Auctions | April 20, 2012

Top Lots from Swann's Sale of the Allyn Kellogg Ford Collection

Sale total: $2,084,031 with Buyer’s Premium
Hammer total: $1,733,965
Estimates for sale as a whole: $826,530 - $1,261,070
We offered 436 lots; 418 sold  (96% sell-through rate by lot)

Top lots, Prices with buyer’s premium

121* Jonathan Trumbull Jr., Autograph Letter Signed as Washington's aide-de-camp to Brigadier General George Weedon, bringing news of British plans to negotiate surrender at Yorktown, 17 October 1781. $90,000 C
35 Thomas Jefferson, Autograph Letter Signed as Governor of Virginia to Weedon, describing Benedict Arnold's raid on Richmond, 10 January 1781.$57,600 C
33* David Hume, Autograph Letter Signed to the Ambassador of Great Britain to France, the Earl of Hertford, discussing the repeal of the stamp act, 27 February 1766. $48,000 D
38 Jefferson, Autograph Letter Signed to Weedon, describing provisioning efforts, 31 January 1781. $40,800 C
125 George Washington, Letter Signed to Weedon, requesting his speedy return to Valley Forge, 15 March 1778. $40,800 C
305 John Adams, Autograph Letter Signed as President to Secretary of War James McHenry, 19 July 1799. $36,000 D
37 Jefferson, Autograph Letter Signed to Weedon, promising ammunition in the wake of Benedict Arnold’s raid on Richmond, 21 January 1781. $33,600 C
3 Benedict Arnold, Letter Signed as Major General in the Continental Army to Delaware Governor Caesar Rodney, hoping for help in clearing his good name, 20 March 1780. $31,200 D
24 John Hancock, partly-printed Document Signed as President of the Continental Congress, appointing Weedon as Colonel, Philadelphia, 19 June 1776. $31,200 D
127 Washington, Letter Signed to Weedon, imploring him to stop British provisioning raids on the countryside,15 September 1781. $31,200 C
36 Jefferson, Autograph Letter Signed, asking Weedon to halt for a day until Benedict Arnold’s intentions become more clear, 11 January 1781. $28,800 D
126 Washington, Letter Signed to Weedon, ordering troops to report for smallpox inoculations, 20 Mar 1778 $28,800 D
131 Washington, Letter Signed, commending Weedon after a skirmish with Banastre Tarelton, 4 Oct 1781. $28,800 D
276* Samuel F.B. Morse, Autograph Letter Signed, describing the circumstances of the first completed telegraph in America, New York, 10 march 1864. $28,800 C
79* Thomas Nelson, Autograph Letter Signed as Brigadier General to Weedon, discussing Washington’s living quarters and smallpox among the troops, 22 January 1778. $26,400 C
129 Washington, Letter Signed, asking Weedon to greet the Duc de Lauzun with respect, 23 September 1781. $26,400 D
275 Morse, Autograph Letter Signed to Representative Francis Ormand Jonathan Smith, announcing that the Senate had passed his bill, 3 March 1843. $26,400 C
372 Washington, Letter Signed as Commander-in-Chief to Governor George Clinton, discussing provisioning, 22 December 1780. $26,400 I
57 Henry Laurens, Autograph Letter Signed as President of the Continental Congress, welcoming Baron von Steuben, 14 January 1778. $24,000 C
90 Nelson, Letter Signed as Governor of Virginia, congratulating Weedon on the British Surrender, 20 Oct 1781. $24,000 C

KEY:    * = Auction Record; C = Collector; D = Dealer; I = Institution

Rick Stattler, Swann’s Americana specialist, wrote, “This sale featuring the collection of Allyn Kellogg Ford, sold to benefit the Minnesota Historical Society, was the most successful auction in the long history of the Swann book department, and shattered numerous records. The total hammer price was more than double the low estimate, and the sale total was over $2 million with the buyer’s premium. Phone bidding was so heavy that the morning session went an hour longer than expected, extending past the scheduled start of the afternoon session.

The top lot in the sale was a 1781 letter written by General Washington’s aide-de-camp Jonathan Trumbull, describing the British surrender at Yorktown. Estimated at $4,000 to $6,000, it was hotly contested between two bidders seated adjacently in the room. The two stared each other down with arms raised as the bidding rose rapidly.

Multiple letters by George Washington and Thomas Jefferson were highlights of the sale. On this day, at least, Jefferson proved slightly more popular, with the six Jeffersons averaging $34,200 each, and the seven Washingtons bringing an average of $25,714.

Ford acquired much of his collection at auction in the 1930s and 1940s, and his investments have done well over the years. At least two of his letters were acquired at Swann Galleries, and were thus passing through our hands a second time. A John Sullivan letter was purchased at Swann in 1944 for $5, and sold in 2012 for $1,080. A 1781 letter by George Weedon was purchased at Swann in 1948 for $16, and sold for $1,800. Both items appreciated at more than ten times the rate of inflation.

While private collectors and dealers dominated the sale, a few significant lots were acquired by institutions, most notably a 1780 George Washington letter, a 1781 letter by Declaration Signer Richard Henry Lee, and two James McHenry letters. The South Carolina Library at the University of South Carolina acquired a dramatic 1781 letter by Governor John Rutledge.”

Marco Tomaschett, Swann’s Autographs specialist, added “part of the buyers’ tremendous interest in the sale is due to the fact that much of the material was collected and stowed away more than 60 years ago by Allyn Kellogg Ford. We are pleased to see that the collecting and preservation of history is alive and well and sharing in the recent success enjoyed by the collection of art.”