Results from Swann Galleries’ April 16 Americana Auction

The Theodore Roosevelt collection of Peter Scanlan led the way at Swann’s April 16 Americana auction, with a lifetime of collecting sold in 109 lots. The top Roosevelt lot was the extremely scarce pamphlet In Memory of My Darling Wife Alice ($38,400), which had never before appeared at auction. Several other Roosevelt printed works had never been previously seen at auction, including President Roosevelt's List of Birds Seen in the White House Grounds ($3,120).  Roosevelt autographs and a family photo album ($5,520) also did well. Several books by Roosevelt set records, including The Naval War of 1812, $2,640; The Summer Birds of the Adirondacks, $5,040; The Wilderness Hunter, $5,040.  An event at Swann a few days before the sale, featuring a poignant talk by Scanlan’s friend and fellow collector Gregory Wynn, set the tone for the dispersal of a great collection.



The biggest surprise of the sale, and the top lot, was an archive of scientific and family papers of naturalists William Cooper and his son James Graham Cooper. Estimated at $1,500 to $2,500, it sold to a private collector for $40,800 after prolonged bidding between three parties. Three other highlights were a group of amazing California Civil War letters by Julius Hall ($31,200), a beautiful extra-illustrated biography of Benjamin Franklin which attracted more than a dozen phone bidders (sold to a collector for $22,800), and the personal papers and effects of controversial lawyer Roy Cohn (sold to a collector in two lots for a total of $18,960).

Among the other records set were $5,280 for Nelson Lee’s Three Years Among the Camanches, sold to a collector; and $2,280 for Seaver’s A Narrative of the Life of Mrs. Mary Jemison, who was Taken by the Indians. Another record item sold to a collector was Acts Passed at the First Session of the Legislative Assembly of the Territory of Wisconsin, printed in Belmont, WI, in 1836. It brought $6,600, believed to be the most ever for a Wisconsin imprint.  The highest previous price we find was A True History of the Mutiny on the Ship Globe, Southport, WI, 1848, sold at Swann in 1996 for $4,200. 



Institutions won 22 lots in the sale. The Toledo-Lucas County Public Library won a 72nd Ohio Civil War photo album ($3,600) and the first edition of Steele’s Traveller's Directory ($2,640). The Dolph Briscoe Center at University of Texas won a pair of wonderful letters from early Texas ($1,920), and the Connecticut Historical Society won a diary and letters of a Stamford Seabee in World War II ($960).  The Society of the Cincinnati won a stirring letter by Theodore Roosevelt in which he muses on the legacy of Washington and Lafayette ($2,640).


Americana specialist Rick Stattler reported after the sale that “The sale was a strong success. The Roosevelt results in particular testified to a collector’s vision and dedication over many decades.”


All prices include buyer’s premium.

First image: Archive of scientific and family papers of naturalists William Cooper and James Graham Cooper, mostly 1821-63. Sold for $40,800 including buyer's premium.

Second image: Theodore Roosevelt, In Memory of My Darling Wife Alice Hathaway Roosevelt and My Beloved Mother Martha Bulloch Roosevelt, New York, 1884. Sold for $38,400 including buyer's premium.

Auction Guide