Abraham Lincoln Ephemera Leads Cowan’s American History Auction

Lincoln family ephemera led Cowan’s June 11, 2010, American History Auction. The auction marked the 15th anniversary of Cowan’s and garnered wide media attention for several important lots, many of which came from the family of Robert Todd Lincoln Beckwith, the great grandson of Abraham and Mary Todd Lincoln and last male descendent of the family. The auction totaled just over $925,000, with over 500 bidders vying for 404 lots.

The highest selling item, an autographed CDV of Abraham Lincoln from the group of Beckwith items, surpassed its $10/20,000 estimate by selling for $38,775.00. A portrait of Lincoln from a negative originally taken by Mathew Brady, it is signed A Lincoln along the bottom of the photograph.

Mary Todd Lincoln’s mourning carriage parasol, veil, and fan trumped its $3/5,000 estimate, selling for $19,388. The items are accompanied by a Xerox copy of an affidavit signed by Robert Todd Lincoln Beckwith describing the contents of a trunk found at Hildene, the Lincoln family home.

An egg cup and sugar bowl from the first Lincoln White House service were also among the Lincoln memorabilia leading the sale. A Haviland Limoges porcelain egg cup sold for $20,563, blowing away its $5/7,000 estimate. Mary Todd Lincoln had the service ordered in 1861 on a trip to New York to purchase furnishings for the White House. A sugar bowl from the same service sold for $27,613, also selling well above its estimate.

Mary Todd Lincoln’s archive of commitment papers to Bellevue Place more than tripled its modest $8/10,000 estimate, selling for $37,600.00. The collection included the commitment decree, the arrest warrant for Mary Todd Lincoln, and the ledger book signing her into Bellevue Place, a private asylum in Batavia, IL. The archive was purchased by the Frazier International History Museum in Louisville, KY.

An important whole plate daguerreotype of Lewis Cass, diplomat, soldier, and statesman, brought $29,375, just under its $30/40,000 estimate. The photograph by Mathew Brady was probably taken sometime during 1851-52. Cass served as an officer of the state militia, and later as a U.S. Senator.

The Confederate manuscript archive of Major Daniel Speer, 60th GA realized $18,800.00. Speer served as the Quartermaster for the 4th Battalion, later combined into the 60th Georgia Infantry. The archive includes compelling letters and tales from the battlefield under Stonewall Jackson’s command.

This auction marked the first time in many years that Civil War firearms and military accoutrements were included as part of Cowan’s American History auction; previously, they were sold in Cowan’s Historic Firearms and Early Militaria sales. “We want to strengthen our place in the Civil War market, and by combining all aspects of Civil War collectibles into one auction, we feel that we can accomplish that,” explained Wes Cowan, President and Principal Auctioneer, as well as American History Department Director.

Additionally, several important Western items met great success on the auction block. Robert Hall’s frontiersman outfit, including a horn from Jean Lafitte sold for $35,250.00, falling within its $30/40,000 estimate. Hall was one of the last surviving Texas frontiersmen who witnessed and participated in the Texas Revolution, the Mexican War, and the Civil War. Hall’s eccentric outfit, made to be worn on special occasions, was made of buckskin and an assortment of animal pelts.

An archive of incredible western diaries recounting the Modoc War hangings surpassed its $6/8,000 estimate, selling for an outstanding $20,563. The three diaries were written by Leonard Case and Henry Gilbert Abbey of Cleveland, OH, and detail the trials of the Modoc prisoners, including first hand interviews.