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AUCTION RESULTS: Previously Unknown Photo of Harriet Tubman Tops $1M Sale at Swann Galleries



Printed & Manuscript African Americana

Sale total: $1,248,121 with Buyer’s Premium

Hammer total: $997,300

Estimates for sale as a whole: $960,200 to $1,424,000

We offered 530 lots; 421 sold (79% sell-through rate by lot)

Top lots                                                                                                                                                                    Prices with buyer’s premium

75             Carte-de-visite album of 48 photographs, including two photos of Harriet Tubman, one previously unrecorded,      $161,000 D

circa 1860s.


80*           Frederick Douglass, Autograph Letter Signed to George Alfred Townsend, “A few friends in England bought       $100,000 D


me and made me a present of myself,” Washington, May 5, 1880.


150*        Benjamin Banneker's Almanac for 1795, Baltimore, 1794.                                                                                                          $55,000 C


306           Collection of 41 letters and a poem to Rebecca Primus, Maryland and New England, 1854-72.                                       $45,000 I


260           Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., My Dear Fellow Clergymen, typed working draft for Letter From Birmingham Jail,    $40,000 I

April 16, 1963.


83*           Douglass, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, first edition inscribed, Boston, 1845.                                       $37,500 D


109           Habitation Livaudais, broadside, New Orleans, 1832.                                                                                                                 $27,500 I


256           Collection of papers relating to the formation of the Montgomery Improvement Association, 1955-63.                        $18,750 I


86             Douglass, The North Star, Vol. 1, Number 22, Rochester, July 10, 1851.                                                                                $15,000 I


95             To The Rescue! Three Fugitives About to be Arrested!, broadside, Boston, October 25, 1850.                                      $15,000 C


521           Victor H. Green, The Negro Motorist Green-Book for 1941, New York, 1940.                                                                    $12,500 C


303           William Bess, The Besso System of Beauty Culture, two volumes, Memphis, circa 1930s-40s.                                        $11,875 D


338           Amy Jacques Garvey, original manuscript for the second edition of The Philosophy and Opinions of Marcus          $11,875 D


Garvey, circa 1921-25.


325           Abby Fisher, What Mrs. Fisher Knows About Old Southern Cooking, first edition, San Francisco, 1881.                                   $11,250 I


239           Group of material relating to the Scottsboro Boys case, 1931-37.                                                                                              $11,250 D


5                Kuduo burial jar, bronze, West Africa, circa eighteenth- to nineteenth century.                                                                    $10,625 I


481           Heroes of the Colored Race, chromolithographic posters, Cleveland, 1881.                                                                         $10,625 D


45             300 Dollars Reward, broadside, Baltimore, 1828.                                                                                                                          $10,000 I


24             West Ford, Autograph Letter Signed to John Augustine Washington III, September 6, 1844.                                         $9,375 I


458           Archive of The Ink Spots, including an Autograph by Ella Fitzgerald, 1930s-60s.                                                             $9,375 I

KEY:       * = Auction Record; C = Collector; D = Dealer; I = Institution

Swann Galleries’ $1M Sale of Printed & Manuscript

African Americana Breaks Multiple Auction Records

Previously Unrecorded Photograph of Harriet Tubman Reaches $161,000

New York— On Thursday, March 30, Swann Galleries’ annual auction of Printed & Manuscript African Americana exceeded $1M for the first time in the department’s 20+ year history. The success was largely due to interest surrounding a carte-de-visite album from the 1860s that contained a previously unknown photograph of Harriet Tubman.

The album topped the sale, selling for $161,000, above a pre-sale high estimate of $30,000. Specialist Wyatt Houston Day discovered the photograph of Tubman in the album, compiled by Quaker abolitionist Emily Howland in the 1860s. The album contains 48 photographs, including 44 cartes-de-visite of noted abolitionists, politicians and friends of Howland.

The sale also featured “the strongest selection of Civil Rights material we’ve ever offered,” according to Mr. Day. An archive of documents relating to the formation of the Montgomery Improvement Association, including checks endorsed by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., realized $18,750.

Half of the top lots were institutional purchases, including a working draft for Dr. Martin Luther King’s famous Letter from Birmingham Jail, 1963 ($40,000) and a West African cast bronze Kuduo ritual burial jar, circa eighteenth- to nineteenth century ($10,624).

The sale broke several long-standing records, including $7,800 for an inscribed first edition of Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God, 1937, which since 1992 had stood at $1,000. Material relating to Frederick Douglass saw new records, including an 1880 Autograph Letter Signed to George Alfred Townsend, in which Douglass writes, “You are wrong in saying I bought my liberty, a few friends in England bought me and made me a present of myself,” which reached $100,000, more than doubling the previous record for a letter by the famed abolitionist. An inscribed first edition of The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, 1845, exceeded all expectations by selling for $37,500, above a high estimate of $4,000.

Another record price went to Benjamin Banneker's Almanac for 1795 at $55,000, the second highest price ever paid for an American almanac at auction.

Swann Galleries is the oldest continually operating specialist auction house in New York, and the world’s largest auctioneer of Works on Paper. This month, the house celebrated the diamond anniversary of its first sale, an auction of books and literary properties, held March 27, 1942. The Printed & Manuscript African Americana department at Swann Galleries, the only one of its kind, has been holding sales since 1996.

            The next sale of Printed & Manuscript African Americana at Swann Galleries will be held in Spring 2018. For more information, or to consign works to future auctions, contact Swann Book Department Administrator David Rivera at or (212) 254-4710 ext. 13.

Attached images are:

Lot 75

 75 CDV album Harriet Tubmans

Carte-de-visite album of 48 photographs, including two photos of Harriet Tubman, one previously unrecorded, circa 1860s. Sold March 30, 2017 for $161,000. (Pre-sale estimate: $20,000 to $30,000.)

Lot 80

 80 Douglasss

Frederick Douglass, Autograph Letter Signed to George Alfred Townsend, “A few friends in England bought me and made me a present of myself,” Washington, May 5, 1880. Sold March 30, 2017 for $100,000. (Pre-sale estimate: $40,000 to $60,000.)




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