Records & Results: Revolutionary & Presidential Americana from the Collection of William Wheeler IIII
On June 21, our auction of Revolutionary & Presidential Americana from the Collection of William Wheeler III saw a 91% sell-through rate for important autographs, letters and documents from some of the biggest players in American history. Wheeler, a manufacturing consultant from a long line of New Englanders, devoted much of his adult life to acquiring illuminating pieces of Americana from the Revolutionary War and nearly every president.
Lot 136: Andrew Jackson, Autograph Letter Signed, retained draft, regarding his antimony with Charles Dickinson, Nashville, 1806. Sold June 21, 2018 for $7,000.
Wheeler harbored a special fascination with the life and deeds of Andrew Jackson, which led to a run of 34 significant letters and documents signed by the president, 88% of which found buyers. Highlights included a retained copy of a letter to be published by editor Thomas Eastin, providing his own account of the altercations that would lead to his killing Charles Dickinson in a duel. One of two known complete drafts, it reached $7,000. An 1833 autograph letter signed as president to his adoptive son, Andrew Jackson, Jr., a request that he go to their plantation (the Hermitage) in response to reports of grieving and ailing slaves, sold for $9,375.
The 1876 presidential election between Rutherford B. Hayes and Samuel Tilden was overshadowed in South Carolina by the gubernatorial contest on the same ticket. An archive of 153 items relating to the election, which resulted in riots, lynch-mobs and a contested victory for the governorship, topped the sale at $23,400.
Lot 28: Patrick Henry, Autograph Letter Signed, to Colonel William Fleming, Williamsburg, 1778. Sold June 21, 2018 for $16,250.
Also available was an autograph letter signed by Patrick Henry to Colonel William Fleming requesting that the militia in Montgomery County, Virginia, be prepared in the case of an attack by Native Americans in 1778. The letter more than doubled its high estimate, selling after breakneck bidding to a collector for $16,250. Additional Revolutionary highlights included a brief autograph letter signed to Ira Allen, the brother of Ethan Allen, from Thomas Paine, concerning a missed connection at the subversive Caffe Boston in Paris in the 1790s ($10,000), and a pay order signed by 15 members of the Massachusetts House of Representatives “to defray [the] costs” of express rider Jonathan Park on his urgent ride to Philadelphia in May 1776 ($13,750).
Lot 49: Charles Coatesworth Pinckney, Autograph Letter Signed, sending condolences after Washington’s death, Harper’s Ferry, 1799. Sold June 21, 2018 for $16,250.
In addition to fresh perspectives on monumental events, the auction provided an endearing human side to some of history’s most well-known players. A fine example is a heartfelt letter from Charles Pinckney to Tobias Lear, George Washington’s secretary, upon learning of the first president’s death in 1799. He wrote, “I shall not attempt to express my feelings on this occasion: language cannot describe them. In him I have lost a friend & father. Say everything proper for me to Mrs. Washington & Mrs. Lewis. I cannot console them; but I can weep with them.” This rare missive was purchased by an institution for $16,250, above a high estimate of $10,000.