A Look Inside the Catalogue
Lot 75: Carte-de-visite album of 44 photographs, including two photos of Harriet Tubman, one previously unrecorded,
circa 1860s. Sold for $161,000.
The highlight of this powerful auction was a previously unrecorded photograph of Harriet Tubman from a carte-de-visite album compiled in the 1860s. The album boasts 44 photographic portraits of contemporary abolitionists and politicians, including that of John Willis Menard, the first African-American elected to Congress.
The album originally belonged to Quaker abolitionist Emily Howland. Miss Howland worked at Camp Todd in Virginia, tutoring and distributing clothes and food to newly freed slaves. The photograph of Harriet Tubman, discovered by specialist Wyatt Houston Day, shows a new side of this iconic and heroic American figure, as a much younger woman in the prime of her life, shortly after the end of the Civil War. She would have been in her late 40s.
Right, Lot 150: Benjamin Bannaker's Almanac for 1795, Baltimore. Sold for $55,000.
Lot 80: Frederick Douglass, autograph letter signed to George Alfred Townsend, Washington, 1880. Sold for $100,000.
Lot 256: Archive of documents from the Montgomery Improvement Association,
including its Constitution and By-laws, 1955-1963. Sold for $18,750.
Also in the sale was a collection of more than 500 documents relating to the formation of the Montgomery Improvement Association in the immediate aftermath of Rosa Parks’s momentous defiance, including checks signed by Martin Luther King, Jr.
Left, Lot 303: William Bess, The Besso System of Beauty Culture, 2 volumes, Memphis, 1930-40s. Sold for $11,875.
Right, Lot 306: Collection of 41 letters addressed to Rebecca Primus, 1854-72. Sold for $45,000.
Other important material included a scarce copper slave badge made by John Joseph Lafar, and a rare speech by Frederick Douglass titled A Defense of the Negro Race, 1895. Letters to Rebecca Primus, whose correspondence made up half of the book Beloved Sisters and Loving Friends, 1999, will also be featured. A copy of the proceedings of the 1909 National Negro Conference, which includes Ida B. Wells’s Lynching, Our National Crime, makes its auction debut while two Masonic velvet and silk vests, elaborately embroidered in gold and silver thread and attributed to David Bustill Bowser, rounded out the sale.
Lot 260: Martin Luther King Jr., working draft of the "Letter from Birmingham Jail," Alabama, 1963. Sold for $40,000.
For more information on the sale, contact a specialist in the Printed & Manuscript African Americana department.
Learn how to consign with Swann here.