Dozens of rare documents from periods spanning 200 years of American history just went up for auction, with historical artifacts and original manuscripts fetching millions of dollars each.
Among them were original copies of the Emancipation Proclamation and the 13th Amendment -- marking the first time the pair have been sold at the same time.
The Emancipation Proclamation sold for a whopping $2.17 million and the 13th Amendment sold for a massive $2.41 million. They are each among a handful of original copies that still exist and are being held in private hands. What's more, they each bear the original signatures of Abraham Lincoln, Secretary of State William Seward, and other prominent men of the day.
Lincoln originally issued the order abolishing slavery in 1863, but the copy just sold dates back to 1864. Shortly after the Proclamation was issued, Lincoln had 48 copies printed and signed each of them, The manuscripts were then sold to raise funds for the Sanitary Commission, an organization that supported Union soldiers and their families. A mere 27 of those copies have survived to this day, 20 of which are currently in public institutions.
The copy of the 13th Amendment that just sold, however, is rarer: it is one of only fourteen original copies signed by Lincoln. Previously owned by the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, a nonprofit organization that aims to promote history education, it was put up for auction in the sale in order to raise money for its work, While this copy was sold to a private buyer, most of the other surviving copies remain in the possession of museums and public institutions.
The auction featured other rare gems:
- A document dating back to the presidency of Thomas Jefferson presages the War of 1812, briefing Congress and the Senate on the escalating foreign policy crisis incited by violations of America’s neutrality by Britain and France.
- One broadside dating back to 1768 was the work of Founding Father John Hancock, who used the document to protest the British Parliament imposing undue taxes on the 13 colonies.
- Also up for sale at the auction were original copies of Thomas Paine’s pamphlet, “Common Sense.” and “The Star-Spangled Banner.”
While it's neat to imagine having an original copy of one of these historic documents, buying one can easily put a big dent in someone's bank account.
As a mega history geek, I happen to collect reproductions of historic documents; among them are the Declaration of Independence, Monroe Doctrine, and letters written by presidents ranging from George Washington to Thomas Jefferson. They're not exactly the real deal, but hey -- they're still cool to examine and show to friends, and I don't have to spend an exorbitant amount of money to acquire them!
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