Published: January 19, 2017
NEW YORK CITY — Sotheby’s January 18 auction of Alexander Hamilton: An Important Family Archive of Letters and Manuscripts was a white-glove sale earning $2,645,750, well over its high estimate of $2.1 million. All 77 lots on offer — representing hundreds of individual documents — found buyers. Eleven lots broke the previous auction record for any document handwritten by Hamilton – a record that had held since 2001.
The archive of highly personal documents had descended through Hamilton’s family for the last two centuries, with many of the manuscripts previously unknown to historians. A standout in the auction was the document responsible for Alexander Hamilton’s foray into the public sphere: Alexander Hamilton’s appointment as aide-de-camp to General George Washington from 1777, which sold for $212,500. This appointment jumpstarted Hamilton’s political career, leading to subsequent positions as congressman, founder of the Bank of New York, member of the Constitutional convention and more.
The auction was led by a previously unrecorded autograph draft of Pacificus Essay No. VI, which achieved $262,500. One of the most important essays written by Hamilton, under the pen name Pacificus, Pacificus VI is particularly vital to the storyline of Hamilton as no manuscript copies of The Federalist Papers – considered by many to be his most famous work – survive.
A complete report on the auction will follow in an upcoming edition.
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