On July 11th Profiles in History continues the series “Property of a Distinguished Collector” with Part Four. Parts 1 to 3 raised $11.5 million. One hundred and twelve lots are offered in Part IV. Electronically the sale is being hosted on Invaluable and a link to the full sale included at the end of this article. This event focuses on the manuscript material of famous men and events. It is an important sale confirming the collector is distinguished.
The material is decidedly but not exclusively American. Lot containing “George Washington number 17, Thomas Jefferson 5, Adams 8. Sixteen reference “civil war,” “business,” 49 reference “war.”
And there are also lots that do not fit easily into any of these broad categories. Here’s an example:
Lot 50. James, Frank. A collection of three letters, written from jail, regarding his trial for robbing the Rock Island Line train at Winston, Missouri where the train engineer and a passenger were killed. A fascinating account from the soldier and bandit himself.
Two autograph letters signed (“Frank”) on same leaf, 2 pages octavo, [Gallatin, Missouri], 18 December 1883 on recto and 19 December 1883 on verso, in purple pencil to his wife Annie James. Estimated $5,000 to $8,000
67. [Railroads, Canals and Automobiles.] Exceptional group of twenty-six letters and documents by important figures in the world of railways, canals and automobiles including:
Ford, Henry. Three signed items, including two typed letters signed, 5 pages various sizes, 11 December 1915 to 13 February 1935 to various recipients, one concerns the abolition of armaments to prevent future wars, another thanks a person for a book on Lincoln. Together with one 1916 Ford T Party program/menu signed, 13 pages, quarto, [Detroit], 3 February 1916. The elaborate program was for a party held for the Ford Motor Company branch managers and assistant branch managers; also included is a typed letter signed by Edsel Ford providing bonuses after a substantially profitable year.
Goethals, George Washington. Two typed letters signed (“G. W. Goethals”), 2 pages quarto, 19 September 1914 and 28 February 1917 to various recipients regarding the construction of the Panama Canal.
Gould, Jay. A collection of seven signed items, including three autograph letters signed; three letters signed and a stock note, 13 pages various sizes, 16 February 1871 to 18 July 1885 to various correspondences on matters of expanding the Erie Railways in the United States.
Huntington, Collis P. Two stock certificates for the Newport News and Mississippi Valley Company, signed by Huntington as President, 14 January 1889. One is printed in green and black with an engraved American eagle and shield in the lower center, with a steamship to the left and a railroad scene to the right. The second is printed in crimson and black, with an emblematic vignette of the American eagle in the lower center.
Lesseps, Ferdinand de. A collection of five autograph letters signed (“Ferd. De Lesseps”), 9 pages various sizes, Paris, 5 July 1862 to 29 June 1890, to various recipients, in French on the progress of the building of the Suez Canal.
Morgan, J. Pierpont. A railroad bond for the New Jersey Junction Railroad Company, signed by Morgan on the verso as trustee, 30 June 1886. The $1,000 certificate is decorated with scrollwork and a vignette of a ferry under steam in a crowded harbor; 158 coupons are attached.
Stephenson, George. Autograph letter signed (“Geo Stephenson”), 2 pages octavo, Valley Railway Co., 11 April 1847 to F. Swanwick of the Midland Railway concerning a new railway project. I have had a long conversation with Richardson about Mr. Hall’s coal and the crossing the railway at Long Eaton. I find there is too much coal yet to be worked on the west side of the Railway so as to prevent any attempts to buy the road off…
Vanderbilt, Cornelius. An autograph letter signed twice (“C VanDerbilt”), 1 page small oblong quarto, New York, 28 April 1827. A shipping document from the Commodore’s early career, comprising an expense account relating to the furnishing of supplies for the steamboat Swan.
Vanderbilt, Cornelius Jr. Autograph letter signed (“Vanderbilt”), 3 pages octavo, Paris, 11 March 1880 to J.J. Brown. I expect to leave on Gallia and be due on Tuesday or Wednesday April 13 or 14. I will look out for you along, as I do not expect any boat to meet me. Say nothing about the ship I am coming in. I shall only have 3 or 4 trunks as I am coming alone and will look for you. I have seen much of Monsieur. He is well and in good spirits and refers to the old times with pleasure.
Vanderbilt, William Henry. Two autograph letters signed, 2 pages quarto, New York, 15 September 1871 and 21 March 1855 to various recipients regarding property and tenancy.
Villard, Henry. Autograph letter signed, 1 page octavo, New York, 31 December 1879 to Mr. Schultze, in German. I thank you most kindly for your friendly letter…and can only repeat that it was a great pleasure for me to help you in the O.R. & N. transaction. I hope that your new year will also be a prosperous one. Estimated $5,000 - $8,000
69. Sherman, William Tecumseh. A fine collection of nine letters spanning two decades after the War Between the States. Highlights include:
Autograph letter signed (“W.T. Sherman”), 3 pages quarto, Saint Louis, Missouri, 30 June 1867, to his foster brother and former General Thomas Ewing Jr. Sherman, now the Commander of the Department of the Missouri and the future Commanding General of the U.S. Army is not about to show favoritism to family when it comes to duty and has some stern advice for his younger foster brother, Charley: …As to Charley…He is a [Regular Army] captain of a Company & should be with his men or should make a vacancy now. He has no wife to trifle with the lives of men. He does the Army a great wrong by making it a mere personal commission. Were I in Chief Command and he or anybody else would prolong a leave of absence…and when he had exhausted every possible device, then concluded to serve another year to prepare to resign, I would announce his Resignation accepted, and declare a vacancy & fill it…Out on the Plains we are embarrassed beyond all measure by such cases, and I think some one must adopt a Rule as was done in the War. Declare all absentees discharged & fill the list with officers ‘present for duty’. It would result in personal hardship – but war is a hard master. It would not spare me, and I don’t see why I should not claim its Rules…
Autograph letter, 2 pages, quarto, U.S. Naval Academy, Annapolis, Maryland, 8 December 1868, to an unnamed general. Sherman turns down an invitation to a reunion and comments: I would not be surprised if this were the last meeting held by your Association, as General Grants election has brought such actual Peace, that there is not a part of a peg even, to hang an excitement on. Your old Army Corps will in the net four years have almost forgotten that there has been anything like war…Perhaps it is just as well that it should be so, and that there should be nothing to remind us of the strife through which we have passed.
Autograph letter signed (“W.T. Sherman”), 4 pages octavo, Washington, D.C., 20 August 1876, on imprinted stationery of the Headquarters Army of the United States, to a Mr. Andersind. He writes in part: …Indian news pretty much as you see in the papers. I hope that Terry & Crook will overtake the Indians before they can possibly get across the Yellowstone. President & Secretary are gone, and I see no chance of anything to be done here…
Autograph letter signed (“W.T. Sherman”), 12 pages octavo, Washington, D.C., 7 November 1879, on imprinted stationery of the Headquarters Army of the United States, to General Henry Cist in Cincinnati, Ohio. Sherman clarifies promotions of some of the Unions most iconic generals at the time where U.S. Grant assumed the presidency and Sherman came to command the entire army.When I was summoned from St. Louis to Washington in March 1869 with notice that I should succeed Genl. Grant, as General of the army, on the 4th as soon as he was installed as President I found General Thomas here on a Court of Inquiry…General Grant explained to us that he intended to nominate Sheridan as Lt. General and that he had promised Gen. Meade to create for him the Division of the Atlantic…I…tried to start a plan to make three Lt. Genls so as to give deserved promotion, to all three of these most meritorious officers, but some discovered that Congress was in no mood to do so generous and act…we were forced to accept the Law as it then stood; vis one General, one Lt. General, Five Maj. Generals, and ten Brigadeers…
Autograph letter signed (“W.T. Sherman”), 4 pages octavo, Washington, D.C., 6 December 1881, on imprinted stationery of the Headquarters Army of the United States, to Colonel Herbert E. Hill, Boston, Massachusetts; tipped onto a larger sheet of paper. Sherman shows his ‘no frills’ practical side when he answers a request for a loan of an artifact from the “March to the Sea”: …your letter of Nov. 29. Asking the loan of the sword or sabre I wore during the famous March to the Sea for exhibition at the Fair in the interest of a Soldiers Home…the truth was I did not have a sword or sabre during that march nor at any time after…The only honest Relic I possess of that march is my Saddle, a Grimsley, which I value for its real goodness…Still…I have sent it to you by Adams & co Express, and hereby certify that I actually used that saddle during the war from about July 1862 till the end…When you are done with my saddle, please send it back to me…as I have confidence in this saddle and propose to use it as long as I am able to ride…
Autograph letter signed (“W.T. Sherman”), 3 pages octavo, Washington, D.C., 5 April 1883, on imprinted stationery of the Headquarters Army of the United States, to E.V. Smalley, an author, in New York. Sherman comments on the close cooperation of the Army and the railroads, which were key to the development of the American West and was arguably the most important role of the Army during Sherman’s post Civil War service. He writes in part: I…am gratified to know that the officers of the Northern Pacific Railroad recognize the fact that the Army has in all its stages aided in the location and construction of the most important highway…I know that the standing order and instructions from Army Head Quarters have been to afford any possible protection and assistance…
Autograph letter signed (“W.T. Sherman”), 3 pages octavo, St. Louis, Missouri, 13 November 1883, to E.V. Smalley, New York, on his imprinted stationery. After just having stepped down as General of the Army, Sherman reviews a proof from E.V. Smalley and wishes to protect a friendship while still dealing with his earlier label of insanity. He writes in part: …I thought I would prefer you should omit all mention of Mr Camerons name in connection with the Story of my insanity in 1861. The full meaning can be conveyed by simply saying that the report went to Press by ‘some one’ from the War Department. My belief is that Adjutant General Thomas in some notes of our Louisville Conversation used the Expression ‘ that General Sherman made the insane request for 60,000 men now, and that 200,000 would be needed before long’…Mr. Cameron & I are strong friends and I would not willingly be priory to associating his name with that story…
Autograph letter signed (“W.T. Sherman”), 8 pages octavo, St. Louis, Missouri, 9 June 1884, to Mrs. Andersind, on his imprinted stationery. A year out of the Army, Sherman adjusts to civilian life and indicates how he wishes to live going forward. He writes in part: …I do honestly want to live out the balance of my days in peace…I have just escaped a just danger. Certain persons were determined in case the Chicago Convention could not agree as between Blaine & Arthur to nominate me. I could not decline till the nomination was actually made, and could only say that such was my intention. Fortunately for me Blaine secured the nomination which left me free. So I can now fulfill my purpose to live out my time in comparative peace – unless the women folks, who seem to have been at the bottom of all mischief since mother…succeed in poisoning the first fruits, and I hope you will prove man enough to keep the devil, suspicion & mistrust out of our small military family till I am decently buried…
Autograph letter signed (“W.T. Sherman”), 3 pages octavo, New York, 29 September 1886, to Mrs. Turner. Sherman, enjoying people and traveling, writes to friends in the St. Louis area. He writes in part: I got back to New York last night and found your kind invitation to attend Delphine’s wedding Oct. 6…I cannot possibly come out at that date, but have promised some friends to be at St. Louis Oct. 30th and will try to come out to the Shelter to see you all...I doubt if we ever again will reside in Saint Louis, but if my present health and strength continue it is likely I may make frequent trips during which I shall endeavor always to see you and yours…
A fine collection of letters from the iconic general. $10,000 - $15,000
83. Wright, Orville. Highly important typed letter signed (“Wilbur and Orville Wright per O. Wright”) (Orville signs for both brothers), 2 pages (11 x 8.5 in.; 279 x 216 mm.), Dayton, Ohio, 17 November 1905, to Carl Dienstbach, a New York City musician and the U.S. correspondent for the German journal “Illustrierte Aeronautische Mitteilungen,” on “Wright Cycle Company, 1127 West Third Street, Dayton, Ohio” letterhead stationery, with Orville’s handwritten postscript added at the end of the letter.
Orville Wright writes in full: Dear Mr. Diensbach:- A good deal of doubt seems to exist in Europe as to whether there is any truth in the reports that have been made concerning our flights of 1903 and 1904; and it is not at all surprising, under the circumstances, since there has never been any account of any one having seen them, except the inventors themselves. There have been a number of witnesses to every flight we have made in the last three years. The flights near Kitty Hawk were seen by nearly all the men at the U.S. Kill Devil Life Saving Station, who were present, and by the Captain of the Kitty Hawk Station, who viewed the flights through a glass. The flights in 1904 were witnessed by the farmers on the surrounding farms, besides a number of citizens of Dayton, whom we had invited. Mr. A. I Root, of Medina, Ohio, was also present a number of times, and wrote an account of what he saw for his journal, ‘Gleanings in Bee Culture’, for January 1st, 1905.
The longer flights this year were witnessed by a number of citizens of Dayton, among whom were Mr. Torrence Huffman, President Fourth National Bank; Mr. C. S. Billman, Secretary West Side Building & Loan Company; and Mr. Edgar W. Ellis, Assistant Auditor of City of Dayton. If you or the Editor of your journal wish to make a personal investigation of the matter, we have no doubt any of these gentlemen would take pleasure corroborating the fact that they were present when flights of fifteen to twenty-four miles were made. We would not want their names published, as they would no doubt be flooded with inquiries. None of these gentlemen have any financial interest in our machine, either directly or indirectly. Respectfully yours, Wilbur and Orville Wright per O. Wright
We are sending you under separate cover copy of Gleaning of June 1st 1905 (postscript entirely in Orville Wright’s hand).
The first reports of the Wright brothers’ historic 17 December 1903 flight were grossly distorted in the European press, where pioneer aviators had been frantically trying to catch up with the Wrights’ accomplishments. In 1903, the Wright Brothers had made the first sustained powered flights. In 1904, a new aeroplane enabled them to accomplish turns and closed circuits. Then, in 1905, they exceeded the flying time of half an hour. The Wright brothers were at the forefront of aviation.
On Tuesday, 3 October 1905, Orville flew 15 miles around and around the field at Huffman Prairie, landing after 25 minutes. The next day, he flew for 33 minutes. Then, on the afternoon of 5 October 1905, Wilbur Wright took the controls and made a sensational record-breaking 24 1/5 mile, 38-minute flight at an average speed of 38 miles per hour. At first, witnesses to the flights at Huffman Prairie included only a few friends, Bishop Milton Wright, Lorin Wright and his family, and banker Torrence Huffman. Until the 3rd flight, the trials were held in absolute secrecy, attended only by invited guests (a few influential civil leaders and local merchants and businessmen). Each day after that, more witnesses appeared; Wilbur’s record-breaking flight was witnessed by at least fifteen individuals. Wilbur was able to identify only three of them by name. After a news item appeared in the Dayton Daily News on 5 October, there were so many men and women lining the fences at Huffman Prairie that flights had to be discontinued until the excitement died down.
The press had been kept in ignorance of the experiments at Huffman Prairie to avoid the extreme distortions of fact that followed the flights at Kill Devil Hills in 1903. After Wilbur’s record flight of 38 minutes, they decided to send out accounts of what they had accomplished in 1905. Three journalists were chosen to receive the Wright brothers’ announcement in the form of a letter sent on 17 November 1905: Georges Besanton, Editor of the French monthly “L’Aérophile”; Carl Dienstbach, New York representative of the German journal “Illustrierte Aeronautische Mitteilungen”; and Patrick Alexander, a member of the Aeronautical Society of Great Britain.
The present letter is the actual letter the brothers sent to Dienstbach. It was printed in the February 1906 issue of Dienstbach’s German journal , with observations by the editor which questioned the credibility of the Wrights’ letter and informed readers that the Wright brothers had referred to Kaiser Wilhelm as a disturber of the peace in Europe. The attack came as a result of the publication in the French journal “L’Aérophile” (December, 1905) of two letters written by the Wrights to Captain Ferdinand Ferber. In one, a reference to Kaiser Wilhelm had been translated into French in such a way that it could be construed as an insult. As a result of the damning article in Dienstbach’s publication, the Wright brothers’ claims were widely disbelieved in Germany. In contrast, the claims were just as widely believed in England, where their letter had been read to the Aeronautical Society at the Society’s 15 December meeting in London. In France, where their letter was published in advance in the 30 November issue of “L’Auto,” a daily for sports fans published in Paris, the reaction was one of utter disbelief. The French had found it hard to believe that Wright had made four flights of less than a minute in 1903. Now, they found it even harder to believe that they were now making flights of more than half an hour in 1905.
Provenance: Christie’s, New York, 5 December 1991, lot140.
$15,000 - $25,000
My point about this sale is that there is substance in every lot. A collector built an exceptional collection purchase by purchase and we are seeing the reemergence of the material in a series of important lots.
Here is a link to the auction – now posted on Invaluable.