Alexander Hamilton’s Personal Archive Is Up for Grabs at Sotheby’s

You can own a piece of American history.

John Turnbull Portrait of Alexander Hamilton. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

Connoisseurs will get the chance to own a piece of American history when a comprehensive archive of letters and manuscripts belonging to Alexander Hamilton goes under the hammer at Sotheby’s New York in January.

The cache of personal documents belonging to the founding father of the United States has been passed down in Hamilton’s family for 200 years, and it includes hundreds of files and notes from his illustrious career in public service and the military, as well as deeply personal items such as a love letter from his wife Eliza.

According to the New York Times, Sotheby’s hasn’t yet fully catalogued the sizable trove, but Selby Kiffer, the auction house’s senior specialist of books and manuscripts, estimated that the total archive is expected to sell for between $1.5 million and $2.5 million.

“It’s highly unusual to have an archive of letters and manuscripts that are devoted to a single person that hasn’t been artificially collected but preserved by descent in that figure’s family,” Kiffer said in a statement.

General orders appointing Alexander Hamilton aide-de-camp to George Washington. Photo: Sotheby's.

General orders appointing Alexander Hamilton aide-de-camp to George Washington. Photo: Sotheby’s.

Some items in the collection are previously unknown or have never been publicly shown. “There are definitely unknown letters from Hamilton here,” Kiffer added.

Highlights include a letter confirming Hamilton’s appointment as aide-de-camp to George Washington, which has been estimated to sell for $150,000 to $250,000; and a lock of Hamilton’s hair, which is being sold together with a letter from Hamilton’s wife Eliza addressed to one of his sisters, estimated to sell for $15,000 to $25,000.

Sotheby’s emphasized the wide variety of price points of items included in the sale. “The range is really wonderful,” Kiffer explained. “There will be something not only for the dedicated collector of American manuscripts, but I hope also for all the not-yet collectors who have become entranced with the story of Alexander Hamilton through the musical.”


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