breast. A private sale at $ 7.395M was reported in December 2011.
The six other surviving units have the punch on the wing.
In the same sale; Heritage sold for $ 2.4M a Brasher doubloon with the EB punch on the eagle's wing, graded AU55 by NGC, lot 30016.
1787 US Constitution
2021 SOLD for $ 43M by Sotheby's
The Constitutional Convention met in Philadelphia from May 25, 1787 with George Washington as president. The final version of the US Constitution established by the committee was signed on September 17 by 39 of the 55 delegates.
The text was immediately edited in 500 copies for the use of delegates and congressmen. No public release was suitable at that time as it still had to be ratified by the federal Congress and the states. The 6-page 41 x 26 cm document printed by John Dunlap in partnership with David Claypoole includes in appendix the list of delegates who voted for it and a copy of Washington's letter urging the ratification by the Congress.
This original US Constitution is still in force today without fundamental changes. Such an unprecedented longevity is due to the remarkable political insight of the delegates who prepared it under the leadership of James Madison and Alexander Hamilton and to the foreseen capability to amend it as necessary.
Thirteen copies are surviving. One of them was sold for $ 43M from a lower estimate of $ 15M by Sotheby's on November 18, 2021, lot 1787. Please watch the video shared by the auction house.
This piece was the top highlight from the collection of S. Howard Goldman and his widow Dorothy. It is sold for the benefit of the Dorothy Tapper Goldman Foundation whose aim is to advance the principles of America’s founding documents through educational programs. Mrs Goldman introduces her collection and educational purpose in the video shared by Sotheby's.
From the same collection, a copy of the first separate printing of the so called Bill of Rights was sold for $ 1.53M from a lower estimate of $ 700K by Sotheby's on November 23, 2021, lot 71.
This 3-page 34 x 21 cm document is dated August 24, 1789. It was prepared for proposing to the Congress a resolution of amendments to the US Constitution. Such articles had been desired by US citizens for preventing the government to infringe the basic individual rights. They were approved on September 26, 1789 and constitute the Third to Twelfth Amendments.
The underbidder for the US Constitution had been an organization just created for the express purpose of raising money to acquire it. They gathered more than 17,000 contributors who, in a matter of only weeks, raised more than $ 40 million, not enough against the winning bidder, the fund manager Kenneth C. Griffin.
ex Van Sinderen
postponed auction at Sotheby's
The number 10 in that list was simply identified as Private American Collection. We know now that it had been acquired in 1894 at auction for presentation to the 7 year old Adrian Van Sinderen who later became a keen collector including the ownership of an original Bay Psalm Book.
The document was offered in 2022 at Sotheby's from his collection 59 years after his passing.,It had not been in public view since 1987. The auction was postponed.
No other copies than the Goldman-Griffin and the Van Sinderen are in private hands.
After a historic auction just over a year ago, Sotheby’s is pleased to announce the auction of the only remaining first printing of the United States Constitution in private hands!— Sotheby's (@Sothebys) November 1, 2022
Learn more about the sale on 13 December: https://t.co/08K33Avhvo pic.twitter.com/IxyeyDzOzp
1787 Autograph Letter by Washington
2009 SOLD for $ 3.2M by Christie's
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 was sold for $ 3.2M from a lower estimate of $ 1.5M by Christie's on December 4, 2009. It is illustrated in the pre sale release by AuctionPublicity.
1788 Virginia's Ratification
2022 SOLD for $ 3.1M by Sotheby's
The Virginia Ratification Convention opened on June 2, 1788, opposing some of the best and keenest politicians. The Constitution is ratified by the ninth state, New Hampshire, on June 21. Although Virginia was still debating at that date, it was the work of the Virginian delegates that was epoch making and ensured the exceptional durability of the US Constitution.
The Virginian Federalists led by James Madison were countered by the Anti-Federalists led by Patrick Henry and George Mason fearing for a federal encroachment to personal and state liberties. Madison managed a compromise in a remarkable spirit of concession supported by fellow Virginian George Washington. The Constitution was approved by Virginia on June 25 with a request for 20 alterations constituting a Declaration of Rights.
Virginia"s official proceedings were prepared on June 27 in 12 manuscript copies sent to the other states. One of them, a 13 page recto verso document 37 x 22 cm with a final blank page was sold for $ 3.1M by Sotheby's on July 21, 2022, lot 1005.
The Virginian Declaration of Rights went to be the core of the Bill of Rights of the first ten federal amendments submitted under the leadership of Madison to the Congress in September 1789 and finally approved in December 1791 as an addition to the US Constitution.
Madison was one of the greatest constitutionalists of all time. In supporting the way forward proposed by his opponents, he had ensured that the Constitution could be changed to get rid of imperfections through a formally controlled process. That process perdures until the current day US Constitution.
1789 Acts of Congress
2012 SOLD for $ 9.8M by Christie's
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, 2012, Christie's sold for $ 9.8M his personal copy of the main acts of Congress, lot 1. It 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.
These 53 sheets 30 x 19 cm from 1789 are assembled in a binding probably made in the same year. They are in excellent condition.
Please watch the video shared by Fox News :