Published: November 13, 2017
POTSDAM, N.Y. — Approximately 125 curious onlookers, bidders from across the United States and news media crowded into the gallery at Blanchard’s Auction Services on November 11 to witness history being made as a 1776 printing of the Declaration of Independence, known as the Holt Declaration and one of five known copies, was purchased by a descendant of one the Declaration’s original signers for $1.8 million.
The only copy of John Holt’s July 9, 1776, New York printing of the Declaration ever to reach the auction rooms (therefore, an automatic world auction record), the historic document was opened at $1 million and was chased by two floor bidders and 11 on the phones. The successful bidder, identified as Holly M. Kinyon of California, was a direct descendant of John Witherspoon, who signed the Declaration, and had flown from California to attend the sale in person. My great-grandmother’s name was Witherspoon, and our Witherspoon lineage is direct to John Witherspoon,” Kinyon told the Watertown Daily Times. “One of the more profound experiences I’ve ever had was when I saw [the Declaration] in D.C. as a younger woman — it’s difficult to explain how important this is to me, personally.”
It may have been historical documents specialist and cataloger for this sale Keith Arbour’s affecting preamble to the auction — which consisted of two lots, the Holt broadside printing of the Declaration and a lot consisting more than 70 documents that chronicle the history of the Mulford, Gardiner and Buell families of Long Island spanning a timeline from 1667-1815 — in which he stressed the importance of keeping these chronicles together, but Kinyon also decided to jump into the bidding for these as well, resulting in a $348,000 final price.
Kinyon said that she plans to make the documents accessible to the public at some point. “I intend to display the documents as soon as I can learn how to do that,“ she told the Watertown Daily Times. “It will not be in my home, I want to make that very clear.”
Watch for a full report on this sale in an upcoming issue.
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