• <b>Swann Auction Galleries Dec 14:</b> William Oden Waller studio, <i>Manhattan Mary</i>, gouache and graphite, 1927. Sold for $77,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 28:</b> Missionary archive of Samuel W. and Gideon H. Pond, Minnesota, 1833-93. Sold for $112,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Dec 5:</b> Richard Hakluyt, <i>Novus Orbis</i>, first printed use of “Virginia” on a map, Paris, 1587. Sold for $80,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Oct 17:</b> Aegidius Romanus, <i>Lo libre del regiment dels princeps</i>, first edition in Catalan, Barcelona, 1480. Sold for $50,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Nov 14:</b> William Faulkner, <i>The Marble Faun</i>, first edition, signed & inscribed, Boston, 1924. Sold for $22,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Oct 5:</b> Henry Ossawa Tanner, <i>Flight into Egypt</i>, oil on canvas, circa 1910. Sold for $341,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Nov 2:</b> Edward Hopper, <i>The Lonely House</i>, etching, 1923. Sold for $317,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Nov 7:</b> George Washington, Autograph Letter Signed, to his spymaster Benjamin Tallmadge, New Jersey, 1780. Sold for $40,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Oct 19:</b> Saul Leiter, <i>Waiter, Paris</i>, chromogenic print, 1959. Sold for $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Oct 26: </b> A. M. Cassandre, <i>Normandie / Maiden Voyage</i>, 1935. Sold for $20,000.
  • <b>Les Collections Aristophil:<br>December 20, 2017</b>
    <b>Collections Aristophil, Dec. 20:</b> SAINT-EXUPERY, ANTOINE DE. Kodachrome Film (16mm) showing Antoine de Saint-Exupery and Consuelo on a boat, 1942. JOINED: Guestbook for the Boat, signed, with a drawing of the Little Prince. 15 000 to 20 000 €
    <b>Collections Aristophil, Dec. 20:</b> CANDEE, HELEN CHURCHILL. Autograph manuscript. TITANIC, 40 leaves. Original account of the most famous shipwreck, by a survivor of the ordeal. 300 000 to 400 000 €
    <b>Collections Aristophil, Dec. 20:</b> TITANIC. Collection of 7 documents relating to the shipwreck of the Titanic (14 April 1912). 20 000 to<br>30 000 €
    <b>Les Collections Aristophil:<br>December 20, 2017</b>
    <b>Collections Aristophil, Dec. 20:</b> DUPLEIX DE CADIGNAN, JEANBAPTISTE. Signed autograph manuscript. Thirty years of memoirs related to military services and important information on the American War of Independence.<br>40 000 to 50 000 €
    <b>Collections Aristophil, Dec. 20:</b> CURTIUS. Faiz et Conquestes d'Alexandre [Histoire d'Alexandre le Grand]. In French, illuminated manuscript on paper and parchment, 16 large miniatures. 300 000 to<br>500 000 €
    <b>Collections Aristophil, Dec. 20:</b> NELSON, HORATIO. Signed autograph letter, ‘Nelson & Bronte,” aboard the Amazon, 14 October 1801, addressed to Sir William Hamilton. 4 000 to 5 000 €
    <b>Les Collections Aristophil:<br>December 20, 2017</b>
    <b>Collections Aristophil, Dec. 20:</b> GIROLAMO FRANCESCO MARIA MAZZUOLI DIT LE PARMESAN. Le couple amoureux. Pen and brown ink. 80 000 to 120 000 €
    <b>Collections Aristophil, Dec. 20:</b> SADE, DONATIEN-ALPHONSE-FRANÇOIS, MARQUIS DE. Autograph manuscript. The 120 Days of Sodom, or the School of Libertinage, 1785.<br>4 000 000 to 6 000 000 €
    <b>Collections Aristophil, Dec. 20:</b> MIRÓ, JOAN. Signed autograph correspondence to Thomas and Diane Bouchard (1949-1976). 50 000 to 60 000 €
    <b>Les Collections Aristophil:<br>December 20, 2017</b>
    <b>Collections Aristophil, Dec. 20:</b> BALZAC, HONORÉ DE. Signed autograph manuscript, Ursule Mirouët, [1841]. One of only two manuscripts of novels by Balzac in private hands. 800 000 to<br>1 200 000 €
    <b>Collections Aristophil, Dec. 20:</b> LENOIR, ALEXANDRE. Essai sur l'histoire des arts en Egypte pouvant servir d'appendice au grand ouvrage de la Commission. autograph manuscript with numerous additions and corrections. 40 000 to 50 000 €
    <b>Collections Aristophil, Dec. 20:</b> SCHRÖDINGER, ERWIN. Autograph manuscript [Spring 1946, sent to Albert Einstein]. 1 500 to 2 000 €
  • <b>Bonhams: History of Science and Technology. Wednesday, December 6, 2017. New York</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Dec. 6:</b> Lot 95. Turing. <i>Systems of Logic Based on Ordinals</i>. Offprint. London, 1939. Robin Gandy's Copy. $20,000 to $30,000
    <b>Bonhams, Dec. 6:</b> Lot 98. Zernike, Fritz. The 1953 Nobel Prize for Physics: The Invention of the Phase-Contrast Microscope. $100,000 to $150,000
    <b>Bonhams, Dec. 6:</b> Lot 111. Apple 1 Computer, operational, with exceptional provenance. $400,000 to $600,000
    <b>Bonhams: Voices of the 20th Century. Wednesday, December 6, 2017. New York</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Dec. 6:</b> Lot 1074. Bruce, Lenny. An unreleased 16 mm film by "Count" Lewis DePasquale featuring Lenny Bruce. $7,000 to $10,000
    <b>Bonhams, Dec. 6:</b> Lot 1254. Hirohito. Manuscript in Japanese, "The Emperor's Monologue," transcribed by Terasaki Hidenari. $100,000 to $150,000
    <b>Bonhams, Dec. 6:</b> Lot 1095. Goldman. Emma. Large archive of correspondence, much of it to Warren Starr Van Valkenburgh. $70,000 to $100,000
    <b>Bonhams: History of Science and Technology. Wednesday, December 6, 2017. New York</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Dec. 6:</b> Lot 109. Wozniak and Jobs. The First Digital "Blue Box", Berkeley, 1972. $30,000 to $50,000
    <b>Bonhams, Dec. 6:</b> Lot 46. Newton, Isaac. <i>Philosophiae naturalis principia mathematica</i>. 1st issue. London, 1687. $300,000 to $500,000
    <b>Bonhams, Dec. 6:</b> Lot 49. Newton. Autograph Manuscript in English, a portion of a draft of Newton's study on revelation. $15,000 to $20,000
    <b>Bonhams: Voices of the 20th Century. Wednesday, December 6, 2017. New York</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Dec. 6:</b> Lot 1027. Fitzgerald, F. Scott. The Great Gatsby. 1st edition, 1st issue. Scribners, 1925. $40,000 to $60,000
    <b>Bonhams, Dec. 6:</b> Lot 1042. Hemingway., Ernest. For Whom the Bell Tolls. Presentation copy, one of 15 copies. Scribners, 1940. $25,000 to $35,000
    <b>Bonhams, Dec. 6:</b> Lot 1215. A 48-star American Flag, flown from LCT-703, sunk on Omaha Beach, December 1944. $15,000 to $20,000
  • <b>Announcing a new Books for Sale platform hosted by Biblio!</b>
    <b>List your books simultaneously on Rare Book Hub and Biblio!</b>

Rare Book Monthly

Articles - December - 2013 Issue

Ransom Note and Other Letters from First Kidnapping Sold at Freeman's Auction

96208d0f-c300-4a48-8c27-97d88daf6e3a

The ransom note seeking $20,000 for Charley Ross.

A piece of criminal history was sold at the annual Pennsylvania sale at Freeman's Auction in Philadelphia last month. It included the most important documents in one of the most sensational cases of the 19th century, albeit somewhat forgotten today. It was the case of 4-year-old Charley Ross, the first victim of a kidnapping for ransom. Whatever happened to poor Charley remains a mystery today.

 

This story begins on July 1, 1874. Little Charley and his 6-year-old brother Walter are playing in their front yard in the Germantown section of Philadelphia when two men stop by. The men offer candy and a promise to take them to a fireworks shop. July 4th is just around the corner. The boys agree to get in their “getaway car,” which in 1874, of course, is a horse-drawn buggy. They ride off for the city. Little Charley gets a bit antsy after awhile, but the men stop at a fireworks store as promised. They give Walter a quarter to go inside to buy some fireworks. This Walter does, but when he returns, the men, the buggy, and Charley are gone. Charley would never be seen again.

 

The boys' father, Christian Ross, thought they were playing at a neighbor's house. As day dragged on to evening, he became concerned and began looking. There was no trace of the boys. Christian placed an ad in the paper. Missing persons issues were handled differently then. He didn't tell his wife immediately as she was off in Atlantic City, recuperating from an illness. He didn't want to concern her.

 

Two days later, a stranger who had found Walter brought him home. That is when Christian learned the complete story. Meanwhile, a ransom note arrived at the house. It was crude, filled with misspellings and bad English, but the message was clear. The kidnappers wanted $20,000 and they threatened terrible harm to the child if Christian went to the police. The note read:

 

July 3

Mr. Ross- be not uneasy you son charly bruster he al writ we as got him and no powers on earth can deliver out of our hand. You wil hav two pay us befor you git him from us. an pay us a big cent to. if you put the cops hunting for him yu is only defeeting yu own end. we is got him fitt so no living power can gits him from us a live. if any aproch is maid to his hidin place that is the signil for his instant anihilation. if yu regard his lif puts no one to search for him you money can fech him out alive an no other existin powers don't deceve yuself and think the detectives can git him from us for that is one imposebel yu here from us in few day.”

 

Germantown was a wealthy section of town, and the Rosses lived in a large house. The kidnappers likely assumed they must have a lot of money. They didn't. They had once been fairly wealthy, but Mr. Ross lost a lot of money in the Panic of 1873 with the result being he was now heavily in debt. He was unable to come up with $20,000, an enormous sum of money in those days. So instead he disobeyed the kidnappers' demand and went to the police.

 

In time, more ransom notes arrived, money was raised, and attempts were made to pay the kidnappers with marked bills in distant places - New Jersey and New York. The kidnappers never came for the money. Rewards were offered, time went by, but nothing happened. However, in New York City, the Police Superintendent became aware that the handwriting on the notes resembled that of one William Mosher, a small-time thief with a distinctive, deformed nose. Mosher's brother-in-law was William Westervelt, a sometime policeman. Westervelt attempted to collect the reward money, but also tipped off Mosher so the latter could remain out of sight.

 

A break finally came in the case in December when two men broke into a summer home belonging to a judge on Long Island. The Judge's brother lived next door, and along with a couple of other family members, grabbed some shotguns and went next door. Gunfire broke out, and when it was finished, William Mosher lay dead on the floor. His partner, Joseph Douglas, was mortally wounded. Douglas lived long enough to say a few words. He admitted responsibility, but placed most of the blame on his partner. He also said Charley Ross was fine and would be released in a few days. Then he died. Ross was never released, nor his location revealed. Charley's brother Walter was brought to New York to view the bodies, and he identified them as the two men who had kidnapped him and his brother back in July.

 

The outcome was frustrating. Charley could not be located and the kidnappers could not be tried. However, they did put Westervelt on trial. There just wasn't much evidence to connect him to the kidnapping. Walter viewed Westervelt too and said he was not a participant. Westervelt was acquitted. He was convicted on the lesser count of conspiracy and served six years in prison. Westervelt repeatedly proclaimed his innocence.  

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>Cowan’s Auctions: Fine Books, Including the Alan Culpin WWI Art Collection – Live Online Auction. Dec. 18, 2017</b>
    <b>Cowan’s, Dec. 18:</b> Unique Association Copy of Signed Limited Roosevelt, African Game Trails, Extra-Illustrated. $5,000 - 7,500
    <b>Cowan’s, Dec. 18:</b> 24 Volumes Henry James in 1/2 Morocco - Alvin Langdon Coburn Frontis Illustrations. $3,000 - $5,000
    <b>Cowan’s, Dec. 18:</b> French Surrealism by Claude Cahun and Marcel Moore, 1930 Limited Edition in Lovely Condition. $3,000 - $5,000
    <b>Cowan’s Auctions: Fine Books, Including the Alan Culpin WWI Art Collection – Live Online Auction. Dec. 18, 2017</b>
    <b>Cowan’s, Dec. 18:</b> Unique and Beautifully Written Manuscript of 650 Quarto Pages - Unpublished History of Belle-Isle-En-Mer, 1754. $3,000 - $5,000
    <b>Cowan’s, Dec. 18:</b> William Beebe's Classic 4 Volume Work on "The Pheasants," Signed and Inscribed in 1919. $2,000 - $3,000
    <b>Cowan’s, Dec. 18:</b> Three Volumes of Washington's War Era Letters Published in New York in 1796. $1,500 - $2,000
    <b>Cowan’s Auctions: Fine Books, Including the Alan Culpin WWI Art Collection – Live Online Auction. Dec. 18, 2017</b>
    <b>Cowan’s, Dec. 18:</b> 19th C. Vintage Album with 48 Sepia Toned Albumen Prints by Fratelli Alinari et. al.<br>$1,500 - $2,000
    <b>Cowan’s, Dec. 18:</b> Report of Phipps' Voyage in 1773 In Search of a Passage to India Via the North Pole. $1,500 - $2,000
    <b>Cowan’s, Dec. 18:</b> 17 Volumes of Wallace's American Trotting Register, 1874-1891. $1,500 - $2,500
    <b>Cowan’s Auctions: Fine Books, Including the Alan Culpin WWI Art Collection – Live Online Auction. Dec. 18, 2017</b>
    <b>Cowan’s, Dec. 18:</b> Rare First English Edition of Monardes, Joyfull Newes, 1577, Woodcut Illustrations.<br>$1,500 - $3,000
    <b>Cowan’s, Dec. 18:</b> 6 Volume Shakespeare Presented to Virginia Congressman Involved in the "Trent Affair". $1,200 - $1,500
    <b>Cowan’s, Dec. 18:</b> Classic Lothar Meggendorfer Movable Book Complete with 8 Chromolithograph Plates, Ca. 1890. $750 - $1,000
  • <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Charles Darwin on sexuality and the transmission of hereditary characteristics: Autograph Letter Signed to Lawson Tait. Down, 17 January [1877].
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> MILTON, JOHN. <i>Paradise Lost. A Poem written in ten books.</i> London: 1667. A very rare example with the contemporary binding untouched and with a 1667 title page.
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Hamilton secures the ratification of the Constitution: <i>The Debates and Proceedings of the Convention of the State of New-York, assembled at Poughkeespsie, on the 17th June, 1788.</i>
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> The social contract “Man is born free, and everywhere he is in chains”: ROUSSEAU, JEAN-JACQUES. <i>Principes du Droit Politique [Du Contract Social]</i>. Amsterdam: Michel Rey, 1762
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> “The first English textbook on geometrical land-measurement and surveying”: BENESE, RICHARD. <i>This Boke Sheweth the Maner of Measurynge All Maner of Lande…</i>

Article Search

Archived Articles

Ask Questions