Young America Takes Center Stage At R&R’s January Auction

AMHERST, NH-Though war and peace alike, America’s first century of independence produced some remarkable figures, as is clear from the offerings in R&R Enterprises’ January auction. Among the nearly 1,500 items to be auctioned are several notable offerings representing every facet of the American experience in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, from politics to the arts and sciences, from enterprising immigrants who weaved themselves into the tapestry of American life to the Native Americans who were increasingly marginalized throughout the nineteenth century and beyond.

America’s Founding Fathers are well represented, led by a handwritten petition from George Washington seeking land for veterans of the French and Indian War (including himself) and a document signed by him as president of the Potomack Company. John Adams extols the virtues of Indian corn in a fascinating and detailed letter, striking an unintentionally ironic note with his observation that without it our Ancestors could not have subsisted and maintained possession of this Country.² In a rare 1803 letter to his daughter Maria, Thomas Jefferson discusses his view of Christianity, an aspect of his thinking which has fascinated scholars and historians ever since. In a move anticipating Donald Trump by two centuries, Alexander Hamilton examines in detail the legal aspects of an historic real estate deal involving Paulus Hook, the historic community in present-day Jersey City, New Jersey.

Art and politics meet in a lengthy and highly important letter from artist George Catlin to Congress. Catlin, famed for his monumental cycle of paintings of Native Americans and their customs, aka the Indian Gallery, toiled for more than a decade on the project, which came to comprise more than 600 works. In the 1846 letter, Catlin outlines at length the considerable labor and expense that went into the Indian Gallery, which he hoped above all to keep intact as the nucleus of a Museum of Mankind. Reminding Congress of a previous, never-acted-upon resolution to subsidize the project, Catlin pleads for funds once again, hinting that a tour of the works throughout Europe resulted in several respectable offers. Though Congress ultimately failed to act on Catlin’s behalf, a Philadelphia businessman later took possession of the entire collection as security for bailing Catlin out of debt, and it was eventually gifted to the Smithsonian Institution, where it resides today.

The spirit of invention lives on in a fine 1871 letter from Samuel F. B. Morse, mentioning the telegraph and describing his efforts to fend off patent pirates. Alexander Graham Bell announces the birth of a baby Bell, his daughter, Elsie, in an 1878 letter in which he also promises to replace some dissatisfactory telephones with more perfect instruments.

Also to be offered are a varied selection of items related to the Indian Wars, including the crushing defeat of George Armstrong Custer and his Seventh Cavalry at the Battle of Little Bighorn in 1876. In a letter written seven years to the day before the infamous debacle, General Philip Sheridan, Custer’s Civil War commander, writes to Custer with hopes to see him again at a soldiers’ reunion, if things look peaceful. Custer himself is represented in an 1866 letter rescheduling an appointment with the man who later became the official historian of the Battle of Gettysburg, while two figures from the ³other² side of the conflict-Sitting Bull and his nephew, One Bull-are represented by superb and very rare ink signatures obtained during an 1884 visit to St. Paul, Minnesota.

R&R Enterprises’ next auction begins on December 31 and ends on January 16. Bids are accepted online or via telephone, fax, or e-mail. For information or to consign to future auctions, visit the R&R web site at www.rrauction.com or contact Elizebeth Otto at elizebeth@rrauction.com.