by Brooke Kennedy
Our July Fine Autographs and Artifacts auction brought the Revolutionary War to the forefront. Historical letters and documents from figures like Abigail Adams and George Washington highlight their roles in shaping the political climate. But this auction still stretched outside of the bounds of U.S. history, putting into focus events that were going on all over the globe.
The main highlight of this auction is a most remarkable depiction of the whole history of the United States – going as far back as the 1700s.
Beginning in the 1970s, Dr. Martin Breckstein, passionate about political history, began the arduous process of researching, authenticating, and compiling his own collection of presidential autographs. The end result boasts a beautiful assembly of signatures from 41 presidents from George Washington all the way up to Bill Clinton, composed mostly of letters and other handwritten formats. Breckstein went above and beyond in his assembly, displaying each signature with an engraved portrait of the subject inside a gorgeous custom-made leather portfolio – gilt-stamped and all.
“Dr. Breckstein took great pride and joy in prominently displaying this personal, one-of-a-kind collection in his home for family, friends and visitors to enjoy and learn from on a daily basis,” wrote RR Auction.
RR is grateful for the opportunity to put this wonderful piece into the hands of another history collector that shares Dr. Breckstein’s passion. The stellar selling price of $51,651 speaks for itself, and our consignor is thrilled that this collection has found a new home.
Our Revolutionary War offerings received outstanding bids from our collectors, including this Abigail Adams letter – which exceeded its estimate by $32,000. In her lengthy letter, Adams writes to her older sister Mary Smith Cranch from London about several different subjects. At this time, John Adams was serving his role as the Minister of Great Britain, while the Constitutional Convention was taking place in Philadelphia.
Along with discussing her hopeful future for her son, John Quincy Adams, she touches on a visit from Thomas Jefferson’s daughter and Sally Hemings. Jefferson’s daughter Mary (also known as ‘Polly’) sailed to Europe in the care of the enslaved Sally Hemings to join her father and sister in Paris. The two women landed in London and stayed with Adams, who developed a deep affection for Polly during their stay. Adams’ mention of Hemings during this period is extremely significant. In France, Hemings worked as a paid servant, as slavery was illegal in France. Historians believe that around this time, Thomas Jefferson began having intimate relations with her. Their relationship has been the subject of controversy among historians, particularly in regards to the paternity of Hemings’ children.
Pushing forward to the 1950s, this collection of handwritten meal plans and letters by Jackie Kennedy caught the attention of news outlets for its insight into the couple’s time residing in Georgetown.
“The collection of handwritten letters, notes, and meal plans written by Jackie were meant for her personal chef and housekeeper, Tania Herbst,” said People.
According to these meal plans, JFK’ stuck to a particular diet, and Jackie took care to include meticulous instructions indicating how the then-Senator preferred to have his meals prepared.
“Breakfast, Mr. K—2 poached eggs on Pepperidge toast rounds, crisp over broiled bacon, orange juice-pepperidge white toast-coffee-marmalade,” Jackie writes – laying out JFK’s morning meal.
Flexing her language skills, a majority of these menus are written in French.
“Jackie was a polyglot who spoke French and Spanish fluently, and who was also proficient in German and Italian,” writes RR Auction their lot description.
This lot was accompanied by personal photographs of the soon-to-be First Couple.
For this next lot, we head to Russia to explore the illicit affair of Emperor Alexander II and Catherine ‘Katia’ Dolgorukova.
Selling for a spectacular $47,768, this archive chronicles more than 100 letters over a fourteen year period, with around 190 pages written in his with another 100 pages in hers. Their relationship began in 1866 when Katia was 18 and Alexander II was 47, and their forbidden romance continued until the Emperor’s death in 1881. While they often wrote to each other multiple times a day evoking their steamy exploits, there were attempts to conceal the relationship, as he was married to Tsarina Marie Alexandrovna at the time. As a result, many of the letters were left unsigned and used the code-word ‘bingerle’ in reference to the intimate act. In these letters, the two frequently displayed their undying affection, longing for a world where they could openly love each other.
“What I would give to be able to spend my life near you and never again to fear scenes and gossip on all sides,” writes the Emperor in one letter, dated January 1868.
That day would come in 1880, when the long-suffering Tsarina passed away and Alexander made Katia his morganatic wife.
“You must understand what will take place in me at the moment of being pronounced your wife, and what a joy it is to become the wife of the man you have madly loved for 14 years,” Katia writes, the day before their wedding, “I will be so grateful to God for having fulfilled the dream of our lives…At last we will be able to breathe freely.”
Our consignor was extremely happy with RR Auction’s service – as the archive exceeded its original estimate of $40,000.
We have some more exciting auctions coming up in the latter half of this year. We’re still looking for items to feature in our 60th Anniversary JFK auction, Space and Aviation section, and Marvels of Modern Music event. Our consignment deadlines are getting closer, so don’t wait to consign with RR Auction! Give our team of professionals a call at 800-937-3880 or hit the consign button below to get the process started!
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