Swann Sets Auction Record For Frederick Douglass Autograph

1851 Autographed Letter Realized $112,500

April 2, 2021

Swann Galleries closed out the month of February with an exceptional sale of Fine Books and Autographs, which saw a 90 percent sell-through rate and exceeded the total high estimate, bringing in $522,632. The auction brought forth historic autographs from political figures and celebrities alike, as well as first editions from the 19th and 20th centuries.
The house set an auction record for an autograph by Frederick Douglass with the sale of an 1851 autograph letter signed for $112,500. The historic letter comes from an important turning point in Douglass’s career. The letter, addressed to Sallie Holley, recruiting her for the Frederick Douglass Paper, was written after his split with Garrisonian abolitionism and the merging of his North Star Paper and the Liberty Party Paper. The result surpassed the previous auction record for a letter by Douglass, set by Swann in 2017 when an ALS (autograph letter signed) addressed to journalist George Alfred Townsend sold for $100,000.
Religious figures, pioneers in medicine, and Hollywood icons also found success with collectors. Notable leaders of faith included an 1843 affidavit signed by Joseph Smith certifying an obligation to appear in court or pay a fine ($11,250), and a 1940 letter in English signed by Mohandas K. Gandhi explaining his delayed response and remarking on his work for the Red Cross ($8,750). An 1866 autograph letter signed by Joseph Lister to his father remarking on a recent success treating a compound fracture ($10,000), as well as an 1861 ALS by Florence Nightingale praising the superintendent of nurses at St. John’s House ($6,000) were standouts in medicine. From Hollywood came signed and inscribed photograph of James Dean ($8,750), and a watercolor and graphite drawing of Donald Duck signed and inscribed by Walt Disney realized $5,000.
For more information, visit www.swanngalleries.com.


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