wann Auction Galleries held a sale of rare and valuable autographs on Thursday last week (April 22) in New York. There were 257 lots on offer, centred on a number of attractive pieces signed by American Presidents.
Of these, perhaps the best pieces were those signed by Theodore Roosevelt. The Mount Rushmore-celebrated President had six lots representing him the auction, of which two stood out.
One was a typed letter, signed by Roosevelt, in which he defended and clarified a provocative description of the Founding Father Thomas Paine he had written, for the addressee ('My dear Mr Winslow') to pass on to a Mr M Mangasarian who was campaigning against the use.
Roosevelt's description of Paine had referred to him in 1888 as follows: "[T]he filthy little atheist had to stay in prison, 'where he amused himself with publishing a pamphlet against Jesus Christ,'".
In the 1918 letter, Roosevelt comments: ". . . [W]ill you kindly show what I have written below to Dr. Mangasarian? You will readily see why I do not think it desirable to make it public."
Then in the postscript: "My statement about Paine was based on Governeur Morris' statement about him, in his diary, while Morris was Minister in France during the Terror. Paine asked his help. Morris called on him, and found him in bed, where he had stayed for some days without getting out, to perform the offices of nature.
"If this is not 'filthy' I don't know what is. Morris comments . . . on his writing an article attacking the deist. 'Atheist' would have been the proper 13th century term as applied to Paine; but in the 18th century, the term was 'deist,' and this is the term I ought to have used.".
Roosevelt's letter sold for $4,000 against an estimate of $2,500-3,500. But this was not the most valuable piece associated with him in the auction. That was a standing portrait by Pach Brothers, showing the President in Rough Rider uniform standing beside a tent at Camp Wikoff, Montauk.
Signed by Roosevelt as President, the inscription reads: "With best wishes from / Theodore Roosevelt / Nov 21st 1904". The striking, well-preserved picture brought $15,600 against an estimate of just $3,000-5,000.
The auction also offered a set of ship's papers, in four languages, counter-signed by Abraham Lincoln as President. These sold on target at $9,000.
Collectors interested in Presidential autographs may wish to take a look at this portfolio which is currently on the market.
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