Auctions | February 10, 2014

Images of Sir Francis Drake, Butch Cassidy, and Edison’s First Dollar at Bonhams


A rare contemporary portrait of the explorer Sir Francis Drake, the first dollar earned by Thomas Edison’s trailblazing electric company, and a mug shot of the outlaw Butch Cassidy issued by the famed Pinkerton Detective Agency are just some items on offer in Treasures from The Caren Archive: How History Unfolds on Paper, selling at Bonhams New York on April 7th.

The Caren Archive is a vast and culturally significant collection which encompasses rare newspapers, broadsides, photographs, books, and manuscripts dating from the 16th century to the 1960s.

Among the top early lots is an exquisitely beautiful copper-engraved broadside celebrating Sir Francis Drake’s circumnavigation of the globe. Dating to the 1580s, it includes one of the very few surviving contemporary portraits of Drake, depicting him full-length and surrounded by cannonballs, powder kegs, and the lading of a ship (estimate $50,000-80,000 USD).


Butch Cassidy, the notorious American Wild West train and bank robber and leader of the Wild Bunch gang, was pursued relentlessly by the Pinkerton National Detective Agency, ultimately forcing him to flee to South America with his famed accomplice the Sundance Kid. The Pinkertons were a private detective and security outfit often hired by the government to catch criminals, break strikes and intimidate unionists. An original mug shot of Cassidy, issued by the Pinkertons, is estimated at $20,000-30,000 USD.

A rare and important early printing of the American Declaration of Independence as published in the New England Chronicle is already generating enquiries from prospective bidders. The four-page newspaper tied with Gill’s Continental Journal as the first Boston printing of the Declaration to appear. The Declaration appears in its entirety on the front page of the Chronicle (estimate $60,000-80,000 USD).

The Caren Archive is the largest and most significant private collection of historical paper in America. Other sale highlights include the first dollar earned by the Edison Electric Light Company, a manuscript deposition by a Titanic survivor, the first China-U.S. Treaty (signed by President Polk), and rare WWI and WWII material. Proprietor Eric Caren, who began collecting as a child, retains a particular passion for the artefacts of major events and news stories: “I understood even as a small boy that they were special...that they offered a chance to travel across space and time, to be in the historical moment and to experience it as those at the time did”.

Images courtesy of Bonhams.