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Charles Thomson’s Secret Journal of the Confederation Congress, Including Detailed Description of the Great Seal and Negotiations for the Treaty of Paris to End the Revolutionary War

CHARLES THOMSON, Manuscript Document, Journal as Secretary of Confederation Congress, 1782-1783. 104 pp., 6½ x 7⅞ in. Contemporary marbled boards; sympathetically rebacked; burgundy cloth chemise and slipcase, burgundy morocco spine lettered gilt. Together with: Mrs. Charles Thomson’s three calling cards.

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The Devise for an Armorial Achievement and reverse of a great Seal for the United States.... The Escutcheon on the breast of the American bald Eagle displayed...and in his beak a scroll inscribed with this motto ‘E pluribus unum.’

This remarkable handwritten journal includes a description of the Great Seal of the United States; Thomson is now credited with being the final designer. There is also a crucial diplomatic report by Edmund Randolph entitled “Facts and Observations in support of the several claims of the United States not included in their Ultimatum of the 15 of June, 1781”; the text of the Preliminary Articles of Peace between the United States of America and Great Britain, signed on November 30, 1782; summaries of the treaties between Great Britain and France and Great Britain and Spain, signed on January 20, 1783; and correspondence in French between British negotiator Alleyne Fitz Herbert and American Peace Commissioners John Adams and Benjamin Franklin, also of January 20, 1783.

Randolph’s report comprises two thirds of the text in this journal and was not made public until 1820-1821, when the “Secret Journals” of Congress were first published under the direction of President James Monroe in conformity with resolutions of Congress.

Item #26592, $925,000

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, $450,000

Thomas Jefferson’s Tragic Loss Sparks Famous Reconciliation with John Adams

THOMAS JEFFERSON, Autograph Letter Signed as President, to John W. Eppes, June 4, 1804, Washington D.C. 2 pp., 7¾ x 10 in.

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A remarkable, poignant letter from a crucial chapter in Jefferson’s life, his presidency, anticipating his famous reconciliation with his predecessor and longtime compatriot, Adams, but still holding one grudge. “He [John Adams] & myself have gone through so many scenes together…that I have never withdrawn my esteem, and I am happy that this letter gives an opportunity of expressing it to both of them. I shall do it with a frank declaration that one act of his life, & never but one, gave me personal displeasure, his midnight appointments. A respect for him will not permit me to ascribe that altogether to the influence of others, it will leave something for friendship to forgive.

Item #21161.99, $180,000

Thomas Jefferson Signed Judiciary Act of 1793

THOMAS JEFFERSON, Printed Document Signed, as Secretary of State, “An Act in addition to the act, entitled, ‘An act to establish the judicial Courts of the United States,’” Philadelphia, March 2, 1793. 2 pp., 9⅝ x 15⅛ in.

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That the attendance of only one of the justices of the supreme court, at the several circuit courts of the United States, to be hereafter held, shall be sufficient....

At the request of Congress, Attorney General Edmund Randolph offered his critique of the new federal justice system with suggestions for improvements (see #26590). Chief among them was his recommendation to remove justices of the Supreme Court from their circuit court duties to allow them to focus on more important appellate decisions.[1] Soon after, all of the Supreme Court Justices together wrote to President Washington complaining of the burden of their duties. Congress took up the issue two days after Washington mentioned it in his November 6, 1792 State of the Union Address, and a day after he forwarded the Justices’ letter to Congress. This Act was passed on February 27, and signed into law by Washington on March 3, 1793.

Jefferson was required by a prior Act to authenticate two copies for each state of ever Act of Congress. By this time, there were 15 states, so Jefferson would have signed only 30 copies, of which very few survive. 



[1] Edmund Randolph, Report of the Attorney-General. Read in the House of Representatives, December 31, 1790 (Philadelphia: Francis Childs & John Swaine, 1791), 7-10.

Item #26594.99, $150,000

Washington Privately Asks John Jay If He Will Replace Pinckney as Minister to London

GEORGE WASHINGTON, Autograph Letter Signed as President, to John Jay, April 29, 1794, Philadelphia, [Pa.] 2 pp., 9 x 7¼ in.

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President Washington, in a letter marked “Secret & confidential,” asks Chief Justice John Jay to consider becoming the U.S. Minister in London and discusses the difficulty in finding ministers to France. “Secret & confidential…after you shall have finished your business as Envoy, and not before, to become the Resident Minister Plenipotentiary at London....

Item #21635.99, $140,000

Jefferson-Signed Patent Act of 1793

THOMAS JEFFERSON, Printed Document Signed as Secretary of State, An act to promote the progress of useful arts, and to repeal the act heretofore made for that purpose, February 21, 1793. Signed in type by George Washington as President, Jonathan Trumbull as Speaker of the House of Representatives, and John Adams as Vice President and President of the Senate. [Philadelphia: Francis Childs and John Swaine?, 1793], 4 pp. Evans 26309

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Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson signs the second U.S. Patent Act, which played a signal role in the commercial development of the United States. A key difference between this act and the one it replaced was that, in addition to new inventions, patents could be issued for improvements to existing products. The measure helped foster American innovation, successfully ushering the nation into the Industrial Revolution. We locate no other signed copies of this milestone act.

Item #22424.99, $125,000

Jefferson’s Excessively Rare Bill for Establishing Religious Freedom

[THOMAS JEFFERSON], Prominent front-page printing of “A Bill for establishing religious Freedom, (Printed for the Consideration of the People),” The Providence Gazette; and Country Journal (Rhode Island), May 13, 1780, 1:1-2.

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One of the three achievements of which Jefferson was most proud, as listed on his epitaph.

Only the second known newspaper printing, and the first front-page printing.

Item #25999.99, $105,000

John Adams Elevates the “Independent Executive” – With Exclusive Access to State Secrets – Over Public Opinion

JOHN ADAMS, Autograph Letter Signed as Vice President, to Dr. Benjamin Rush, February 1790, Richmond Hill, Mass. 3 pp., 7⅜ x 9 in.

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A revealing letter to fellow Declaration of Independence signer Benjamin Rush, arguing for a strong executive power in a discussion about the Constitution of Pennsylvania. “‘I love my friend as well as you / ‘But why should he obstruct my view?’ contains a Truth, which has laid the foundation for every Despotism and every Absolute Monarchy on Earth… Emulation almost the only Principle of Activity, (except Hunger and Lust) is the cause of all the wars Seditions and Parties in the world …

Item #21178.99, $100,000

Thomas Paine: “Contentment”

THOMAS PAINE, Autograph Poem Signed “T.P.,” to Mrs. Barlow. [c. 1798-1799]. 2 pp., 7¼ x 9⅜ in.

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“This prayer is Common Sense./ Let others choose another plan,/ I mean no fault to find,/ The true Theology of Man/ Is happiness of Mind. T.P.”

The original manuscript of a poem by the great Revolutionary pamphleteer, Thomas Paine, written to Mrs. Joel Barlow, the wife of a famed American poet. In the poem, Paine explains his ideas on happiness and love and makes direct references to America and his most famous work, Common Sense. The poem, entitled “Contentment or, If You Please, Confession,” was written in response to a comment by Mrs. Barlow (the Barlows were living in Paris at the time). Turning away from what he calls “the superstition of scripture Religion,” Paine proposes a new religion—“happiness of mind.”

Item #21491.99, $100,000

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

To Avoid Abuse from “bigots in religion...politics, or...medicine,” Thomas Jefferson Declines to Publish Benjamin Rush’s Private Correspondence

THOMAS JEFFERSON, Autograph Letter Signed, to James Mease. With conjoined franked address leaf in Jefferson’s hand. August 17, 1816. Monticello, [Charlottesville, Va.]. 1 p., 9¾ x 8 in.

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Thomas Jefferson, long since retired to private life, declines the request of Dr. James Mease for copies of Dr. Benjamin Rush’s correspondence with Jefferson. Mease had hoped to include them in a volume of Rush’s letters to be published and specifically requested letters pertaining to Rush’s personal views on religion and politics. After demurring, Jefferson discusses at length the differences between personal and official correspondence, with philosophical thoughts on public versus private expression. He closes with assurances that his decision is nothing personal, and of his great respect for Mease: “I hope, my dear Sir, you will see in my scruples only a sentiment of fidelity to a deceased friend.”

Item #23233, $75,000

Alexander Hamilton’s Initial Steps to Create a National Banking System

Alexander Hamilton, Circular Letter Signed as Secretary of the Treasury, “Alexr Hamilton/Secy of the Treasury,” to Stephen Smith Esq., Collector of the Customs for the Port of Machias, Massachusetts [Maine], September 22, 1789, New York, New York. 2 pp., 7¾ in. x 9¼ in.

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On his 11th day as Secretary of the Treasury, Hamilton orders Customs Collectors to accept Bank of North America and Bank of New York notes as the equivalent of gold or silver, and hints at forthcoming procedures to guard against counterfeit currency.

“In consequence of arrangements lately taken with the Bank of North America, and the Bank of New York for the accommodation of the Government, I am to inform you that it is my desire that the Notes of those Banks payable either on demand, or at no longer period than Thirty days after their respective dates should be received in payment of the duties, as equivalent to Gold and Silver . . .”

Item #26524, $65,000

Congress Begs the States for the Power to Regulate Trade and Negotiate Treaties

CHARLES THOMSON, Document Signed as Secretary of Congress. Resolutions Concerning Foreign Commerce. April 30, 1784, [Annapolis, Maryland]. 1 p., 7¾ x 12¾ in.

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“The fortune of every citizen is interested in the success thereof [of trade]; for it is the constant source of wealth and incentive to industry; and the value of our produce and our land must ever rise or fall in proportion to the prosperous or adverse state of trade.…”

Item #20874.99, $54,000

Jefferson Praises the Spirit of Innovation

THOMAS JEFFERSON, Autograph Letter Signed to Robert Fulton, March 17, 1810, Monticello. 1 p., with autograph address leaf, free franked (“Th: Jefferson”). 7¾ x 9¾ in.

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Jefferson gives succinct expression to some of the prevailing impulses of the Enlightenment – confidence in the future, curiosity, and innovation – in this letter to inventor and entrepreneur Robert Fulton. “I am not afraid of new inventions or improvements, nor bigoted to the practices of our forefathers … Where a new invention is supported by well known principles & promises to be useful, it ought to be tried. Your torpedoes will be to cities what vaccination has been to mankind. It extinguishes their greatest danger.

Item #21474.99, $50,000

Incredible Andrew Jackson Letter to His Wife Rachel, Reacting to the Burning of Washington, D.C., Believing it Will Usher in a Patriotic National Response

ANDREW JACKSON, Autograph letter signed (“Andrew Jackson”) to Rachael Jackson, October 7, 1814. One page, silked, partial fold separations.

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“It appears, that all the Patriots, must have buried themselves on the news of the burning of the capitol, as tho our national existence or liberties depended alone on that gothic mass of costly marble…. it ought and will give impulse to the nation — and every man who has a spark of national-pride, an ounce of love of country, will step forward, and at once blow at it [at] every point, crush the enemies to our country…”

He also mentions a key battle that helped lead to his victory in the Battle of New Orleans.

Item #26263, $48,000

Constitutional Convention, Pennsylvania Ratification Debates, More, in 1787 Newspaper Run

[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

Thomas Paine Tries to Pull Strings in France for an American Friend

THOMAS PAINE, Autograph Letter Signed, to “Citizen Directer” [Philippe-Antoine, Comte Merlin, of Douai]. [ca. 1798-1799, Dieppe, France]. 3 pp., 8⅞ x 5⅞ in.

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Paine writes on behalf of a Connecticut-born merchant-adventurer, Nathan Haley, who had captured an American vessel, the Hare, because it carried British contraband. This occurred in 1797, a year before the “Quasi-War” between the U.S. and France. Haley and Paine were each violently opposed to Britain and to the pro-British Federalist Party in America. This letter does not paint Paine in a good light, as he is, by implication, advocating French attacks on American vessels. Paine refers to his famously harsh public letter to George Washington of July 30, 1796, written after Paine narrowly escaped the guillotine during the Reign of Terror, to appeal to his correspondent’s anti-British bias – therein, Paine had condemned Jay’s Treaty, negotiated between the United States and Britain. Paine writes this letter as Merlin of Douai’s “ancient colleague” in the hopes that Merlin of Douai would overturn the ruling that “condemned” Haley’s prize at Dieppe. “[Haley] had been cruelly treated by the British whilst he was their prisoner in the American Revolution, and, as I am informed, has been cheated by the London insurencers, and besides the British made no ceremony of seizing American vessels.... It was Hayley who carried my letter to America addressed to the ex-President Washington, on the subject of the British [Jay’s] Treaty, to be printed....

Item #21479.99, $45,000

President Adams in Suspense, Awaits News from France

JOHN ADAMS, Autograph Letter Signed as President, to son, Thomas Boylston Adams, March 1, 1798, Philadelphia, [Pa.] 3 pp., 9¾ x 8 in.

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At the height of the war scare with France, John Adams writes to his son, Thomas, then accompanying Adams’ eldest son, John Quincy, who had just been commissioned Minister to Prussia, a neutral power in the ongoing war between France and Britain. He encourages brevity in his correspondence, given the tense nature of European diplomacy and the seeming imminence of war between France and the United States. “We are all in suspense … without news from Europe. We learn that General Buonaparte has been at Paris and is gone to the Congress. But we know no more…

Item #21464.99, $40,000

President Adams Writes to an Old Friend, Reflecting on the Vicissitudes of High Office

JOHN ADAMS, Autograph Letter Signed, as President, to Tristram Dalton, March 30, 1798, Philadelphia, [Pa.] 2 pp., 8 x 9⅞ in.

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A wistful letter to a boyhood friend in which Adams mentions some guileful political colleagues and laments the “popular Passions of the times” and the general neglect of his political writings. “The Difficulty of leading or guiding Millions, by any means but Power and Establishments can be known only to those who have tried Experiments of it.

Item #20887.99, $40,000

Jefferson’s Autograph Notes Explaining Napier’s Rule on Spherical Triangles, a Branch of Geometry Crucial to Astronomy, Geodesy, Navigation, & Architecture

THOMAS JEFFERSON, Autograph Manuscript. Notes on Napier’s Theorem. [Monticello, Va.], [ca. March 18, 1814].

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John Napier, who is also credited with inventing logarithms and pioneering the use of the decimal point, first published his rule in 1614. While spherical trigonometry was the foundation for many scientific pursuits including astronomy, celestial navigation, geodesy (the measurement and mathematical representation of the Earth), architecture, and other disciplines, Napier’s Theorum remained largely unknown in America because of its complexity. Since it was so important to his own scholarly pursuits, Jefferson, the Sage of Monticello, was the perfect person to school a professor friend on this important, but complicated mathematical formula.

For instance, a navigator’s distance and position can be determined by “solving” spherical triangles with latitude and longitude lines—essentially very large triangles laid out on a curved surface. Astronomers apply similar principles; stargazers imagine the sky to be a vast dome of stars, with triangles laid out on curved (in this case concave) surface. The distance of stars can be calculated by the viewer, who is considered to be standing at the center (the Earth) and looking up at stars and planets as if they were hung on the inside surface of the sphere. In architecture, spherical triangles fill the corner spaces between a dome that sits on foursquare arches—called a dome on pendentives.

Item #23358, $35,000
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