Heritage Auctions has sold more than 400 items with a tie to Independence Day. From historical to sports to decorative arts the scope of pieces that relate to July 4th is impressive and eccentric. Here are five that caught our eye as we head towards the nation’s birthday.
In 1823 as the fledgling nation neared its forty-fifth year, and only six years removed from the end of the War of 1812, patriotism surged and with it, a growing interest in the Declaration of Independence. In 1820, Secretary of State John Quincy Adams commissioned English-born engraver William J. Stone of Washington to produce an exact copy of the original Declaration of Independence onto a copperplate, a process which took him three years to complete. In all, 200 official parchment copies were struck from the Stone plate in 1823 (with an extra struck for Stone). Each copy is identified as “ENGRAVED by W. I. STONE for the Dept of State, by order” in the upper left corner, followed by “of J. Q. ADAMS, Sect. of State July 4th 1824” in the upper right.
Of the original 201 printed, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, and Charles Carroll of Carrollton, the last three surviving signers of the Declaration, former President James Madison, the Marquis de Lafayette, President James Monroe, and Vice President Daniel D. Thompkins each received two copies. The President’s House and the Supreme Court chamber were also given two copies. The House and Senate received twenty copies each. The Departments of State, War, Treasury, Justice, Navy, and Postmaster all received twelve copies and the governors and state and territorial legislatures were given a copy. The remaining copies were sent to various universities and colleges. This item sold for $597,500 in April, 2012.
Reference: William R. Coleman. Counting the Stones — A Census of the Stone Facsimiles of the Declaration of Independence, Manuscripts 43, 1991, p 103. Ann Marie Dube, A Multitude of Amendments, Alterations and Additions, Appendix E, National Park Service, 1996. Catherine Nicholson. National Archives, The Stone Engraving: Icon of the Declaration. 2003. (accessed February, 22, 2012).
2. A unique 21 Star, Silk American National Flag
This flag’s marvelous animated embroidered stars are configured in a double irregular medallion-like pattern of 10 stars. The stars encircle a wreath of five stars with smaller stars interspersed between each star of the inner medallion or wreath, all surrounding a central star. These are actually two full similar but non-identical flags that are sewn back-to-back so that their unfinished stripes on the reverse are not visible. The embroidered stars and the irregularity of the star configuration add greatly to the folk art appeal of this flag, a wonderful example of the first truly American folk art form.
The cantons and all stripes are hand-sewn silk and on one flag there are a number of examples of piecing which is thought to be the result of the scarcity of materials at the time the flag was fabricated.
This flag belonged to Adam Miller, a flag bearer in the Light Guard (a company within the 12th Regiment, 4th Brigade, New York Militia) during the 1850s. The flag was given to Miller and his wife by the wife of his former commander, a Captain Roth, as a 50th wedding anniversary gift in 1906 since Miller was the last surviving member of his company.
Illinois was admitted into the Union, as the 21st State, on December 3, 1818 with this flag being officially used from July 4, 1819 until July 3, 1820.
Heritage Auctions thanks Jeffrey Kenneth Kohn, M.D., noted flag historian, for his assistance in evaluating the flag. In Dr. Kohn’s professional opinion, this flag was made during the Illinois Statehood period, circa 1818-1820. This flag sold for $28,680 in June, 2006.
Sometimes dating flags is an imprecise science. That is so the case of this 13-Star July 4th 1865 Flag. A small embroidery on the fifth red stripe simply says: “July 4th 1865.” This Independence Day celebration was a special event… the first July 4th after the conclusion of the U.S. Civil War. While Southern dreams for an independent nation had been shattered on the field of battle, Northerners saw this day as a return to and reaffirmation of the values of the Founding Fathers, something that all sections of the country should honor. The silk flag measures 27″ x 20″ and is entirely hand-stitched. This unique flag sold for $23,900 in December, 2012.
4. John Wesley Hardin: An Iconic Shot-through and Signed Playing Card, Signed and Dated July 4, 1895
In the pantheon of notorious Old West Gunslingers, John Wesley Hardin manages to stand out as among the deadliest. Known for his hair-trigger temper, he claimed to have killed 42 men when he was finally convicted of murder in Texas in 1878 (contemporary newspaper reports attributed “only” 27 killings to Hardin). On one famous occasion in 1871, he killed a man for disturbing his sleep. When pounding on his hotel room wall failed to silence the offender, Hardin fired three bullets through the wall, killing the man instantly. While in prison he studied law and was pardoned in 1894. In July of that year he received his law license. However, Hardin continued his wild ways, and in August of 1895 was famously shot to death in El Paso’s Acme Saloon after a dispute with John Selman, himself a lawman and former outlaw.
Hardin apparently put on a display of his shooting prowess on the 4th of July, 1895. While it is hard pin down the exact details, this is the third playing card Heritage has sold. Each have been shot through three times and signed and dated by Hardin. The first card, framed with three Acme Saloon gambling chips and his business card, brought $31,070 in June 2012 (that playing card was signed, but not dated). The second example, despite a smudged signature and date, sold for $13,750 in our November 2014 Western auction. This card sold for $18,750 on October 2015 and is unquestionably the finest of the three, with appealing Queen of Spades graphics and very sharp signature and date.
5. 1941 Lou Gehrig Memorial New York Yankees Ticket Stub, July 4th 1941 SGC Authentic
While July 4th marks the day we celebrate this nation’s day of independence, the New York Yankees used the occasion in 1941 to honor their most-beloved son – Lou Gehrig. The Hall of Famer had passed away a month earlier from a rare condition (ALS) that is now named after him. This 1941 Lou Gehrig Memorial New York Yankees Ticket Stub, July 4th 1941 SGC Authentic sold for $507.88 in August, 2012.
Written by: Elon Werner
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