A Season of Discovery: A Farmer’s Collection and Other Historical Treasures

It’s harvest season, and here the corn is still in the field. Tractors share the road with pickups and sedans. Wild turkeys move in groups of 10 or more. This is far from the big city. And here, an octogenarian, a farmer’s son and a farmer himself, pursued his historical interests with a fervor. He bought historical documents, artifacts, whatever moved him. His collection was a testament to that passion, and in the rural Midwest he put together a meaningful collection that mirrored his love of his country’s past. 

It has been our privilege to assist in that process over the last two decades. We visited this longtime client recently, as he begins the task of deaccessioning his great collection. 

Thomas Jefferson Letter Signed
Letter signed by Thomas Jefferson, 1780.

“Whoever thought a poor young kid like me could have grown up to find such great things,” he said. His historical treasures had been safely kept in a barn, in his dresser, and on his walls. They adorned his house like history did his mind. He did not see them as objects but as reflections of his own love of history. The most discerning cannot divorce themselves from their own collections without removing the impetus that drove its purpose. He collected what he loved, and in the process spent decades loving his collection.

Benjamin Franklin autograph letter signed
Benjamin Franklin autograph letter signed, 1776.

So we joined him on his journey with General Washington across the Delaware, with Governor Jefferson caring for British prisoners of war, Benjamin Franklin in Philadelphia in July 1776, John Quincy Adams in front of the Supreme Court, John Adams at the birth of a new nation. All of these documents are rare and remarkable, but perhaps most importantly to him, each held the promise of a great American connection. 

John Adams Autograph Letter Signed
John Adams autograph letter signed, 1782.

It’s tempting to think of such a monumental effort as only a Madison Avenue game, or the purview of the metropolitan collector. But it’s not. Historical discovery can happen anywhere. 

This season, we will unveil many of his treasures, collected over the decades, along with other pieces we have acquired. These discoveries come from historical descendants, lifelong collectors, and heirs. Many have never before been offered for sale.

John Quincy Adams autograph manuscript signed
John Quincy Adams’ Supreme Court manuscript notes.

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