Family Papers of Lincoln’s Secretary of the Navy Brings $281k in Fall 2022 Americana Auction at Swann

Swann’s fall 2022 auction of Printed & Manuscript Americana held on September 29 earned $960k. Civil War-era material earned nearly $470,000 of that total. Collectors joined the sale through the house’s online bidding platforms and on the phones with steady activity seen throughout the 394 lot sale.

Archive of Gideon Welles & Abraham Lincoln

The top lot of the sale was an archive of Gideon Welles, Lincoln’s Secretary of the Navy. Rich in documentation of the Civil War years, it attracted bidders on the phones and online bidding platforms driving the price beyond the presale estimate of $60,000 to $90,000. The collection of over 1,000 items was ultimately sold for $281,000—a record for any archive ever handled by Swann. The archive was followed by related lots of artifacts and ephemera, led by a pass for Lincoln’s White House funeral which brought $4,500.

Civil War Material

Charleston Mercury Extra…The Union is Dissolved!, letterpress broadside, 1860. Sold for $18,750.

In addition to the archive, Civil War material from both the Union and the Confederacy featured throughout the auction proving to be a cornerstone of the sale with collectors vying for the selection.  Highlights include the first Confederate imprint, a Charleston Mercury broadside announcing “The Union Is Dissolved” which brought $18,750; a sketchbook by soldier / artist John Richard kept during the last months of the war at $16,250; and an archive of letters and diaries by a Cincinnati Quaker soldier Lt. Palmer Judkins brought $15,000.

Latin Americana

Alonso de Molina, Aquí comiença un vocabulario en la lengua Castellana y Mexicana, first edition, 1555. Sold for $20,000.

Latin Americana included a strong showing of Mexican material which was led by a 1555 Spanish-Nahuatl dictionary at $20,000; a compilation of Mexican news items on the Siege of the Alamo at $11,250; and an 1827 manuscript cookbook at $9,375.

Further Highlights

Additional highlights include the first suppressed edition of Alexander Hamilton’s Observations on Certain Documents…, 1797, which earned $12,500; papers of Charles Dana, who launched Hawaii’s first bank in 1854, brought $7,250; and a series of notebooks from 1861-69 kept by a Philadelphia chemist achieved $7,280.

Do you have Americana items we should take a look at?