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George Washington
George Washington

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George Washington’s “Justice and Public Good” Letter, Written Just Before Becoming the First President of the United States

GEORGE WASHINGTON, Autograph Letter Signed, to Frederick Phile, March 15, 1789, Mount Vernon, Virginia. Washington’s retained copy, written on blank leaf of Phile’s letter to him as evidenced by partial address on verso: “[George] Washington / [Moun]t Vernon.” 1 p., 8 x 6¼ in.

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“I will go into Office totally free from pre-engagements of every nature whatsoever, and in recommendations to appointments will make justice & the public good, my sole objects.”

The still unofficial President-elect George Washington writes in March 1789 about his determination to go into the presidency with no pre-existing commitments, ready to purely judge the“justice & the public good” of every appointment. He would extend that sentiment to every aspect of his presidency.

Washington referred to the standard of “justice & the public good” only a few times, and the present letter is the only example we know of that has ever reached the market.

Item #27734, $550,000

General Washington Orders Declaration of Independence Read to Army in New York

[DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE], Manuscript Orderly Book. Headquarters [New York City], [July 8, 1776 – August 21, 1776]. Containing two overlapping sequences in different hands: one 145-page sequence runs from July [9], 1776 to August 21, 1776, and another 13-page segment (written from the other end of the book) runs from July 8-13, 1776. 158 pp. 7½ x 6 in. Both versions vary slightly from the published text of Washington’s General Orders of July 9. This volume, with Brigade and Regimental orders, was either kept by battalion adjutant Aaron Comstock or an orderly sergeant in one of Gold S. Silliman’s eight companies enlisted in Connecticut shortly before. This is likely the battalion’s first orderly book after arriving in New York with approximately 415 men.

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the Honble Continental Congress … haveing been plead to Desolve Connection Between this country & great Britain & to declare the united Colonys of North America free & Independent States the Several Brigades are to be Drawn us [up] this Evening on their Respective Parades at 6 oclock when the Deleration of Congress Shewing the grounds & Reasons of the Measures to be Read with Laudable [audible] Voice the genl [George Washington] Hopes that this important Point will serve as a fresh incentive to Every officer and soldier to act with fidelity & courage as knowing that now the Peace and Safety of this country Depends under god solely on the success of our arms....” (July 9, 1776)

the gel being informed to his great surprize that a Report prevails & Industrously spread far and wide that Lord how [British General Lord William Howe] has made <145> Propositions of Peace Calculated by disguiseing Persons most Probably To Lull us into a fatal Security his Duty obliges him to Declare that No such offer has been made by Lord how but on the Contrarary from the Best inteligence he can Procure the army may Expect atack as soon as the wind and tide proves favorable He hopes theirfore every mans mind & arms may be Prepared for action and when caled to it shew our enemies & the whole world that free men Contendin for their own Land are Superior to any Mercenaries on Earth.... (August 20, 1776)

Remarkable manuscript book containing two separate versions of Washington’s General Orders of July 9, 1776, announcing to the Continental Army in New York that Congress had formally declared the 13 colonies to be independent of Great Britain. Of course, Washington’s name is notably absent on the Declaration of Independence, as he was in New York preparing to face the music of the inevitable British invasion.

Item #21461.99, $115,000

George Washington Signed Military Commission, Preparing for a Decisive Victory Against Native Americans and the British in the Midwest

GEORGE WASHINGTON, Document Signed, Philadelphia, Pa., March 19, 1793, appointing William Winston as Captain of Light Dragoons. Co-signed by Henry Knox, Secretary of War, and John Stagg, Chief Clerk of the War Department. Imprint at bottom, “Drawn and Engrav’d by Thackara and Vallance, Philada.” With paper seal of the United States. 1 p., 16 x 20 in., on vellum. Framed with rag mats and UV-filtered plexiglass to 29 x 34¼ in.

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Two weeks after his second inauguration, President George Washington appoints William Winston as Captain of Light Dragoons. By the time Winston joined the army in the Northwest Territory, he had been promoted to command the entire cavalry of the new Legion of the United States. In that position, he fought at the Battle of Fallen Timbers, the decisive U.S. victory against the Native American confederation and their British allies in that area.

George Washington-signed military commissions are rare on the market, and we don’t recall ever seeing a more attractive example.

Item #20626.99, $55,000

One of the Earliest Announcements of Independence

DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE, The Pennsylvania Magazine; Or American Monthly Museum for January-July, 1776. Philadelphia: Robert Aitken. [5]-344pp.

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A bound volume containing a remarkable issue—one of the most historic magazines ever printed.

July 2.  This day the Hon. Continental Congress declared the UNITED COLONIES FREE AND INDEPENDENT STATES.

Item #21422.99, $48,000

George Washington’s First Presidential Thanksgiving Proclamation

[GEORGE WASHINGTON], Gazette of the United States. New York, N.Y., October 7, 1789. 4 pp., In addition to the Thanksgiving Proclamation on page one, this issue also includes: a printing of the Treaty of Fort Harmar between the United States and the Wyandot, Delaware, Ottawa, Chippewa, Pattawatima, and Sac Indian nations (p. 1, col. 2 to p. 2, col. 2). A report from London about an “African Genius” (p. 2, col. 2). And a report on the proceedings of Congress, including an act to suspend part of the Tonnage Duties Act (p. 4 col. 3). 9½ x 14¾ in. Overall fine. Archivally framed.

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“to recommend to the People of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness.... for the peaceable and rational manner in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness... for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed; and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge”

On September 28, 1789, just before the closing of the First Federal Congress, the Senate added its assent to a House resolution requesting that George Washington be asked to call for a day of public thanksgiving and prayer. Later that day, Congress passed the Bill of Rights to be sent to the states for their ratification, and on the next day the first session of the first Federal Congress was adjourned. On Saturday, October 3, Washington issued America’s first presidential Thanksgiving Proclamation. The Gazette printed it in full on the first page of this, their next edition, Wednesday October 7th.

Item #23257.99, $45,000

Rare Important Declaration of Independence Linen Handkerchief

DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE, Printed Cotton Handkerchief, ca. 1821. 31 x 33 in.

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The intricate design of this handkerchief features images of Washington, Adams, and Jefferson, beneath an eagle and flags. In the center appears the text of the Declaration of Independence, together with facsimiles of the signatures. An oak wreath with acorns surrounds the text and features images of the seals of the thirteen original states. An image at lower left depicts the Boston Tea Party with the caption, “The Patriotic Bostonians discharging the British Ships in Boston harbour.” An image at lower right depicts “General Burgoyne’s Surrender to General Gates at Saratoga.” Around the edge runs a stars and rope border with anchors at each corner and at the center of each side. The design was printed with red ink using a copper plate.

The design draws much from prints of the Declaration of Independence by William Woodruff, published in February 1819, and John Binns, published in October 1819.

Item #26474, $38,000

For Washington, Hamilton Confirms Receipt of Hessian Troop Movement Intelligence

ALEXANDER HAMILTON, Autograph Letter Signed, on behalf of General George Washington, to Colonel Charles Stewart, Commissary General of Issues, October 24, 1777, Headquarters [Whitpain Township, Pa]. 1p. with integral address leaf note, “Let the Bearer pass. Tim. Pickering Adjt. Genl.,” 13 x 8¼ in. (open).

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Also see the Alexander Hamilton Collection: The Story of the Revolution & Founding.

Following the punishing battles at Paoli and Germantown, which left Philadelphia vulnerable to British control for the winter, the Continental Army under Washington spent two weeks recovering at Whitpain, Pennsylvania.

Alexander Hamilton was then Washington’s chief staff aide, with the rank of Lieutenant Colonel, a position he would hold for four years. He played a crucial role in handling much of the General’s correspondence with Congress, state governors, and other military officers.

Item #24375, $35,000

Unique Inscribed Set of John Marshall’s Life of George Washington, With Joseph Story Letter to the Daughter of the Late Associate Justice Henry Brockholst Livingston, Conveying Marshall’s Thanks and Noting That He Will Be Sending to Her These Very Books

JOHN MARSHALL, Inscribed books, signed “The Author.” The Life of George Washington, Commander in Chief of the American Forces, During the War which Established the Independence of his Country, and First President of the United States, Compiled under the Inspection of the Honourable Bushrod Washington, From Original Papers Bequeathed to him by his Deceased Relative, 2 vols. Philadelphia: Carey & Lea, 1832. 2nd Edition, Revised and Corrected by the Author. Volumes I – II bound in red quarter leather spine and brown leather, each inscribed and signed, “For Mrs. Ledyard with the profound respect of The Author.” John Marshall’s magisterial biography of George Washington was originally a five-volume set. This 1832 publication was revised by Marshall and issued in two volumes, with a companion volume of Revolutionary War maps: Atlas to Marshall’s Life of Washington, Philadelphia: J. Crissy, [1832], 10 hand-colored maps, bound in red quarter leather with original blue boards. With scarce printed errata for Volume I laid in, and manuscript errata for Vol II. The letter requires conservation.

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Item #26161, $27,500

“Black Sam” Fraunces as Steward of George Washington’s Presidential Household

[GEORGE WASHINGTON], Samuel Fraunces. Manuscript Document Signed, with the text likely penned by presidential secretary Bartholomew Dandridge Jr., March 10, 1794, Philadelphia, PA. 1 p., 6 x 3¼ in.

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“10th March 1794 recd of Bw Dandridge one hundred & forty six dollars and thirty two cents to purchase sundries for the President’s Household.  146 32/100      Saml Fraunces”

Documents signed by Samuel Fraunces, the famous tavern keeper and steward of George Washington’s presidential households in New York and Philadelphia, are exceptionally rare. During the British occupation of New York, Fraunces had been captured and impressed into the service of British officers. While doing so, he was able to help feed American captives, and was credited with providing information to American troops and preventing an assassination plot against Washington. 

Item #27320, $25,000

George Washington’s Second Thanksgiving Proclamation, Sent to American Consuls

EDMUND RANDOLPH, Printed Document Signed, as Secretary of State, this copy sent to Nathaniel Cutting, American Consul at Havre de Grace, France, December 31, 1794, 3 pp and blank on one integral leaf. Randolph’s circular on page one notes that he is attaching a reprint of Thomas Jefferson’s August 26, 1790 letter to our Consuls, and an extract of Jefferson’s May 31, 1792 letter calling attention to a part of the Act of Congress governing the security that consuls have to give to insure they can meet obligations they take on for the United States. He then attaches the full text of Washington’s Second Presidential Thanksgiving Proclamation, which was publicly issued a day later, on January 1, 1795. 15½ x 12⅞ in.

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When we review the calamities which afflict so many other nations, the present condition of the United States affords much matter of consolation and satisfaction.

A day before it is publicly issued, Secretary of State Edmund Randolph Sends Washington’s Proclamation to all American Consuls, as “a better comment upon the general prosperity of our affairs than any which I can make.” According to the President, “the present condition of the United States affords much matter of consolation and satisfaction. Our exemption hitherto from foreign war; and increasing prospect of the continuance of that exemption; the great degree of internal tranquility we have enjoyed…Deeply penetrated with this sentiment, I GEORGE WASHINGTON, President of the United States, do recommend to all Religious Societies and Denominations, and to all Persons whomsoever within the United States, to set apart and observe Thursday the nineteenth day of February next, as a Day of Public Thanksgiving and Prayer…to beseech the Kind Author of these blessings…to impart all the blessings we possess, or ask for ourselves, to the whole family of mankind.

Item #24141, $19,000

George Washington’s Famous Letter to American Roman Catholics: A Message of Thankfulness, Patriotism, and Inclusiveness

[GEORGE WASHINGTON], “Letter to the Roman Catholics in America,” ca. March 15, 1790, New York. Printed on the first page of The Providence Gazette and Country Journal, April 10, 1790. Providence, Rhode Island: John Carter. 4 pp., 10⅛ x 15⅜ in.

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The prospect of national prosperity now before us is truly animating, and ought to excite the exertions of all good men to establish and secure the happiness of their country, in the permanent duration of its freedom and independence. America, under the smiles of a Divine Providence—the protection of a good government, and the cultivation of manners, morals and piety, cannot fail of attaining an uncommon degree of eminence, in literature, commerce, agriculture, improvements at home, and respectability abroad.

As mankind become more liberal, they will be more apt to allow, that all those who conduct themselves as worthy members of the community, are equally entitled to the protection of civil government. I hope ever to see America among the foremost nations in examples of justice and liberality.

Item #24985.99, $14,500

George Washington: Rare 1777 Revolutionary War Hand Colored Engraving

[GEORGE WASHINGTON], Print. With captions in English and French: “George Washington Eqer General and Commander en Chief of the Continental Army in America . . . d’Apres l’Original de Champbell [sic] Peintre de Williambourg Capitale de la Virginie.” Likely published in Paris, ca. 1777 to 1780. 1 p. 7.75 x 11.75 in. in a wooden frame 10 x 14.5 in.

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Lovely condition, drum-mounted on board, original full hand-coloring. Framed. Line engraving derived from the portrait done by “Alexander Campbell” with facial elements after the  Nuremberg version of the print. This enjoys the independent addition of battle flags placed within the image to flank the portrait.

Item #27113, $12,500

New York City Commissions a Portrait of George Washington by John Trumbull

RICHARD VARICK, Autograph Letter Signed, to Tobias Lear, July 19, 1790, New York, NY. 1 p., 7⅞ x 12⅛ in.

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In this letter, New York City Mayor Richard Varick requests an opportunity to convey a request from the city to President George Washington to have artist John Trumbull prepare a portrait of him for display at City Hall.

Item #26584, $12,500

General Hugh Mercer’s Will—Noting the Plantation he Purchased from George Washington (Ferry Farm, Washington’s Boyhood Home), and Instructions to Executors to “hire negroes” to Work the Plantation for the Benefit of his Wife and Children

[REVOLUTIONARY WAR. SLAVERY. GEORGE WASHINGTON]. HUGH MERCER, Manuscript Document, Contemporary Copy of Last Will and Testament, March 20, 1776, Fredericksburg, Virginia. 4 pp., 7½ x 11⅝ in.

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I direct that after my decease my dear Wife Isabella (if she survive me) and my children do reside on my plantation in King George County adjoining to Mr James Hunter’s Land which Plantation I purchased from General George Washington and that my Executors hereafter named out of my personal Estate purchase or hire negroes as they shall think best to work the said Plantation....

I further direct my Books Drugs surgical Instruments shop utensils and Furniture to be sold and also such Household Furniture Negroes or stocks of Cattle and Horses as may appear to my Executors hereafter named to be for the benefit of my Personal Estate....

Written shortly after Hugh Mercer became the colonel of the 3rd Virginia Regiment of the Virginia Line, his last will and testament disposed of his real and personal property, including slaves among his wife Isabella Gordon Mercer and children, including one yet to be born.

After playing a key role in the Battles of Trenton, in January 1777 at the Battle of Princeton, Mercer’s horse was shot from under him, and he was mortally wounded. Vastly outnumbered and mistaken by the British for George Washington, he was ordered to surrender. Instead, he drew his sword, and was bayonetted seven times. He died nine days later.

Item #27335, $12,500

Manuscript Eulogy to George Washington Penned by R.I. Senator Foster During Senate Session

[GEORGE WASHINGTON]. THEODORE FOSTER, Newspaper. United States Chronicle, Providence, Rhode Island, January 23, 1800. 4 pp., 11½ x 17¾ in. Inscribed: Hon. Theodore Foster, Senator from R.I / Senate Chamber. With autograph manuscript verses by Foster, [Philadelphia, late January 1800].

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Issued five weeks after Washington’s death, this newspaper includes the handwritten reflections of a sitting Senator on the loss of the nation’s first President. It is clear from his words that the people of the nation he helped create—and individual Senators—are still struggling with Washington’s death.

Item #24369, $9,500

New Hampshire Acts Organizing the Election of 1792 -Washington’s re-Election

[NEW HAMPSHIRE], Broadside, “An ACT directing the mode of ballotting for, and appointing the Electors of this state for the election of a President and Vice-President of the United States. ALSO— An ACT directing the mode of choosing Representatives to the Congress of the United States.” Organizing elections in the state, signed in print by Governor Josiah Bartlett, June 1792. 1 p., 15½ x 19½ in.

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Item #24603, $7,500

“George Washington” - Keith Carter Photograph

[GEORGE WASHINGTON]. KEITH CARTER, Photograph. Child holds his copy of Gilbert Stuart’s famous “Athenaeum” portrait of George Washington. 1990. Number 6 of 50, 15 x 15 in.

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Item #25394, $4,800

Lovely early-19th Century Hand-Painted Miniature
of Martha Washington on Ivory

[MARTHA WASHINGTON], Portrait Signed by the artist (“Fabre”). 2¾ x 3¾ in.

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Item #20038, $4,500

[George Washington] Rare Broadside Instructing Ships’ Captains re Impressment of American Seamen

GEORGE WASHINGTON, An extract of the Act, entitled, ‘An Act, for the relief and Protection of American Seamen;’ passed in the fourth Congress of the United States, at the first Session, begun and held at the City of Philadelphia, on Monday the seventh of December, One thousand seven hundred and ninety-five. May 28, 1796. Broadside. Baltimore, MD: John Hayes. Signed in type by George Washington as President, Jonathan Dayton as Speaker of the House of Representatives, and Samuel Livermore as President pro tempore of the Senate, printing the fifth and sixth sections of the act. 4 pp., 8½ x 13 in.

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it shall...be the duty of the master of every ship or vessel of the United States, any of the crew whereof shall have been impressed or detained by any foreign power, at the first port, at which such ship or vessel shall arrive...immediately to make a protest.

This rare historical broadside addresses the pressing issue of the impressment of American, a major factor leading the young United States into the Quasi-War with France (1798-1800) and later to the War of 1812 with Great Britain.

Item #24393, ON HOLD

His Grandmother-in-Law Can’t Spare a “Stacker” for John Augustine Washington III – Letter Delivered by Freed Washington Family Slave West Ford Includes List of Mount Vernon Slaves

[SLAVERY. MOUNT VERNON. WEST FORD]. MARY BOWLES [ARMISTEAD] SELDEN, Autograph Letter Signed, to John Augustine Washington III, hand delivered by West Ford; JOHN AUGUSTINE WASHINGTON III. Autograph List of Slaves. In light pencil on verso. [Alexandria, Virginia], [1845].

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Mary B. Selden was the grandmother of Eleanor Love Selden, who married John Augustine Washington III in 1843. She regrets not being able to furnish Washington with the services of one of her slaves as a stacker for the upcoming wheat harvest.

Still a faithful employee, West Ford worked for the Washington family well into the nineteenth century, including delivering this letter.

The letter includes a list of two dozen slaves written in pencil on the verso by John Augustine Washington III.

Item #24737, $3,750
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