Charles Dickens joins the great and the good of US politics for autograph sale

As we've reported, the upcoming sales at Daniel F Kelleher offer a range of stamps from US, British and Commonwealth philately, including those from three impressive collections.

The Beane collection includes a section which should probably be considered separately: as is sometimes the case, the Beane family had included some autographs into the collection (when you collect interesting covers you're likely to come across interesting letters) including free franks.

Free franks, for those not already familiar with them, are marks or signatures made on covers as an alternative to payment on delivery and stamps (once the latter were invented).

British MPs and Lords had the right to send mail for free by use of their signatures following a 17th century act, and American politicians followed this idea too, so a number of covers show the signature of American Presidents and other key figures.

Some of the best autographs in the Beane collection are:

A free frank courtesy of John Adams (1735-1826), the second President of the United States, 1797-1801, franked during his time as Vice President to George Washington.

John Adams Free Frank
John Adams Free Frank cover

The cover is addressed to "Mrs. Adams, Quincy near Boston" (all in his handwriting), "N. York". An exceptional example of its kind, the piece is estimated at $2,000-3,000.

For those whose interests are more in British than American history (or philately), there's a clear favourite in the form of an autographed letter (four pages long!) signed by Charles Dickens. Unfortunately, we don't have many details of the letter.

Accompanied by a small cover addressed to Lenox, Massachusetts, the letter boasts fine to very fine signatures and is expected to sell for $2,500-3,500.

Charles Dickens cover
Charles Dickens cover

Several other fine free frankings are on offer including examples from Declaration of Independence signer Elbridge Gerry and the Civil War General Ulysses S Grant.

However, the piece which is expected to be the most valuable is that of Alexander Hamilton, the New York delegate to the Constitutional Convention (1787), major author of the Federalist Papers, and first secretary of the Treasury of the United States (1789-95).

Alexander Hamilton Free Frank
Alexander Hamilton Free Frank

The free frank is one he did as Secretary of the Treasury on a 1790 handwritten and signed letter. Avertical file fold impinges on the internal signature, but both signatures are fresh and bright, manuscript "Treasury department", Franklin mark & "Free" handstamps

Overall, it is an extremely fine cover, and an exceptionally rare find given the presence of the contents and multiple signatures. It is expected to bring $5,000-7,500 in the Kelleher auctions which take place in Connecticut and online from October 21-24, 2010.



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