On Sunday Keno Auctions in New York City sold an important piece of early Americana for a startling $912,500. The document, entitled Letter from the Twelve United States Colonies by their Delegates in Congress to the Inhabitants of Great Britain, was a final plea from the Continental Congress to avoid an armed uprising. The document - long thought lost - invited fierce competition from two phone bidders who quickly blew through its $100,000 - $400,000 estimate. The winning bid came from a private collector via manuscripts specialist Seth Kaller. The final price, at $912,500, took the prize for highest price paid during Americana Week 2014 in New York City.
The letter itself was written by the jurist Robert R. Livingston (of Declaration of Independence fame) in 1775 and was printed in July of that year. This draft of the document offers an invaluable perspective into the final printed document as it includes excised paragraphs and marginal notes. Until the discovery of this letter, only the final printed document was known to scholars.
The letter was found in July of this year by Emilie Gruchow, an archivist with the Morris-Jumel Mansion in Manhattan. (The mansion served as George Washington's headquarters during the Revolutionary War). Gruchow found the letter in a folder of 18th century doctor's bills tucked away in the drawer of a desk in the mansion's attic. After its discovery and verification, the Morris-Jumel Mansion decided to sell the letter to raise funds for the long-term survival of the museum.
With a winning bid just shy of $1m, the Museum's nest-egg received an impressive boost.