Auctions | January 26, 2018

Abraham Lincoln Signed Land Grant Among Presidential Documents to be Featured at Auction 

78f9e48dd9f0c50d8894d7214b8af67c8d0ce106.jpegRR Auction celebrates Presidents’ Day in February 2018.  The Fine Autographs and Artifact auction will feature a selection of historical documents, manuscripts, and correspondence representing the presidents of the United States. 

Among items to be featured are autographs from every American president, including a variety of virtually unobtainable examples—an Abraham Lincoln land grant, a James A. Garfield autograph letter as president, and a Theodore Roosevelt speech.

Headlining the sale is an excessively rare land grant signed by Abraham Lincoln the day after he issued the Emancipation Proclamation. 

The one-page document partly-printed vellum signed as president, dated January 2, 1863. President Lincoln grants 120 acres of land in St. Cloud, Minnesota, to "Margaret Donnell Widow of Eli Donnell who served in the name of Eli Donnald Private Captain Harpole's Company Tennessee Militia War 1812." The document goes on to note that the plat has "been assigned by the said Margaret Donnell to George H. Marsh and by him to Emma C. Stebbins now Emma C. King in whose favor said tract has been located." 

Boldly signed at the conclusion by President Lincoln, and countersigned by Recorder of the General Land Office G. W. Granger. The printed "By Sec'y" text beside Lincoln's signature has been struck through, signifying that the president himself signed the document—a highly unusual occurrence. 

The rather mundane presidential practice of signing land grants was discontinued in 1833 during Andrew Jackson's second term, when Congress passed a law authorizing the president to appoint a special secretary to sign land patents on his behalf. 

It is therefore incredibly rare to find an authentically signed land grant from later on. Indeed, this is the only Lincoln-signed land grant we have ever encountered, and our research suggests that no other authentically signed example has appeared at auction. The vast majority of land grants issued during the Lincoln administration were signed by William O. Stoddard, who was specifically appointed for the task on July 15, 1861. 

The ultimate recipient of this parcel of land, Emma C. King, was the wife of Horatio Collins King, son of politician Horatio King, who briefly served as postmaster general at the end of the Buchanan administration. Lincoln and the elder King saw eye-to-eye on many issues, and in April 1862 President Lincoln appointed Horatio King to the three-man Emancipation Commission, which reviewed petitions for compensation by DC-area slave-owners affected by the end of slavery in the district. In September, Lincoln issued a warning that he would order the emancipation of all slaves in any state that did not end its rebellion by the new year. On January 1, 1863—the day before signing the present document—President Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation into law, thereby ending slavery in the United States. 

“In addition to being an unheard of format for a Lincoln signature, this remarkable document dates to a defining moment in American history and landmark achievement of Lincoln's legacy,” said Bobby Livingston, Executive VP at RR Auction.  

Additional Presidential highlights include a hand-embroidered White House Flag used during four administrations. The rare and impressive official presidential flag was in service at the White House under Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, and Ronald Reagan before being acquired by the consignor through a White House connection when the flag was officially retired and replaced for the incoming George H. W. Bush administration in January 1989. A nearly impossible to acquire White House artifact—seldom does such an exceptional example of presidential history become available.

Also featured: Olympic medals and torches; artistic autographs from the likes of Matisse, Picasso, and Renoir; literary letters by Proust, Kafka, Dickens, and Voltaire; and autographs of music icons such as the Beatles, Rolling Stones, and Woody Guthrie. 

The Fine Autographs and Artifact auction from RR Auction began on January 19 and will conclude on February  7. More details can be found online at