Auctions | April 4, 2023

Lincoln Note and Declaration of Independence Signers’ Items to Auction

University Archives

Lot 80, Abraham Lincoln note

University Archives is embracing the revolutionary spirit by offering more than 55 lots of material autographed by Declaration of Independence signers and a cheerful pre-election note by Abraham Lincoln.

Its next online-only sale on April 19, the 248th anniversary of the Battles of Lexington & Concord, also features U.S. Presidents from George Washington to Joe Biden, including multiple lots dedicated to Abraham Lincoln, Harry S. Truman, John F. Kennedy, and Jimmy Carter. There will also be a large collection of First Lady autographed material ranging from  Caroline Harrison to Hillary Clinton.

Abraham Lincoln penned a cheerful note to an unidentified young man, probably his eldest son Robert, on the cusp of the November 8, 1864 presidential election. Lincoln wrote: “Bravo! my good boy. Whether Mr. L. shall be re-elected or not, he feels sure that you will stick to the cause of the country.” Lincoln’s use of the third person is unusual, though not without precedent. The jubilant tone of Lincoln’s note belies the fact that he fully expected to lose the 1864 election to George B. McClellan.

Sitting President George Washington and future president Thomas Jefferson boldly signed 3-language ship’s papers for a Martinique-bound schooner on June 6, 1794. The combination of such signatures on a document like this is outstanding, as is the size of each massive signature: 4” for Washington’s and 2.5” for Jefferson’s. A vintage Ewing & Harris gelatin silver photograph of Teddy Roosevelt signed by the president in the last few months of his second term is truly gargantuan, framed measuring 15.5” x 23” overall.

55+ lots of the April sale feature autographed material by Declaration of Independence signers, including John and Samuel Adams, Thomas Jefferson, John Hancock, and super rare signer Arthur Middleton. Some signers are represented by multiple lots. Lot 221 is one of two superb Benjamin Franklin signed items. The elegant autograph note signed is dated June 15, 1748, the same year Franklin turned down a colonelcy and instead enlisted in the Pennsylvania militia. The letter, which is likely military in nature, is believed to be addressed to Andrew Pepperrell, the son of Sir William Pepperrell, commander of British Army forces at Louisburg. Lot 234 is a scarce Revolutionary War-dated autograph letter signed by Francis Lightfoot Lee, signed as "Honble Francis Lightfoot Lee esq."

In the Science & Technology section, Thomas Edison signed a contract in ca. 1880 Bolivia for a light bulb design first successfully tested in the United States on October 21, 1879. Edison’s international patents often duplicated existing U.S. patents and protected the inventor’s interests abroad. Albert Einstein signed and inscribed a charming photograph of himself dressed in yachting clothes to Dr. Max Heimann in December 1935. The photo testifies to the physicist’s intractable love of sailing, which often led him into near catastrophe, like running aground and nearly drowning. Also under the hammer will be Richard Feynman’s personally owned copy of John C. Slater’s Introduction to Chemical Physics (1939) which was gifted to him by his future wife Arline Greenbaum, who has signed on the front loose endpaper as “Putzie.” Feynman has extensively annotated the book.

The April sale offers collectors sports memorabilia relating to boxing, baseball, basketball, and hockey. Lot 406 is a vintage photograph of early baseball legends Babe Ruth, Connie Mack, John McGraw, Gabby Street, Christy Walsh, and Nick Altrock signed by them along the bottom. The photo was taken at the 1931 World Series game between the Philadelphia Athletics and the St. Louis Cardinals.

Lot 405 is a first edition, first printing hardcover copy of Jackie Robinson’s biography Wait Till Next Year which he cowrote with important Black journalist Carl T. Rowan, dedicated to him on the front loose end paper. Robinson’s inscription dated May 25, 1960 reads in part: “To Carl with best wishes and thanks for all you did to help [make] ‘Wait Till Next Year’ a success. Your participation helped us very much…” Rowan covered current events relating to the Civil Rights movement, and later became the first Black syndicated columnist in America.