Published: July 2, 2021
PHILADELPHIA — On July 1, mere blocks from where the original was signed in 1776, a long-lost official copy by William J. Stone of the Declaration of Independence sold for $4.42 million at Freeman’s. The document was one of 200 copies Congress commissioned in 1820 from Stone to print for distribution, a task it would take him almost three years to complete. In 1824, two copies each were given to Charles Carroll of Carrolton, Md., as well as two each to the remaining surviving signors, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson.
The document Freeman’s sold was one of the two copies given to Carroll — the other one is at the Maryland Historical Society — that Carroll gave to his grandson-in-law, John MacTavish. The document had descended with a Scottish family before it was discovered in Scotland by a specialist with Freeman’s sister house, Lyon & Turnbull.
The document — referred to as “this important State Paper” in an inscription Carroll made on the vellum document — had been estimated at $500/800,000 but with bids “on the book,” auctioneer Alasdair Nichol opened bidding at $450,000. Two phone bidders knocked absentee bidders out of the running at $1.2 million but they were joined by a third phone bidder at $1.5 million. Ten minutes after he opened the lot,
Nichol brought the gavel down to one of them, the identity of which had not be identified at press time.
A more in-depth recap will follow in a future issue.
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