US Independence (from 1775 to 1777)
See also : Political writing Textiles
Chronology : 1770-1779 1776
1776 The Dunlap Broadside
2000 SOLD for $ 8.1M by Sotheby's
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 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 Hancock Letter to Georgia
2022 SOLD for $ 1.9M by Freeman's
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, 2020, Sotheby's sold for $ 1.04M one of the letters signed by Hancock, lot 2271.
The name of the recipient state has been erased. It is not one of the nine letters to states whose addressee has been identified. By elimination, Sotheby's considered that 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.
The letter went to Freeman's on May 4, 2022. It is now established that the cancelled state was Georgia. It is known in local history that the mail arrived on August 8 in Savannah, the seat of Georgia's revolutionary government. It was sold for $ 1.9M, lot 11.
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.
1776 Salem Broadside
July 16 four column print
2023 SOLD for $ 2.9M by Heritage
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, as broadsides and in the columns of magazines, beginning in Philadelphia, Baltimore and New York.
After the original broadside prepared by Dunlap and distributed on Hancock's orders, fourteen local editions of broadsides are known, including five without printer identification. The comparison with newspaper impressions allows an attribution. Experts look for the number of columns and for typographic variations.
The Declaration reaches Boston on July 13 and Watertown three days later.
Ezekiel Russell was the printer of the only newspaper in Salem, The American Gazette. The Declaration is 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 that issue the same four columns are printed as a 43 x 36 cm broadside. Six copies are known.
A copy of the four column broadside was sold for $ 2.9M by Heritage on July 8, 2023, lot 42010.
July 16 four column print
2022 SOLD for $ 2.1M by Christie's
On the offchance you need a 1776 broadside Declaration or Melville’s annotated Dante & have some change in your pocket, because who doesn’t??— Jennifer Schuessler (@jennyschuessler) January 13, 2022
My story on @ChristiesBKS upcoming sale of the private collection of legendary bookseller William Reese https://t.co/dNACfOZ0wL
July 23 authorized Massachusetts broadside
2022 SOLD for $ 2.23M by Sotheby's
This edition by order of the Massachusetts Council is commissioned to the official printer of the colony, Ezekiel Russell, established in Salem. Very similar to the Dunlap edition, it is typed in a single broad column.
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 on laid paper was certainly printed simultaneously.
A 50 x 40 cm copy on laid paper of the authorized Massachusetts broadside had been shipped to Revd Mr Stone in Southboro, according to a marking in the reverse. The charges against King George III have been checked off with horizontal rules, arguably by the Reverend for helping him in the required sermon.
Beautifully preserved despite its folding in eighths for dispatch and untrimmed, it was treasured by the Southborough Historical Society and was unknown except a reference in a 1955 list.
It was sold for $ 2.23M from a lower estimate of $ 1.5M by Sotheby's on July 21, 2022, lot 1004.
On August 5 the Council approves its official broadside. The American Gazette had permanently ceased its publication after its No. 7, probably due to a break of partnership between publisher and printer.
A poor copy was sold for $ 510K by Heritage on April 5, 2016, lot 49032. A very fresh untrimmed copy was sold for $ 1.2M by Sotheby's on January 17, 2018, lot 176. Both examples identify the name of the reverend who received the copy.
1776 Silver Continental Dollar
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.
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.
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.
Newman 1-C XF 40
2015 SOLD for $ 1.53M by Heritage
The Newman 1-A brass dollar is graded MS63 by NGC. It was sold for $ 376K, lot 5834. It is the best from three 1-A known in that alloy. 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. It was sold for $ 118K, lot 4004.
The two silver coins were sold for $ 1.53M each on January 8. The Newman 1-C, graded XF40 by NGC, is the best from two known silver 1-C, lot 5838.
Newman 3-D MS 62
2015 SOLD for $ 1.53M by Heritage
The only other known silver 3-D was sold for $ 1.4M by Heritage on May 16, 2014, lot 30423.
Newman 3-D MS 63
2014 SOLD 1.4 M$ by Heritage
This coin was acquired in 1956 by Eric P. Newman. It was the top lot in the sale held on May 16, 2014 by Heritage dispersing nearly 700 coins of colonial North America from the collection of the now centenarian numismatist. Classified 3-D by Newman, it was sold for $ 1.4M, lot 30423.
1777 US Flag
2006 SOLD for $ 12.3M by Sotheby's
His late father, a shipowner from Liverpool, had made his fortune in the slave trade. As soon as the war for independence broke out, the 21-year-old Banastre crossed the Atlantic. In 1778 he created in New York the Tarleton's Raiders, a cavalry unit wearing the green uniform of the British Legion. This brilliant officer is famous for the massacre of the Patriots at the Battle of Waxhaws.
Directly from his descendance, the four trophies were auctioned by Sotheby's on June 14, 2006.
Lot 1, sold for $ 12.3M, is a flag of the 2nd Continental Light Dragons taken in 1779 at the Battle of Pound Ridge. It is in silk 76 x 90 cm plus a 7 cm silver fringe on the three fly sides.
This piece is the only surviving example of the first style of US flags, with the thirteen red and white stripes symbolizing the founding states but before the addition of the stars by the Continental Congress on June 14, 1777. In the center of this flag, a rectangle fabric is painted with a winged storm cloud with a motto in ribbon. Its terminus post quem is the creation of its regiment on December 12, 1776.
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.
Collection of Signatures
2022 SOLD for $ 1.4M by Heritage
Artefacts and autographs from these pioneers, many of whom became famous, constitute a theme for a collection. The rarest is a signature by Button Gwinnett, the most ephemeral of these pioneers, who died in a duel ten months and a half after the Declaration.
About forty complete sets are known. One of them with a tight date range of 1773 to 1789 passed at RR Auction on December 15, 2012.
Another set has a wider time range, spanning near a century from 1740 to 1826. It was sold for $ 1.4M by Heritage on June 25, 2022, lot 60186. The Gwinnett is a partially printed bond signed in 1774.
At Heritage Auctions, a Once-in-a-Lifetime Opportunity to Own All 56 Signatures of the Signers of the Declaration of Independence.— Heritage Auctions (@HeritageAuction) June 20, 2022
June 'Founding Fathers' event also includes the U.S. Constitution's complete set of signers.
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