Washington and the Founding Fathers
AUCTION FEATURES ARTIFACTS RARELY SEEN OUTSIDE INSTITUTIONS AND PRIVATE COLLECTIONS
Heritage’s semi-annual Americana auction will be accompanied by a special catalog entitled “Washington and the Founding Fathers.”
Inspired by the auction house’s acclaimed September 2016 “Lincoln and His Times” auction, the May event focuses on George Washington and other historical figures, as well as events from the American Revolution through the early days of the United States.
“We knew this would be a challenging project,” says Tom Slater, director of Americana auctions. “Artifacts from this early era are much rarer than those from Lincoln’s time, and a high percentage of those which have survived are held by institutions and private collectors with no interest in selling. However, when we received a consignment of two monumental Washington items last fall, we felt we had to build a special auction around them.”
That consignment included a magnificent silk banner carried in a 1789 parade honoring the new president when he visited Boston. Also included was a leopard skin saddle pad originally owned by British General Edward Braddock and gifted to Washington (who had scouted for Braddock) by his family after the general was killed during the French and Indian War.
Both objects had been donated to the California Sons of the Revolution in the 1920s, and been featured in their collection until consigned to Heritage. The banner is believed to be the only contemporary example honoring Washington in private hands. In a real sense, Slater says, it may be considered a “political” item, as it carries an endorsement of “Washington’s Policy.”
The auction includes other significant autographic items, among them several signed by Washington, a highly important Thomas Jefferson letter, and an extremely rare document signed by Declaration of Independence signer George Taylor.
“Autographs of Declaration signers are avidly collected,” Slater points out. “Taylor’s is the third-rarest, and especially desirable in this very displayable form. And, of course, no auction of this nature is complete without an example of perhaps the most recognizable American historical autograph, that of Revolutionary War firebrand John Hancock. This catalog includes two fine Hancock documents, one of them signed as president of the Continental Congress.”
The auction also includes important broadsides, such as an early report of the events at Lexington and Concord, and a 1774 Massachusetts issue, which, months earlier, all but declared open hostilities with the Mother Country. “This is a particularly rare broadside,” Slater notes. “Our researchers have been unable to find another example appearing on the market since Goodspeed’s offered one for sale in the 1940s.”
Also featured in the auction are several highly displayable broadsides signed in print by Washington as president. “With opening bids of less than $1,000, these represent excellent values,” Slater says. “We’ve endeavored to include a wide range of worthwhile items within the reach of collectors with limited budgets.”
The auction presents a fine selection of the highly collectable coat buttons celebrating Washington’s first Inauguration in 1789. “Among them are an exceptional example of the Linked States variety, a possibly unique variety struck in silver,” Slater says, “and the choicest example of the 1789-dated ‘Memorable Era’ design we have ever encountered.”
Three-dimensional artifacts include a fine selection of Liverpool creamware pieces picturing Washington, Thomas Jefferson and James Madison; a possibly unique Battersea enameled box depicting Washington wearing a cocked hat; a pair of Paris porcelain urns with hand-painted portraits of George and Martha Washington; and an early bronze bust of Washington, made in France and probably dating from around 1790.
“Our second president, John Adams, was not terribly popular around the time of his presidency,” Slater observes. “Few items were produced to honor him, and fewer still have survived. We are pleased to be able to offer a Liverpool bowl picturing Adams as president as well as an 1805-dated oil portrait by William Dunlap. There is even a hall-marked tablespoon made by Revolutionary War hero and esteemed silversmith Paul Revere.”
The practice of collecting hair locks from famous people has persisted since before the days of the Founding Fathers, and this auction includes some noteworthy examples, including a beautiful pendant, circa 1800, containing hair from both George and Martha Washington. “Provenance is critical in establishing the authenticity of hair samples,” Slater says, “and this one has impeccable credentials, having come from the wife of Washington’s longtime major-domo Tobias Lear.
“For those who love American history,” Slater enthuses, “this auction presents an unparalleled opportunity to see and perhaps own original artifacts from the days of the Founding Fathers.”