Rare Book Monthly

Articles - November - 2013 Issue

A Chance to Own a Piece of Turkey Day (and American) History

252e473b-bbfe-4fff-a2ad-e2bbb6c01c2c

Growing up, the story I heard—and I imagine you’ve all heard—about Thanksgiving had to do with pilgrims and Native Americans coming together to share a feast in the early 17th century. As it turns out, Thanksgiving has more history behind it, and just in time for turkey day this year, you have the chance to buy a piece of it at Christie’s in New York on November 14th in a single lot sale of George Washington’s Thanksgiving Proclamation. I’ll warn you now, history doesn’t come cheap.

 

So we all know the story of the first, first Thanksgiving in 1621, after Tisquantum, aka Squanto, and his tribe the Wampanoags, helped the Plymouth Colony of pilgrims survive by donating food and showing them how to live off the land.  Contemporary accounts from the period, though limited as they are, do not specify a “thanksgiving,” while themes of gratitude towards God and to the Natives resonate. Therefore, it’s not surprising this first Thanksgiving is also not actually the first Thanksgiving. As Christie’s notes in their description, “The story of the Pilgrim Thanksgiving has prompted its share of debunkers over the years, who like to point out that it was not the ‘first.’ English settlers in Virginia held a Thanksgiving in 1610; French Huguenots conducted a Thanksgiving in Florida in May 1564; and the newly arrived conquistador, Pedro Menendez de Aviles, shared a thanksgiving feast with the Timucua Indians on September 8, 1565 in what is now St. Augustine, Florida. Texans enjoy pointing out the stone marker in their state that reads ‘Feast of the First Thanksgiving - 1541.’” Still, U.S. education has the majority of Americans believing Squanto’s feast was the first.

 

As for how the tradition of Thanksgiving continued after 1621, the rite of thanksgiving occurred periodically during colonial times and the Revolutionary War. The first recorded Thanksgiving Day in Plymouth happened two years later in 1623 after rain relieved a two-month drought. Those people were definitely full of gratitude. By 1630, an annual thanksgiving after the harvest in Massachusetts became common, and other colonies followed suit. This continued into the Revolutionary War when Congress recommended national days of thanksgiving, fasting, and prayer.

 

So where does Washington’s Thanksgiving Proclamation fit in to this story? And why is it estimated at $8,000,000-12,000,000? To start, the proclamation is not significant just to Thanksgiving’s history. It is significant to American history. It is the first presidential proclamation, and it came at a defining time for the fledgling nation, being the byproduct of the end of the first session of the 1st United States Congress. The Bill of Rights originated from this first session, and the President himself was inaugurated. With the full-scale deployment of the government, Washington (and the founding fathers) felt gratitude about “the peaceable and rational manner” in which the government had proceeded. Victory in the war was now six years old, and it had not always seemed clear the nation would know what to do with its independence. It was only after the Constitution was ratified, and with this first session of Congress winding to a close, that Washington allowed himself to correctly feel that a page had been turned. Thanks had to be given.

 

Did I mention the proclamation, while not written in Washington’s hand, is signed by him?

 

SALE INFO

Auction Time

Sale Location

Viewing Times

For more information as well as the E-Catalogue for the sale, please visit Christie's.
 
 
Editor's note:  Document seller Seth Kaller informs us that though this document is regularly described in many historical sources as the first presidential proclamation, there are two slightly earlier though less significant proclamations - Proclamation to the Southern Indians, 29 August 1789, and Proclamation on the Treaty of Fort Harmar, 29 September 1789. This error was ours, not Christie's.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries, Feb 21:</b> NASA archive with 351 photographs, silver & chromogenic prints, 1960-2002. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, Feb 21:</b> Edward S. Curtis, suite of 18 cyanotypes, 1910-14. $25,000 to $35,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, Feb 21:</b> Edward S. Curtis, <i>Horse Capture, Atsina,</i> unique copper plate for <i>The North American Indian,</i> 1908. $60,000 to $90,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, Feb 21:</b> John Whipple, <i>Harriet Beecher Stowe,</i> salted print from a calotype negative, 1853. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, Feb 21:</b> Lewis Carroll, <i>Xie Kitchen,</i> albumen print, circa 1872. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, Feb 21:</b> Ansel Adams, <i>Taos Pueblo,</i> limited, signed first edition of the artist's first book, 12 silver bromide prints, 1930. $30,000 to $45,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, Feb 21:</b><br>JFK in his motorcade about 2 mins before his assassination, chromogenic print, 1963. $2,000 to $3,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, Feb 21:</b> Anton Guilio Bragaglia, 6 photomechanical postcards with facsimile signatures, 1911-13, printed 1932. $30,000 to $45,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, Feb 21:</b> Société Anonyme, Inc, group of 9 postcards, including 8 real photo postcards, 1920-30. $25,000 to $35,000.
  • <b>Bonhams, Mar 12:</b> Walt Whitman. <i>Leaves of Grass.</i> First edition, first issue, SIGNED in block letters by Whitman. 1855. $200,000 to $300,000
    <b>Bonhams, Mar 12:</b> Isaac Newton's copy of John Greave's <i>Pyramidographia,</i> London, 1646. $50,000 to $70,000
    <b>Bonhams, Mar 12:</b> Colonel John Mosby. Robert E. Lee's autograph letter to Samuel Cooper reporting on Mosby's exploits, with Cooper's autograph note ordering his appointment to Major.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar 12:</b> Gyula Halasz Brassai. Large archive of autograph and typed letters, over 260, to his family including his wife Gilberte, 1947-1978. $40,000 to $60,000
    <b>Bonhams, Mar 12:</b> Archive of drawings and letters from Harper Lee to Charles Carruth, including an inscribed first edition of <i>To Kill a Mockingbird.</i> $20,000 to $30,000
    <b>Bonhams, Mar 11:</b> VESALIUS, ANDREAS. 1514-1564. <i>De humani corporis fabrica libri septem.</i> Basel: Johannes Oporinus, June 1543. $300,000 to $500,000
    <b>Bonhams, Mar 11:</b> HARVEY, WILLIAM. 1578-1657. <i>De motu cordis & sanguinis in animalibus Anatomica Exercitatio.</i> Leiden: Joannis Maire, 1639. $25,000 to $35,000
    <b>Bonhams, Mar 11:</b> BERENGARIO DA CARPI, GIACOMO. 1460-1530. <i>Isagogae breves perlucide ac uberrimae in Anatomiam humani corporis.</i> Bologna: Benedictus Hectoris, 15 July 1523. $15,000 to $25,000
    <b>Bonhams NY, Mar 11:</b> FRANKLIN, BENJAMIN. 1706-1790. <i>Experiments and Observations on Electricity, made at Philadelphia in America…</i> London, 1769. $10,000 to $15,000
    <b>Bonhams NY, Mar 11:</b> BENIVIENI, ANTONIO. 1443-1502. <i>De abditis nonnullis ac mirandis morborum et sanationum causis.</i>Florence: Filippo Giunta, 1507. $8,000 to $12,000
  • <b>Christie’s Paris, 20 Feb:</b> BELON. <i>L’Histoire de la nature des oyseaux.</i> Paris : Corrozet, 1555. $17,000 to $23,000
    <b>Christie’s Paris, 20 Feb:</b> MIOMANDRE – BARBIER. <i>Dessins sur les danses de Vaslav Nijinsky.</i> Paris. 1913. $23,000 to $34,000
    <b>Christie’s Paris, 20 Feb:</b> HOKUSAI. <i>Fugaku Hyakkei, Edo : Nishimura Yûzô.</i> 1834-1875. $58,000 to $80,000
    <b>Christie’s Paris, 20 Feb:</b> EDWARDS. <i> <br>A Natural History of Uncommon Birds…</i> London : Printed for the Author. 1743-1764. $35,000 to $46,000
    <b>Christie’s Paris, 20 Feb:</b> VESALIUS. <i><br> De Humane Corporis Fabrica libri septem...</i> Basle : J. Oporinus. 1555. $58,000 to $80,000
  • <b>Morton Subastas on Bidsquare:</b><br>Die Französische Expedition gegen Mexico /Beilagen zum Beiheft des Militair - Wochenblattes
    <b>Morton Subastas on Bidsquare:</b><br>The Architecture Of M. Vitruvius Pollio. London, 1791.
    <b>Morton Subastas on Bidsquare:</b> Estatuto Provisional del Imperio Mexicano. México: Imprenta de Andrade y Escalante, 1865.
    <b>Morton Subastas on Bidsquare:</b> Historia de Méjico... México, 1849 - 1852.
    <b>Morton Subastas on Bidsquare:</b> Juárez, Benito - Ogazón, Pedro. Legajos de Bandos del Estado de Guadalajara, 1860-1863.
    <b>Morton Subastas on Bidsquare:</b> Sigüenza y Góngora, Carlos. Mapa de las Aguas que por el Círculo de 90 Leguas Vienen a la Laguna de Tescuco... Méx, 1748.
    <b>Morton Subastas on Bidsquare:</b> Cruces y Campa / Aubert / Valleto. Pareja Imperial, Fusilamiento de Maximiliano, Tipos Mexicanos... ca,1875.
  • <b>Bonhams: Treasures from the Eric C. Caren Collection: How History Unfolds on Paper, Part VII (Online). March 6-14, 2019
    <b>Bonhams, Mar 6-14:</b> Albert Einstein A remarkable letter on God in English, one of his most eloquent and quoted, 1 p, July 2, 1945. $100,000 to $150,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar 6-14:</b> Benjamin Lincoln's commission as Major General in the Continental Army, February 19th, 1777. $60,000 to $90,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar 6-14:</b> Broadside. A Poem Upon the Bloody Engagement That Was Fought on Bunker's-Hill. 1775. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar 6-14:</b> Early, full printing of the Star-Spangled Banner in The Yankee, October 7, 1814. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar 6-14:</b> Paul Revere. Engraving, “The Boston Massacre Perpetrated on March 5, 1770," in <i>Massachusett's Calendar 1772.</i> $8,000 to $12,000.

Article Search

Archived Articles

Ask Questions