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Revolution and Founding Fathers (1765 - 1784)
Revolution and Founding Fathers (1765 - 1784)

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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

Washington Cryptically Dreams of Resigning, Feigns Insult and Teases McHenry for Delayed Answer to Queries on Funding the Army

GEORGE WASHINGTON, Autograph Letter Signed, to James McHenry. August 15, 1782. Newburgh, N.Y. 2 pp., including integral address leaf. 7½ x 11½ in.

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I was in pain … resolving (like a man in the last agony) not to follow the trade & occupation of a G---- [General] any more.… Do not my dear Doctor tease your Mistress in this manner – much less your Wife, when you get one.”

In this highly personal letter, Washington offers a glimpse of the man behind the otherwise stolid image. After victory at Yorktown, Americans were awaiting news of a final peace treaty from Paris. Washington remained head of the Continental Army, and warily watched British General Sir Henry Clinton’s army in New York City. For all its friendly tone and nebulous phrases, Washington and McHenry are actually discussing the very serious business of funding and maintaining troop levels to discourage future British actions.

Item #20987.99, $120,000

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 20th 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

Washington Anticipates the Arrival of Count Rochambeau’s Expeditionary Force

GEORGE WASHINGTON, Letter Signed, to [Captain William Dobbs], July 11 [clerical error in text states June 11], 1780, Headquarters, Col. Theunis Dey’s House [N.J.]. 1 p., 8 x 13¼ in.

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Washington, preparing for a joint offensive with the French, awaits news of the arrival of Count Rochambeau’s expeditionary force and gives instructions to William Dobbs, a pilot who had agreed to act as a guide for the French Navy in navigating unfamiliar American waters. “The French fleet have been seen and are hourly expected … you will be pleased to repair to this place … bringing with you, such pilots, as may be acquainted with the navigation into the Harbour of New-York.

Item #21195.99, $37,500

Spymaster John André, Seven Months before His Capture and Execution

JOHN ANDRÉ, Autograph Letter Signed, to Gregory Townsend, Commissary General of the British army in New York. Head Quarters, February 19, 1780. 1 p., with integral address leaf, 7¾ x 12⅝ in.

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Major André, then Adjutant-General for General Henry Clinton at his New York City headquarters, relays Clinton’s authorization to purchase rum. André was also empowered to direct the British Intelligence Service in North America. This letter was written only seven months before the spymaster’s capture and execution for his plotting with Benedict Arnold. “The Commander in Chief bids me inform you with respect to the Rum…

Item #21467.99, $30,000

John Hancock Signed 1776 Privateering Act

JOHN HANCOCK, Printed Document Signed as President of the Continental Congress. Instructions to the commanders of Private Ships of Vessels of War, which shall have Commissions or Letters of Marque and Reprisals, authorizing them to make Captures of British Vessels and Cargoes. [Philadelphia: printed by John Dunlap], dated in text April 3, 1776 [signed between April 3, 1776 and October, 1777]. 1 p., 8¾ x 13½ in. Framed to 24½ x 22½ in.

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The March 23, 1776 resolve of the Continental Congress to empower privateers, was a momentous step in the run-up to the Declaration of Independence. Congress had founded a Navy the previous fall, but had few funds to build it, and thus relied heavily on privateers to harass British shipping. “You may, by Force of Arms, attack, subdue, and take all Ships and other Vessels belonging to the Inhabitants of Great-Britain, on the High Seas.”

Item #23701.99, $30,000

Declaration of Independence: Benjamin Tyler 1818 - First Print with Facsimile Signatures

BENJAMIN OWEN TYLER, Broadside, Drawn by Tyler and engraved by Peter Maverick, [Washington, D.C., 1818]. 1 p., 23⅞ x 31 in., archivally framed to approx. 32 x 40 in.

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“In Congress, July 4th 1776. The Unanimous Declaration of the thirteen United States of America.”

Item #23683, $29,000

Rare French Facsimile of the Declaration of Independence

DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE, Copperplate engraving, “In Congress, July 4, 1776, The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America…” Paris: Kaeppelin & Cie, 15 Quai Voltaire; engraved by F. Lepelle. [1840.] 25 x 32 in. Framed 30¾ x 38 in. 1p.

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Scarce French reproduction based on William J. Stone’s official copperplate facsimile done by order of Congress. This French edition was produced for an 1840 adaptation of Jared Sparks’s Life and Writings of Washington, appearing as plate 22 in the atlas accompanying the multi-volume work.

Item #20627.99, $20,000

Unique Patriotic Toasts from Boston’s Sons of Liberty

[SONS OF LIBERTY]. WILLIAM RUSSELL, Autograph Document, August 14, 1769, Boston, Massachusetts. 1 p., with additional writing on verso.

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These patriotic toasts—written on the fourth anniversary of Boston’s Stamp Act Riot—defiantly salute American liberty. The writer may have numbered among the 350 Sons of Liberty who celebrated the event at a dinner in Dorchester, Massachusetts. He would have been in good company: John Hancock, Paul Revere, Samuel Adams, and John Adams were among the guests.

Item #23891, $19,000

Jefferson-Signed Act of Congress Enabling Revolutionary War Veterans to Settle the West

THOMAS JEFFERSON, Printed Document Signed as Secretary of State, An Act to enable the Officers and Soldiers of the Virginia line on Continental Establishment, to obtain Titles to certain Lands lying north west of the river Ohio, between the Little Miami and Sciota, August 10, 1790. [New York, N.Y.: Francis Childs and John Swaine]. Signed in type by George Washington as President, Frederick Augustus Muhlenberg as Speaker of the House of Representatives, and John Adams as Vice President and President of the Senate. 2 pp.

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Secretary of State Jefferson signs an act enabling Virginia to issue Northwest Territory land grants promised to veterans for their Revolutionary War service. Jefferson had already played a critical role in the creation of a national domain and the opening of the American West by orchestrating Virginia’s cession of the Northwest Territory to the United States. This act repeals a controversial 1788 Confederation Congress Act that invalidated the state’s right to lay out military bounty lands within a section of the Northwest Territory.

Item #23981, $17,500

Continental Congress Address to Inhabitants of the Colonies Urging Unity Against British Tyranny, also prints Letter to Inhabitants of Quebec

[CONTINENTAL CONGRESS], Newspaper. Pennsylvania Gazette, November 9, 1774 (No. 2394). Philadelphia: David Hall and William Sellers. Front-page printing of Memorial “To the Inhabitants of the Colonies of New-Hampshire, Massachusetts Bay, Rhode-Island, and Providence Plantations, Connecticut, New-York, New-Jersey, Pennsylvania, the Counties of New-Castle, Kent, and Sussex, on Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina” (October 21, 1774); and Letter “To the Inhabitants of the Province of Quebec” (October 26, 1774). Copy sent to Thomas and John Fleet, Boston printers. 4 pp. 10 x 16¼ in.

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Friends and Countrymen:... we find ourselves reduced to the disagreeable alternative, of being silent and betraying the innocent, or of speaking out and censuring those we wish to revere. In making our choice of these distressing difficulties, we prefer the course dictated by honesty, and a regard for the welfare of our country....

it is clear beyond a doubt, that a resolution is formed, and now is carrying into execution, to extinguish the freedom of these colonies, by subjecting them to a despotic government…

Item #30035.20, $15,000

Declaration Signers Benjamin Harrison & George Wythe Appointing Surveyor Licensed by the College of William and Mary for Western Virginia

BENJAMIN HARRISON. GEORGE WYTHE, Partially Printed Document signed by President of the College of William and Mary the Reverend James Madison, and professors George Wythe, Robert Andrews and Charles Belleni, April 8, 1783. Followed by: two Benjamin Harrison Partially Printed Documents Signed and a Manuscript Document Signed as Governor of Virginia, June 3, 1783. 2 pp., 8¼ x 13 in.

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This commission is to be nul & void provided the present Surveyor, who is supposed to be killed by the Indians, shall be alive to return. The nullity to commence from the return of Mr Madison

The College of William and Mary’s 1693 Royal Charter provided a revenue stream by appointing the College as the Surveyor-General of the Colony of Virginia, with the right to collect fees for each survey performed. (George Washington, in 1749, and Thomas Jefferson, in 1773, were both licensed by the College as surveyors.) Here, the President and Professors of the College nominate Samuel Hanway as Surveyor of Monongalia County in western Virginia, and Governor Benjamin Harrison appoints him two months later, provided that the old surveyor has actually been “killed by the Indians.

Item #25779, $12,500

An Early Olive Branch Petition - Continental Congress Implores King George III for Relief

[CONTINENTAL CONGRESS], Newspaper. The Pennsylvania Gazette, January 18, 1775 (No. 2404). Philadelphia: David Hall and William Sellers. “Petition of the Continental Congress To the King’s Most Excellent Majesty” (October 25, 1774). 4 pp., 10 x 16¼ in.

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“We your Majesty’s faithful subjects...beg leave to lay our grievances before the throne… an act was passed for blocking up the harbour of Boston, another impowering the Governor of the Massachusetts-Bay to send persons indicted for murder in that province to another colony, or even to Great-Britain, for trial… a third for altering the chartered constitution of government in that province; and a fourth, for extending the limits of Quebec, abolishing the English, and restoring the French laws… To a sovereign, who ‘glories in the name of Briton,’ the bare recital of these acts must, we presume, justify the loyal subjects who fly to the foot of his throne and implore his clemency for protection against them.… We ask but for Peace, Liberty, and Safety.”

Item #30035.24, $10,000

The Laws of Pennsylvania for 1781-1785, Signed by
Clement Biddle, George Washington’s Commissary General at Valley Forge

CLEMENT BIDDLE, Signed Book. Laws Enacted in the Sixth [-Ninth] General Assembly of the Representatives of the Freemen of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania... Vol. II. Philadelphia: Hall and Sellers [and Thomas Bradford], 1782-1785. Folio. 254, [3] 256-270, [3], 272 362, 362-365, 362-368, [6], 372-399, [1], II, [1], 402-857, [1], iv, [1], 590-704, iii p Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 1782-1785. First six sections printed by Hall & Sellers, remainder by Thomas Bradford. Approximately 706 pp.

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Item #22236, $9,500

A Unique Pairing: Timothy Green’s Scarce 1774 Proceedings of the American Continental Congress…, with Connecticut Treasury Order Paying Printer to Distribute It

CONTINENTAL CONGRESS, Book. Extracts from the Votes and proceedings of the American Continental Congress, held at Philadelphia on the 5th of September 1774 Containing the Bill of rights, a List of grievances, Occasional resolves, the Association, an Address to the People of Great-Britain, a Memorial to the Inhabitants of the British American Colonies, and an Address to the Inhabitants of the Province of Quebec. New-London: Timothy Green, 1774. Quarto, 16 pp. Sewn as issued.

With related document signed a day before Paul Revere’s famous ride, and the beginning of the Battles of Lexington and Concord:
CONNECTICUT REVOLUTIONARY WAR TREASURY. Manuscript Document Signed. Order to pay Timothy Green “To Transporting to the Several Counties, the Doings of the Continental Congress…,” April 17, 1775, New London, Conn. 1 p., 6 x 9 in. Signed twice by Nathan Baxter, countersigned by Richard Law, Thomas Mumford, and Caleb Knight.

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Item #23976/24244.01, $8,500

“Unite or Die” Masthead Paper with Great Revolutionary War Content

[REVOLUTIONARY WAR], Newspaper. The Pennsylvania Journal; and the Weekly Advertiser, January 11, 1775 (No. 1675). Philadelphia: William and Thomas Bradford. 4 pp., 10⅛ x 16⅛ in.

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the greatest duty you can discharge to your country, will be to follow the directions of that respectable body, which you chose to be the guardian of your liberty....

The excellent Revolutionary War content starts with the masthead. Benjamin Franklin first created the image of a snake dissected into separate segments to illustrate the disunity of the thirteen colonies during the French and Indian War, and published it in his Pennsylvania Gazette on May 9, 1754. Twenty years later, Philadelphia printers William Bradford and his son Thomas Bradford resurrected the image for the cause of Independence and featured it in the masthead of The Pennsylvania Journal from July 12, 1774, through October 18, 1775. The Bradfords added a ninth segment to the tail of the snake to represent Georgia, which Franklin had not done. In both iterations, the New England states of New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut were represented by a single segment. At the time of this issue and for five more months, Delaware was a part of Pennsylvania.

Item #26144, $7,500

The Psalms of David, Carried in a Rhode Island Revolutionary War Unit in 1776

[REVOLUTIONARY WAR; RHODE ISLAND]. ISAAC WATTS, Book. The Psalms of David, Imitated in the Language of the New Testament: and Applied to the Christian State and Worship (title supplied). Norwich, [Connecticut]: Alexander Robertson, James Robertson, and Trumbull, 1774. Approx. 300 pp., 3 x 5 x 1¼ in.

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Bibles, psalm books, or other printed works carried during the Revolution are rare on the market. This edition appears to be scarce: the last offering we find was by Goodspeed’s in 1934.

Item #24693, $7,500

1775 Printing at Harvard College: Accounts of Battles of Lexington and Concord; Report of British “Black List” of Patriot “Rebels to Execute”; PA. & N.Y. Associations Support Mass.

[REVOLUTIONARY WAR], Newspaper. The New-England Chronicle, or the Essex Gazette, May 2-12, 1775 (Vol. 8, No. 354). Cambridge, Harvard College: Samuel Hall and Ebenezer Hall. 4 pp., 10 x 15½ in.

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Just weeks after “the shot heard ’round the world,” this American newspaper from Cambridge published excerpts from several intercepted British soldiers’ letters about their experiences in the Battles of Lexington and Concord, as well as much other revolutionary content.

some of the Peasants fired on us…. they did not fight us like a regular Army, only like Savages, behind Trees and Stone Walls, and out of the Woods and Houses…. this extensive Continent is all in Arms against us: These people are very numerous, and full as bad as the Indians for scalping and cutting the dead Men’s Ears and Noses off, and those they get alive....

Item #26145, $6,800

Continental Congress Rejects Britain’s 1775 Conciliatory Proposal - Thomas Jefferson Drafted Message in a Prelude to Declaration of Independence

CONTINENTAL CONGRESS. [THOMAS JEFFERSON], Newspaper. Rivington’s New York Gazetteer, August 10, 1775, printing of the Congressional Resolution of July 31, 1775, rejecting Lord North’s Conciliatory Proposal that attempted to divide the colonies and weaken the move towards independence. Signed in type by John Hancock. The Resolution was drafted by Thomas Jefferson, for a committee including Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, and Richard Henry Lee. 4 pp.

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A proposition to give our money, accompanied with large fleets and armies, seems addressed to our fears, rather than to our freedom.... can the world be deceived into an opinion that we are unreasonable, or can it hesitate to believe with us, that nothing but our own exertions may defeat the ministerial sentence of death or abject submission.

Item #23545, $6,800

Extremely Rare 1777 New York State Constitution - the first edition in any form - and the Establishment of Provisional Government

[NEW YORK STATE CONSTITUTION], Pamphlet. [Fishkill, NY: Samuel Loudon, 1777]. Signed in print by President pro tempore Leonard Gansevoort. [3]-33 pp., 5⅝ x 8⅝ in. 23755.01
With: Pamphlet. An Ordinance of the Convention of the State of New-York, For organizing and establishing the [Gover]nment, Agreed to by the Said Conven[tio]n. [Fishkill, NY: Samuel Loudon, 1777]. Signed in print by Convention President Abraham Ten Broeck. 12 pp. 5½ x 8⅜ in. 23755.02

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After independence was declared, each state had to create a new government to replace their colonial charters. New York’s Constitutional Convention, originally convened as the Fourth New York Provincial Congress, assembled at White Plains on Sunday evening, July 10, 1776. Fleeing northward as the British Army forced George Washington’s Continental Army out of New York City, it deliberated at several locations. John Jay, Robert R. Livingston, and Gouverneur Morris drafted the new Constitution, which, with only one dissenting vote, was enacted at Kingston on April 20, 1777.

A second pamphlet printed the Ordinance passed when the Convention convened again on May 8, 1777, in Kingston, to establish a temporary government. The Convention appointed fifteen men as a Council of Safety, “invested with all the powers necessary for the safety and preservation of the State, until a meeting of the Legislature.

Item #23755, $5,500
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