HR Dietrich's Americana collection

HR Dietrich was revered among Americana collectors for the breadth of his knowledge, and the several rare gems in his collection.

Perhaps best known among the cognoscenti for his collection of Colonial era fine art, including silver, furniture, paintings and pottery, it is items pertaining to the US constitution and more recent naval history that have hit the headlines of late.

USS Constitution flag
A 31-star circa 1851 ensign from the USS Constitution made $158,000 in April

President of the Dietrich Corporation conglomerate, Dietrich, who died in 2007, collected both for his own private collection and the Dietrich American Foundation, which has lent items to more than 50 institutions since it was established in 1963.

Known for his philanthropy, he donated the renowned 18th century Cadwalader Easy Chair, a remarkable piece of early US furniture once used by the revolutionary war's John Cadwalader, to the Philadelphia Museum of Art in 2002.

As Anne d'Harnoncourt, the director of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, told the New York Times, he was "one of the great collectors of American art of his time, with a deep commitment to share his passion for art and history with the public."

Collectors with a keen eye for the finest pieces often benefit from seeing the items they purchase soar in value over the years. Such is the case with Dietrich.

George Washington's personal copy of the Acts of Congress, which features the first president's own annotations on the US constitution, set a new world record for an American book at Christie's on June 22, when it sold for $9.8m.

The work came from the estate of Dietrich, who had bought it for just $27,000 in 1964, corresponding to a 13.07% pa rise in value.

In April, Dietrich's collection of 11 flags that had once flown from the esteemed USS Constitution, launched in 1797, all set world records for their type. They included a rare 31 star, 16 foot wide ensign, flown from the Constitution circa 1851, which sold sold for $158,000.

The Dietrich name is sure to feature prominently in a variety of sales over the coming years. Paul Fraser Collectibles will keep you up to speed. Sign up to our weekly newsletter to make sure you don't miss a thing.

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