Rare letter penned by Alexander Hamilton up for auction in California

Photograph featuring Alexander Hamilton in the right section of the mural "The Constitution," by Barry Faulkner.


By DEBBIE ARRINGTON | The Sacramento Bee | Published: January 20, 2018

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (Tribune News Service) — The long reach of Founding Father Alexander Hamilton comes to Sacramento on Wednesday with the auction of an extremely rare military document, penned by Hamilton in 1782 near the end of the Revolutionary War.

“It was a previously unknown and unrecorded letter,” said auctioneer Brian Witherell, whose company is conducting the auction. “We did authenticate it (against other Hamilton documents) and we’re confident in its authenticity. It will be fun to see how it does.”

Interest in anything connected to America’s first treasurer has skyrocketed, thanks to the wildly popular musical, “Hamilton.”

The Hamilton letter will be among the highlights of “Weapons & War: Objects of Heroism and Tragedy,” an auction featuring more than 300 items spanning the Revolutionary War to World War II. Accompanied by internet bidding, the live auction starts at 10 a.m. Wednesday at Witherell’s Auction House, 300 20th St., Sacramento.

“We rarely hold live auctions,” Witherell noted, “so this one should be special.”

Most of the items came from the Sacramento area, including the unexpected Hamilton letter, Witherell said.

“I was called out to an estate on Crocker Road. There were two heirs (who prefer to remain anonymous) ... and the letter had been in their family for about three generations. They said it was found in a schoolhouse in New England, then passed down through their family.”

In distinctive cursive handwriting, then-Col. Hamilton was taking care of administrative duties. “You will much oblige me by getting the Captain of the troop to sign the enclosed receipt and sending it to me by the bearer,” it reads. Bidding starts at $500 with estimated value at a very conservative $1,000 to $5,000.

Last year, Sotheby’s auctioned off an assortment of Hamilton correspondence in New York City that brought more than $2.6 million. Seven letters and manuscripts in that auction sold for more than $100,000 apiece, including the military document commissioning Hamilton to be Gen. George Washington’s aide-de-camp; it went for $212,500.

©2018 The Sacramento Bee (Sacramento, Calif.)
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