An Amazing Collection of Autographs<br>Offered by Catherine Barnes
Item 1 is a strange letter from Christopher “Kit” Carson. In 1866, at age 56 and just two years before he died, the old mountain man wrote to a Civil War companion about his experiences posing for a photograph. He humorously retells of the photographer “arranging and dis-arranging every thing about your person in the attempt to transform a mountaineer into an exquisite of 1865.” Still displeased with the results, the photographer calls on Carson for “perfect immobility.” “Dire concatenation of circumstances, mirth must flee my countenance or my picture is spoiled, like a philosopher I accept the alternative, mirth flies away but alas! My countenance is spoiled, but a great act of duty has been performed, materialism of the west has performed its last act of obeisance to idealism of the east…” This from an illiterate mountain man? What’s going on here? Catherine Barnes speculates that Carson’s scribe, since the mountain man could not write himself, may have embellished on the words Carson dictated. Perhaps. Still, it’s nice to believe that this man of the frontier not only could hold his own with an angry mountain lion, unhappy Indian, or enemy soldier, but with the scions of Eastern literary society as well. $35,000.
From the Great Compromiser we find some careful footwork in Item 15. In 1939, long-time presidential wannabee Henry Clay writes an apology to Ohio Congressman Joshua Giddings. Seems he traveled through his state without paying the Congressman a visit as he didn’t want to “excite the suspicions of Genl Harrison or any of his friends.” General William Henry Harrison would be Clay’s rival for the Whig presidential nomination in 1840, and Harrison would win both the nomination and the election. Clay would get his chance in 1844 but lose to Democrat James K. Polk. Just as well. Both of the Whigs who were successful in getting elected president died in office. $950.
Speaking of Whig presidents who died in office, there’s a letter from Zachary Taylor from the year before he was elected. Still serving as a general in the army, Taylor allows the Missouri Volunteers to take home a cannon they captured during the Mexican War for a souvenir. Item 67. $5,500.
No justice of the U.S. Supreme Court was more important or influential than Chief Justice John Marshall, who served during the first 34 years of the 19th century. Some of the most important rulings establishing the powers of the various branches of government and state vs. federal authority came from Marshall’s court. Here’s some very different legal advice. In 1835, he advises his son to inspect land he proposes to buy from the government in the areas along the Gulf of Mexico carefully before making a purchase. The son was looking to grow cotton and apparently not all land was suitable. The son was evidently a slave owner and planned to use his slaves for the labor as Marshall notes “Your determination to remove your negroes to the Southwest came upon me entirely by surprise.” Item 51. $850. Item 50 is another Marshall document, an autographed land transfer to one of his sons. $3,000.