Archives Revealing Information on Slavery & the Underground Railroad Lead Fall 2019 sale of Printed & Manuscript Americana

The Thursday, September 26 sale of Printed & Manuscript Americana at Swann Galleries was an overall success with an 88% sell-through rate, bringing in over $1M.

Slavery & Abolition

Records of the Dickinson & Shrewsbury salt works, four sheets of old paper with writing, 1820-65.
Records of the Dickinson & Shrewsbury salt works, with more than 2000 items, bulk 1820-65. Sold for $173,000, the top price for an archive at Swann.

Material relating to slavery & abolition led the sale. The top lot was an important archive of the Dickinson & Shrewsbury salt works in West Virginia. The archive brought $173,000, the top price for an archive in Swann’s history.

Rick Stattler, Book Department Director & Americana Specialist:

“Because of the massive extent of the institution of slavery, original manuscripts relating to those who were enslaved are not scarce. However, we rarely see a large archive which tells the story of one location and one group of people over time. Most of what does survive is agricultural. The Dickinson & Shrewsbury salt works archive is unusual because it documents a large industrial operation which relied on slave labor.  Many dozens of individuals can be traced over the decades through correspondence, lists, and receipts. The plant’s numerous connections to Booker T. Washington, who lived near the salt works after abolition, give it even greater historical significance; his stepfather appears several times in the records.”

The lot was immediately followed by the Shugart family papers. Notable for its log listing passengers on the Underground Railroad, it brought $100,000.

Auction Records

Franklin D. Richards, The Pearl of Great Price, first edition, 1851. Sold for $11,050.

A cache of material from the legendary Western collection of Herbert Auerbach was led by a record $11,050 for the first edition of the Mormon cornerstone Pearl of Great Price, 1815, by Franklin D. Richards. Other notable records included Richard Price’s Observations on the Importance of the American Revolution, 1784, at $2,750, and José Ramirez’s Via Lactea, 1698, at $3,750.

Civil War Diaries

Civil War diaries included an eventful Mississippi River naval diary by Samuel Walker that earned $15,000. The beautifully written and illustrated Civil War diary of Adam Reinoehl brought $6,500.

Addition Highlights

The sale opened to a flurry of bidding for a volume of early St. Louis almanacs, including the first issued in the city. After a tense back-and-forth round of bidding between phones, the lot brought $27,500.

Additional material of note included a small archive of whaling business records of Luther D. Cook from Sag Harbor, New York, which brought $30,000; a three-page printed treasury report by Alexander Hamilton earned $6,750; and William J. Stone’s 1833 Force printing of the Declaration of Independence at $20,000.

Browse the complete list of results from our September 26, 2019 sale of Printed & Manuscript Americana.

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