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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

Thomas Jefferson Signed Act of Congress Authorizing Copper Coinage (the First Legal Tender Produced by U.S. Government)

THOMAS JEFFERSON, Printed Document Signed, as Secretary of State, “An Act to provide for a copper coinage,” May 8, 1792, Philadelphia. 1 p., 9⅝ x 15 in.

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That the director of the mint…purchase a quantity of copper...and…cause the copper...to be coined at the mint into cents and half cents...thence to issue into circulation….

That after the expiration of six calendar months from the time when there shall have been paid into the treasury by the said director, in cents and half cents, a sum not less than fifty thousand dollars … no copper coins or pieces whatsoever, except the said cents and half cents, shall pass current as money, or shall be paid, or offered to be paid or received in payment for any debt … and all copper coins or pieces, except the said cents and half cents, which shall be paid or offered to be paid or received in payment contrary to the prohibition aforesaid, shall be forfeited, and every person by whom any of them shall have been so paid … shall also forfeit the sum of ten dollars…”

Item #27505, $235,000

President Washington Approves Establishment of Mint and Issues First Veto

[GEORGE WASHINGTON], Columbian Centinel, April 21, 1792. Boston, MA. 4 pp, 10.5 x 16.75 in.

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This newspaper includes the full text of “An Act establishing a Mint and regulating the Coins of the United States” of April 2, 1792, signed in print by Speaker of the House Jonathan Trumbull, Vice President John Adams, President George Washington, and Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson. The bill established a mint, specified its officers, and reaffirmed the Congress of the Confederation’s adoption of decimal currency in 1785 (p1/c1-p2/c1). President Washington appointed David Rittenhouse of Pennsylvania as the first director of the mint on April 13, 1792.

It also includes President George Washington’s first veto message, in which he vetoed “An Act for an Apportionment of Representatives among the Several States, according to the First Enumeration” on April 5, 1792 (p3/c1). The bill introduced a new plan for dividing seats in the House of Representatives that would have increased the number of seats held by northern states. After consulting with his divided cabinet, Washington decided that the plan was unconstitutional because the Constitution provided “that the number of Representatives shall not exceed one for every 30,000; which restriction is, by the context, and by fair and obvious construction, to be applied to the separate and respective numbers of the States; and the bill has allotted to eight of the States more than one for 30,000” (p3/c1). Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson had suggested that apportionment be derived from arithmetical calculations.

When Washington’s veto arrived, Congress considered overriding the veto by a two-thirds vote, but only 28 representatives still favored the bill, while 33 opposed it (p3/c1). Ultimately, they threw out the bill and passed a new one that apportioned representatives at “the ratio of one for every thirty-three thousand persons in the respective States.”

Item #26258.01, $3,250

Thomas Jefferson Pays Import Duty on Famous Louis Chantrot Obelisk Clock

THOMAS JEFFERSON, Manuscript Document Signed, October 17, 1791, [Philadelphia, Pennsylvania]. 1 p., 8 x 13 in.

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This declaration notes that Thomas Jefferson imported a clock, which arrived in Philadelphia on the ship Minerva from La Havre, France, on October 17, 1791. On May 12, 1792, Jefferson paid the import duty of $7.52 according to the provisions of the Tariff of 1790.

Consisting of a pair of black marble obelisks between which a brass clock was suspended, Jefferson commissioned this in the Spring of 1790 to replace a similar piece stolen from his Paris residence. He later had it mounted on a shelf above the foot of his bed. Susan Stein, the Richard Gilder Senior Curator at Monticello, described the obelisk clock as “arguably one of the most important and interesting objects at Monticello.” After Jefferson’s death, his daughter Martha called it the object “I should have prized beyond anything on earth.”[1] The original clock was passed down through the Jefferson family until it was donated to Monticello in 2016.

This is a rare record of payment of the tariffs that funded the nascent federal government, in effect bringing together Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton and Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson, in the temporary capital of Philadelphia. Jefferson’s correspondence to William Short arranging for the purchase and delivery of the clock also mentioned obtaining two artists proofs for the Congressional Medal of Honor voted for John Paul Jones, which had yet to be completed.



[1] Martha Jefferson Randolph to her daughter, February 13, 1827, quoted in Sarah Butler Wister and Agnes Irwin, eds., Worthy Women of Our First Century (Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott & Co., 1877), 59. Randolph wrote, “The marble clock I should have prized beyond anything on earth, and if, in our circumstances, I had felt myself justifiable in retaining a luxury of that value, that clock, in preference to everything else but the immediate furniture of his bedroom, I should have retained. However, in addition to the loss of the clock, which I regret more bitterly since I know how near we were getting it, let us not alienate so near a relation and friend, who, I dare say, is sorry for it now that it is past.”

Item #27514, $14,000

Harvard’s 1791 Graduating Students and Theses, Dedicated to Governor John Hancock and Lieutenant Governor Samuel Adams

HARVARD COLLEGE, Broadside. List of Graduating Students and Theses for Disputation. Boston, Massachusetts: Samuel Hall, 1791. 1 p., 18 x 22 in.

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Interesting broadside in Latin issued for Harvard University’s 1791 commencement lists Latinized names of 27 graduating students. Among the graduates are New Hampshire Justice John Harris (1769-1845); U.S. Representative Thomas Rice (1768-1854); and Henry Dana Ward (1768-1817), youngest son of General Artemas Ward (1727-1800), who initially commanded the patriot army around Boston in 1775.

Item #24462, $1,500

1790 Massachusetts Newspaper Discussing Nantucket Whalers

[NANTUCKET], Newspaper, The Columbian Centinel. Boston: Benjamin Russell, December 15, 1790. 4 pp.

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Item #30051.015, $450

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

Alexander Hamilton Signed Registration for Schooner Robert of Baltimore

ALEXANDER HAMILTON, Partially Printed Document Signed, Registration of Schooner Robert, April 10, 1790, Baltimore, Maryland. Form printed by Francis Childs and John Swaine in New York. 1 p., 8¾ x 13¼ in.

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Under a law passed in September 1789, Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton signed blank certificates in New York and sent them to the collectors of the various ports of the new nation, where the local collector of the port filled them out and signed them. This registration system was part of a Congressional effort to limit the merchant marine to American-built ships owned and crewed by Americans. If a ship met the necessary requirements, it would “be deemed and taken to be, and denominated, a ship or vessel of the United States,” with all the benefits of any U.S. laws. Baltimore collector O. H. Williams filled out and signed this form for the Schooner Robert, owned by Baltimore merchant William Patterson.

Item #27521, $18,000

Thomas Jefferson Transmits the First Patent Act to Governor of New York George Clinton, Who Later Replaced Aaron Burr as Jefferson’s Vice President

THOMAS JEFFERSON, Letter Signed, as Secretary of State, to Governor George Clinton of New York, April 15, 1790, New York. 1 p., 7¾ x 9½ in

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In his position as Secretary of State, Thomas Jefferson conveyed copies of new federal laws to the governors of each of the states. This letter, signed by Jefferson, conveyed the First Patent Act, formally An Act to Promote the Progress of Useful Arts, to New York Governor George Clinton, who would later serve as Jefferson’s second vice president.

Item #26389.99, $28,000

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

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

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, $70,000

(On Hold) The U.S. Constitution – Very Rare Printing on the Second Day of Publication

[U.S. Constitution], The Pennsylvania Herald, Thursday, September 20, 1787. Philadelphia: William Spotswood. Alexander J. Dallas, editor. 4 pp. 11¾ x 19 inches folded, 23½ x 19 inches opened.

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We are not aware of any other example in private hands, and only six institutions list runs that should include this issue. 

Item #27499, ON HOLD

Debating the Bill of Rights Amendments in 1789

[BILL OF RIGHTS], The Pennsylvania Packet, and Daily Advertiser. Newspaper, August 22, 1789 (No. 3295). Philadelphia: John Dunlap and David C. Claypoole. 4 pp., 11⅜ x 18¼ in.

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Mr. [Egbert] Benson [of New York] moved that the words ‘but no person religiously scrupulous shall be compelled to bear arms,’ be struck out. He wished that this humane provision should be left to the wisdom and benevolence of government. It was improper to make it a fundamental in the constitution.”

This issue of the Pennsylvania Packet includes key debates in the House of Representatives on the developing set of amendments that were later ratified as the Bill of Rights. It also prints the Act establishing the War Department.

Item #24831, $7,500

1778 Muster List, Including Rejected African American Recruit

[REVOLUTIONARY WAR; AFRICAN AMERICAN SOLDIERS], Autograph Document Signed, Muster Rolls for Norton and Attleboro, Bristol County, Massachusetts. 2 pp., 8¼ x 13 in.

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This rare descriptive list of men enlisted for Continental service from Massachusetts includes an African American who served in the militia. The first page lists eight men belonging to three companies in Colonel John Daggett’s regiment of Massachusetts militia. The list gives each man’s age; height; color of complexion, hair, and eyes; and town. All are from Norton in Bristol County, approximately thirty miles south of Boston. Among the militiamen who were forwarded for Continental service was 26-year-old London Morey, “a Negro,” but according to his military records, he was “rejected” at Fishkill, New York.

The verso contains a tabular list of twenty men recruited from Colonel John Daggett’s militia regiment for nine months’ service in the Continental Army. They were from Attleboro, Easton, and Mansfield. The table lists each man’s company, name, age, height, complexion, eye color, town, and county or country. The last four listed are from France. Several served in the 12th Massachusetts Regiment under the command of Col. Gamaliel Bradford.

Item #26532, $4,500

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

A Stone/Force Printing of the Declaration of Independence

DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE, Copperplate engraving printed on thin wove paper. Imprint at bottom left, “W. J. STONE SC WASHn” [William J. Stone, Washington, D.C. ca. 1833]. Printed for Peter Force’s American Archives, Series V, Vol I. Approx. 24¾ x 29½ in., framed to 32½ x 37½ in.

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The Stone/Force printings are the best representation of the Declaration as it was when members of the Continental Congress put their lives on the line to sign it in August of 1776. 

Item #27694, ON HOLD

Continental Congress Declares Independence – on July 2, 1776

[DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE], Pennsylvania Magazine: or American Monthly Museum. Philadelphia, Pa., R. Aitken, June 1776 [published ca. July 4.] 48 pp., 5¼ x 8¼ in., without fold out map.

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Due to a shortage of paper,The Pennsylvania Magazine: or American Monthly Museum, edited by Thomas Paine, held the June issue past its normal publication date (which would have been July 3rd), allowing time for the last-minute insertion of the actual resolution of Congress declaring independence. The Pennsylvania Evening Post is the only other contemporary publication of the resolution we have found, in their July 2 issue.

Item #26797.99, $35,000

N.Y. “Sons of Freedom” Pull Down Statue of King George III

[Revolutionary War], Large Engraving, “Pulling Down the Statue of George III, By the Sons of Freedom, At the Bowling Green City of New York July 1776,” 34" x 25", uncolored, titled after a painting by Johannes Adam Simon Oertel and engraved by John C. McRae, 1859.

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After the Declaration of Independence was read to the Continental Army in New York on July 9, 1776, a boisterous crowd of soldiers, sailors and citizens headed to the huge gilt lead equestrian statue of King George III which had been installed on Bowling Green only six years earlier. The crowd toppled his Majesty, who then made his first Broadway appearance before being carted to Connecticut. The head was rescued by Tory sympathizers, and later spotted in the home of Lord Townshend. The rest of the King and the horse he rode in on was melted down. In a truly epic burn, Ebenezer Hazard remarked that the redcoats “will probably have melted majesty fired at them.” Indeed they did; the sculpture was used to make 42,088 bullets.

Item #24461, $1,600

Brown University Holds First Commencement in 1769 - as Rhode Island College

[BROWN UNIVERSITY], Rhode Island College, Broadside, Commencement Exercises, September 7, 1769, Warren, Rhode Island. In Latin.

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Chartered in 1764, Rhode Island College - now Brown University - began in Warren, Rhode Island. The college’s first commencement, held on September 7, 1769, was the only one in Warren. In 1770, the college moved to Providence, and in 1804, the name was changed to Brown University.

This broadside, issued under the authority of the first chancellor, Stephen Hopkins, lists the seven members of the college’s first graduating class: Joseph Belton, Joseph Eaton, William Rogers, Richard Stites, Charles Thompson, James Mitchell Varnum, and William Williams.

The commencement was held at the Baptist Church in Warren. The event’s principal feature was a “Disputatio forensica,” or forensic debate, on the thesis “The Americans, in their present Circumstances, cannot, consistent with good Policy, affect to become an independent State.” According to reporting in The Newport MercurySeptember 11, 1769, James Mitchell Varnum (the future Continental Army General) defended the thesis “by cogent arguments,” and William Williams opposed it “subtilely, but delicately.” The president and graduating students made their opinion evident in their apparel; all were dressed in American manufactures. William Rogers also delivered an oration on benevolence, and Richard Stites gave an oration in Latin on the advantages of liberty and learning. Charles Thompson delivered the valedictory oration.

Item #27380.02, $8,500

Connecticut Governor’s Proclamation Calling for a Day of Thanksgiving to Commemorate the Defeat of the French in Canada, and the Taking of Quebec

THOMAS FITCH, By the Honourable Thomas Fitch Esq; Governor ... of Connecticut ... A Proclamation for a Public Thanksgiving ... Thursday the sixth day of March next .... New Haven: by James Parker & Company, February 21, 1760. 12 x 14.5 inches.

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Broadside with a woodcut vignette of royal British arms at the top and woodcut initial. Some loss to upper right corner, a few nicks to the left and right margins. Penned inscription on the back.

Reference: Evans 8568; ESTC W34681 (locating only 2 copies)

Item #26605, $6,500
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