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The Alexander Hamilton Collection: The Story of the Revolution and Founding

[REVOLUTIONARY WAR AND FOUNDING], The Collection features Highly Important Original Letters, Documents, & Imprints representing not just Hamilton, but also Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Paine, Burr, the Schuyler Sisters and Brothers, & Many More. Telling political and personal tales of the brilliant and sometimes tragic Founders, this Collection of more than 1,100 original documents is offered as a whole, but can be reconstituted to make it most appropriate for Federal Hall.

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Can you imagine a nation with no uniting banking system or currency? With insufficient revenue for even the most necessary expenses? With no ability to act as one nation on the world stage?

Clearly, Washington needed a right-hand man for the incredibly detailed work of building a government, formulating plans, and bringing them from conception to completion. His choice was obvious. Alexander Hamilton had revealed his unique energy and capability throughout the Revolutionary War, at the Constitutional Convention, and in the ratification battles. 

On September 11, 1789, the same day Washington signed his letters transmitting the Act of Congress Establishing the Treasury Department, he made his first cabinet nomination: Alexander Hamilton as Secretary of the Treasury. Within hours, the Senate confirmed the appointment.

The financial system Hamilton designed created the possibility of a real United States of America, whose founding purpose was to advance the rights of the people to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

Item #24685, $2,600,000

The Declaration of Independence
Rare Broadside Printed and Posted in July, 1776

[DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE], Broadside. [Exeter, New Hampshire: attributed Robert Luist Fowle], [ca. July 16-19, 1776], two-column format, sheet size approx. 15⅛ x 19⅝ in. Pin holes in three corners, with the upper-left corner torn in approx the same position, indicates that this was posted publicly to spread the momentous news.

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Broadsides such as this fanned the flames of independence. Passed from hand to hand, read aloud at town gatherings, or posted in public places, broadsides (single pages with print only one side) were meant to quickly convey news. Including the present copy, there are fewer than a dozen examples of this Exeter, N.H. printing known. Pin holes in three corners and the torn upper-left corner suggest this example was posted publicly.

In a way, this Declaration broadside is even more “original” than the signed manuscript pictured by most Americans. This is not yet “The Unanimous Declaration of the thirteen United States,” but rather “A Declaration, by the Representatives of the United States of America, in General Congress assembled.” On July 4,  New York’s delegation abstained from voting for independence. After replacing their delegates, New York joined the other 12 colonies.

Moreover, as here on the broadside, the July 4 Declaration was signed by only two men: Continental Congress President John Hancock and Secretary Charles Thomson (here with the common variant “Thompson”). After New York came on board, Congress resolved on July 19 to have the Declaration engrossed with a new title: “The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America.” Most of the 56 signers affixed their names on the engrossed document on August 2, 1776, with some added even later.

Thus, broadsides such as this one preserve the text of the Declaration of Independence as it actually was issued in July of 1776.

Item #21991.99, PRICE ON REQUEST

Assailing the Pennsylvania “Board of Censors”
for Failing to Amend the Constitution

[PENNSYLVANIA CONSTITUTION], Broadside. An Alarm. To the Freemen and Electors of Pennsylvania. [Philadelphia, Pa.], October 1, 1784. 1 p., 16½ x 21 in.

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Item #22886, $4,800

The United States Constitution – Very Rare October 1, 1787 Connecticut Printing In Bound Volumes of The American Mercury, 1785-1788

[CONSTITUTION], Newspaper. The American Mercury, Two Bound Volumes, published in Hartford, Connecticut, each 10 x 16 in., in original quarter sheepskin and paper boards. Covers inscribed with name of owner*, Charles D’W. Brownell of Bristol, Rhode Island. Vol. IV, No. 169. The first volume contains 99 issues from February 7, 1785 to December 25, 1786, missing seven. The second volume runs from January 1, 1787 to December 29, 1788, likewise missing seven.

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WE, the People of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common Defence, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this constitution of the United States of America.”

Item #26054, ON HOLD

New Hampshire Addresses Articles of Confederation’s Weakness by Giving Congress the Right to Negotiate Trade and Tariff Deals – But Only if All 13 States Agree

NEW HAMPSHIRE, General Court, Manuscript Document Signed by a Clerk, June 23, 1785, [Exeter], New Hampshire. Blindstamped “Archives de Chastellux” at top left. 2 pp., 8 x 13½ in., 6/23/1785.

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“the united States in Congress assembled, be, and they hereby are vested, with full power, and authority, in the part, and in the behalf of this State, to make and enter into such general ordinances, and treaties for the due regulation of the trade, and commerce of the united States, as they may judge best calculated to promote the weal, and prosperity thereof…”

Act grants the Confederation Congress the power to negotiate commercial treaties and collect duties to be used to pay down Revolutionary War debt. However, contrary to the Articles of Confederation Congress, N.H. agrees only if every other state agrees, as opposed to the two-thirds vote requested.

Item #25023.02, $3,000

Due to Articles of Confederation’s Weakness, New Hampshire’s Legislature Moves to Regulates and Encourages Trade – Separate from the Other States

NEW HAMPSHIRE GENERAL COURT, Manuscript Document Signed by a Clerk, June 23, 1785, [Exeter], New Hampshire. Blindstamped “Archives de Chastellux” at top left. 4 pp., 8 x 13½ in., 6/23/1785.

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New Hampshire Act providing “for the Regulation of navigation and commerce,” featuring strict prohibitions against imports to or exports from New Hampshire in ships “being the property of any of the Subjects of the King of Great-Britain.” It also establishes mechanisms for enforcement and penalties for disregarding the law.

“any vessels, which may appear to have two setts of papers; by the one of which they may appear to be the property of the citizens of the united States, and by the other, the property of foreigners… if it shall be made to appear, that any vessel, that is cleared at the naval office in this state, as the property of the citizens of these States, shall afterwards enter, and discharge her cargo taken in, and cleared as aforesaid, in any foreign port, as the property of a foreigner, said vessel, upon her return into this state, shall be forfeited, and may be seized by the naval officer of this [state]”

Item #25023.01, $2,000

Harvard’s 1786 Graduating Class and Their Theses, Dedicated to Gov. James Bowdoin

HARVARD COLLEGE, Broadside. List of Graduating Students and Theses for Disputation. Boston, Massachusetts: Edmund Freeman, 1786. 1 p., 16 x 24 in.

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Interesting broadside in Latin issued for Harvard University’s 1786 commencement lists Latinized names of 45 graduating students. Among the graduates are Joseph Warren (1768-1790), the son of prominent Boston physician and Harvard graduate Joseph Warren, who was killed at the Battle of Bunker Hill in 1775; Boston attorney Timothy Bigelow (1767-1821); U.S. Senator Christopher G. Champlin (1768-1840); Boston attorney John Lowell Jr. (1769-1840), whose grandson served as president of Harvard in the early twentieth century; U.S. Senator Thomas W. Thompson (1766-1821); and Massachusetts Chief Justice Isaac Parker (1768-1830).

Item #23331, $1,950

Frustrated by Articles of Confederation, America’s Credit and Inability to Regulate Commerce, Adams Fails to Negotiate Treaty with Britain

JOHN ADAMS, Autograph Letter Signed, to Elbridge Gerry, May 24, 1786, Grosvenor Square [London]. 4 pp., 7⅞ x 12⅝ in.

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In London to negotiate a commercial treaty with Britain, Adams writes of his inability to succeed with the British ministry because the states are not strong enough to support their own credit and regulate their own trade. Addressing his critics in Congress, Adams says anyone who thinks they can do better is welcome to his job. “A more disagreable Situation than mine no Man ever held in Life…making brick without straw, which has been my employment ever since I have been in Europe…was never reckoned an easy or pleasant task, from the days of the Israelites in Egypt…

Item #21463.99, $90,000

George Clinton—as First Governor of New York State—Confirms 1707 Hardenbergh Patent of Over 1,500,000 Acres in the Catskill Mountains “Sold” by Native Americans

GEORGE CLINTON, Document Signed, Land Patent, June 11, 1786. Includes attached Great Seal of New York, made from beeswax, covered with parchment, then embossed with brass matrix. 6 pp., 14¼ x 17½ in. with 3½ in. seal.

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Item #24362, $2,500

Significant Collection of the Worcester Magazine, Publisher Isaiah Thomas’ Protest against Advertising Tax. Filled with News of Shays’ Rebellion, and Federalist and Anti-Federalist Essays

ISAIAH THOMAS, Magazine. Worcester Magazine, 56 issues from September 1786 to March 1788. Worcester, MA: Isaiah Thomas. Each issue approximately 16 pp., 5½ x 9½ in.

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In 1785, the state of Massachusetts instituted a stamp tax on newspapers but soon replaced it with a tax on newspaper advertisements. To protest the tax on advertisements, Thomas suspended his weekly newspaper, Thomas’s Massachusetts Spy; or, the Worcester Gazette, at the end of March 1786. In April 1786, Thomas began publishing the Worcester Magazine, which was not subject to the tax, as a substitute for the Massachusetts Spy. Although a magazine in name, the Worcester Magazine continued the same kind of news as Thomas had printed in his newspaper. Its most valuable features were political pieces and “intelligence,” including essays for and against the new proposed U.S. Constitution. It also included a series entitled “The Worcester Speculator” (16 essays from September 1787 to March 1788), along with agricultural articles, medical notes, recipes, anecdotes, and other items.

Thomas continued publishing the Worcester Magazine for twenty-four months (approximately 104 issues) until Massachusetts repealed the advertising tax effective in March 1788, then Thomas resumed publishing the Massachusetts Spy on April 3, 1788. The Worcester Magazine includes extensive coverage of the Massachusetts Ratifying Convention to consider the proposed federal Constitution, which met from January 9 to February 6, 1788.

Ownership signatures of “Coln E. Crafts” on some issues indicate they belonged to Ebenezer Crafts (1740-1810). Crafts was born in Connecticut and graduated from Yale College in 1759. He purchased a farm and built a tavern in Sturbridge, Massachusetts. During the Revolutionary War, he commanded a company of cavalry as captain. From 1785 to 1791, Crafts led a regiment of cavalry from Worcester County, Massachusetts, and he helped suppress Shays’ Rebellion in 1786-1787. He was one of the founders of Leicester Academy in Leicester, Massachusetts, and later moved to northern Vermont, where he helped found Craftsbury, which was named after him.

Item #24829, $14,500

The Constitutional Convention, Pennsylvania Ratification Debates, and More

[U.S. CONSTITUTION], The Pennsylvania Herald, and General Advertiser, January 3 to December 29, 1787. Philadelphia: Mathew Carey, Christopher Talbot, and William Spotswood. Bound volume of 83 issues of 4 pages each. 332 pp., 11 x 19 x 1½ in. Normally published semi-weekly on Wednesdays and Saturdays, but from September 11 to October 6, it was published on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays. (Lacking issues of Jan. 20, 24, 27, 31, Feb. 3, 7, 17, 24, March 17, May 9, 12, 16, 23, July 4, 14, 18, 28, Aug. 11, Sept. 11, 20, 29, Oct. 2, 31, Dec. 1, 5.)

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The year 1776 is celebrated, says a correspondent, for a revolution in favour of liberty. The year 1787, it is expected will be celebrated with equal joy, for a revolution in favour of government. The impatience with which all classes of people wait to receive the new federal constitution, can only be equalled by their zealous determination to support it.” Sept. 8, 1787.

This fascinating extensive run of the Pennsylvania Herald gives a sense of the anticipation over the results of the closed-door U.S. Constitutional Convention, which deliberated from May through September in Philadelphia. It follows with in-depth coverage of the debates in the Pennsylvania Ratification Convention in November and December, also in Philadelphia.

Item #24828, $48,000

The Federalist, Written to Support the Constitution During Ratification Battle

ALEXANDER HAMILTON, JAMES MADISON, AND JOHN JAY, Book. The Federalist: A Collection of Essays Written in Favor of the New Constitution, as Agreed upon by the Federal Convention, September 17, 1787. First edition. New York: John and Andrew M’Lean, Two volumes. 1788.

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“it seems to have been reserved to the people of this country to decide, by their conduct and example, the important question, whether societies of men are really capable or not, of establishing good government from reflection and choice, or whether they are forever destined to depend, for their political constitutions, on accident and force.”

Item #25874, $130,000

Rare First Printing of the U.S. Constitution

[U.S. CONSTITUTION], Newspaper. The Independent Gazetteer, or, the Chronicle of Freedom. Philadelphia: Eleazer Oswald, September 19, 1787. 4 pp.

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We, the People of the United States…

This rare complete printing of the Constitution appeared on the first day it was publicly available, Wednesday, September 19, 1787. That same morning, the Constitution was published by four other papers, the Pennsylvania Packet, and Daily Advertiser, Pennsylvania Journal, Pennsylvania Gazette and Freeman’s Journal. The Independent Gazetteer is unique, in that it is the only one of the five first-day printings whose type was evidently not used to print another, stand-alone edition.

Item #21085.99, $325,000

Benjamin Franklin Presents the Constitution
to the Pennsylvania State Legislature;
A Nantucket Indian Creation Myth

[CONSTITUTION], Newspaper. Pennsylvania Packet and General Advertiser, September 21, 1787. John Dunlap, Philadelphia, Pa., 4 pp., 12 x 18¾ in.

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Item #21449.18, $1,800

The United States Constitution – Early Connecticut Printing

[CONSTITUTION], Newspaper. The New-Haven Gazette, and The Connecticut Magazine. September 27, 1787. M.DCC.LXXXVII (No 32.) Printed and Published by Josiah Meigs. Signed in type by George Washington and the other 38 delegates who signed the Constitution. 8 pp. Quarto (8.625 x 10.125 inches). ([249]-256, though what should be page 255 is mis-numbered 247, as is the case with the other copies we have seen of this edition). Accompanied by title and index leaves printed slightly later, for binding after end of year.

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WE, the People of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common Defence, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this constitution of the United States of America.”

Item #26098, $20,000

Confederation Congress sends proposed Constitution to the states for ratification

[U.S. CONSTITUTION], Newspaper. The Pennsylvania Packet, and Daily Advertiser. October 1, 1787 (No. 2700), Philadelphia: John Dunlap and David C. Claypoole, including the September 28 resolution of the Confederation Congress to send to the states for ratification the recently completed U. S. Constitution. 4 pp., 12 x 18¾ in.

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Item #24135, $4,750

Iconic Pillars Illustration -- Celebrating Massachusetts’ Ratification and the Process of Erecting the “great federal superstructure”

[CONSTITUTION], Newspaper. Massachusetts Centinel, February 13, 1788 (Volume VIII, pp. 171-174). Boston: Benjamin Russell. 4 pp., 9⅝ x 14⅞ in.

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This newspaper is replete with Constitution-related content, including minutes from the debates of Massachusetts’ State Ratifying Convention – everything from discourse on standing armies to Fisher Ames’ hearkening back to 1775 with, “WE MUST UNITE OR DIE”; a poem to Washington on his birthday; a fictional dialogue, The Federal Anti-Federalist, Returned to His Neighbours; a rare example of one of Benjamin Russell’s famed ‘Pillars’ illustration series; and a great deal of reporting on the popular reception of the news of ratification, expressed in particular by an enormous parade and surrounding celebrations.

Item #24836, $4,750

Maryland Ratifies the Constitution, Suggests Amendments; and Pennsylvanians Speak Out Against the Slave Trade

[CONSTITUTION], Newspaper. Independent Gazetteer; or, The Chronicle of Freedom, Philadelphia, Pa., May 6, 1788. 4 pp., 9½ x 11½ in.

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The Maryland ratifying convention suggests some amendments along with their approval of the Constitution.

Item #30007.003, $950

John Hancock Addresses Massachusetts Legislature

[JOHN HANCOCK], Newspaper. Massachusetts Centinel, Boston, Mass., June 4, 1788. 4 pp., 9½ x 14½ in. Trimmed close at bottom edge, with minor text loss to pp. 3-4 but not affecting Hancock’s speech. “X”s mark certain columns for reading or copying.

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Item #20650.31, $450

A History of Harvard University; North Carolina Debates Ratifying the Constitution; and a List of Newly-Minted U.S. Senators

[CONSTITUTION], Magazine. The Columbian Magazine, Philadelphia, Pa., December, 1788. 52 pp., 5 x 8 in. Lacking plates.

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Item #30007.048, $275
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