Thomas Jefferson Drawing Tools Lead Heritage Auctions Political & Americana Event

. November 16, 2011 . 0 Comments

Five architectural drawing tools once belonging to President Thomas Jefferson – framer of America’s Constitution and its third President – are expected to bring $45,000+ altogether on Dec. 1, as the top lots in Heritage Auctions’ 800+ lot Americana & Political Memorabilia Signature(r) Auction.

The Jefferson items are just the tip of the iceberg in an auction brimming with important Presidential and Presidential-related memorabilia, including the last rocking chair John F. Kennedy was known to have sat in, the day before his tragic assassination (estimate: $25,000+); a pair of glass decanters owned by George Washington (Estimate: $8,000+) as well as a portrait cameo brooch of President Zachary Taylor, owned by Taylor and consigned by a direct descendant (Estimate: $4,000+).

This is the first time the Jefferson items have been offered to the public – they descended through Jefferson’s family, then through the family of America’s fifth President, James Monroe, before coming to Heritage Auctions for the Dec. 1 event.

“Jefferson was a true Renaissance man besides being a brilliant writer and political mind,” said Tom Slater, Director of Historical Auctions at Heritage. “Among his myriad talents he was a skilled self-taught architect, best known for designing his famous Virginia home, Monticello, along with an unaccepted, anonymously submitted design of what would become the White House. It’s entirely conceivable that he used these very instruments on those, and his many other great designs.”

The pieces – a Parallel Rule Drafting Instrument (Estimate: $10,000+), a Steel and Brass Compass (Estimate: $10,000+), a Brass Diameter Measure Drafting Tool (Estimate: $10,000+), a Turn-down Joint Compass (Estimate: $10,000+) and a Plain Divider Technical Drawing Instrument (Estimate: $5,000+) – have been consigned by descendants of America’s fifth President, James Monroe.

“The Monroe and Jefferson families were closely intertwined in Virginia society and politics, and the Monroes became the custodians of various items originally owned by Thomas Jefferson,” said Slater. “A number went to Monticello and other Virginia museums, but this choice grouping remained in private hands, which has afforded us this amazing opportunity to bring it to auction. The provenance is rock-solid and unimpeachable.”

The John F. Kennedy grouping in this auction is also particularly strong, with the last rocking chair JFK ever sat in – as mentioned above – in a Houston hotel a mere 24 hours before his death, topping the grouping. It carries a pre-auction estimate of $25,000+.

“The Kennedy party stopped the day before the assassination at the Rice Hotel in Houston,” said Slater. “In anticipation, and knowing Kennedy’s preference for a stiff-backed rocking chair, the manager had one installed in the President’s room.”

In his classic book, Death of a President, author William Manchester describes Kennedy reading over papers while seated in this very rocker a day before he fell victim to his assassin’s bullet.”

The Kennedy grouping also includes some 20 lots consigned by the heirs of JFK’s aunt and godmother, Loretta Kennedy Connelly, perhaps most significantly the actual shoulder patch from JFK’s World War II PT 109 uniform, estimated at $35,000+. JFK, out of affection and concern, personally sent this to Loretta’s daughter, Marylou, during a difficult period of her life while the war raged on, telling her to wear it on her school uniform.

He reminded her of his current location and advised her: “Mary, be brave kiddo. I’m not so thrilled about where I am either.”

Marylou did as he advised and found the patch helpful during the uncertain days when JFK was reported missing in action, until news came of his rescue. She cherished the patch for the next 50 years, as a poignant souvenir of her beloved cousin.

Other JFK items include a signed copy of Profiles in Courage (Estimate: $2,500+), intimate Kennedy family photos by famed photographer Mark Shaw (Estimate: $4,000+) and a silver cigarette box given to select guests by Frank Sinatra, who served as Entertainment Chairman for Kennedy’s Inaugural gala (Estimate: $2,000+).

A pair of glass decanters owned by George Washington, also as mentioned above, are expected to bring $8,000+, while an early 19th century pendant containing interwoven locks of hair from both George and Martha Washington, a rare and interesting artifact, is estimated at $12,000+.

Also found in the auction are items such as James Monroe’s own ceramic meat platter in the “Landing of Lafayette” pattern, estimated at $3,000+. The last living Revolutionary War hero, Lafayette made a triumphant visit to America in 1824, while Monroe was president. This platter was preserved by his family for generations as a remembrance of that momentous event. Several china pieces belonging to Mary Todd Lincoln, which she sold to pay off debt after Lincoln’s death, are estimated at $2,000+.

Category: Auction News

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