Here Are The American History Artifacts Up For Sale In A Massive Auction Next Week
Let Us Have Peace by Jean Leon Gerome Ferris, depicting the end of Civil War in 1865. Created c. 1920.
Photo by VCG Wilson/Corbis via Getty Images.

University Archives is slated to auction off dozens of letters, documents, and other artifacts related to the history of the United States in a massive auction next week.

The organization will hold its largest auction ever online on August 17, with 537 lots featuring artifacts from as far back as the first days of the American republic up for grabs, according to a press release.

From the early American collection, the organization is selling a promissory note from Benedict Arnold, a Revolutionary War general who infamously defected to the British. The receipt recorded a transaction that included building supplies, boards, and “parcell staves,” and was most likely penned in New Haven, Connecticut. University Archives will also sell an “enormous pay receipt” signed by Daniel Boone, a frontiersman and folk hero who served in the Virginia General Assembly from 1781 to 1791.

Earlier this month, a team of more than 100 volunteers from the Gloucester County Archeological Society and nearby Rowan University discovered what appeared to be a mass grave of Revolutionary War soldiers at Red Bank Battlefield in New Jersey. The remains appeared to come from Hessian soldiers, who were German mercenaries hired by the British to battle the Continental Army. “This find is a remarkable discovery because a mass grave was a rarity on battlefields during the American Revolution,” South River Heritage Consulting principal archaeologist and dig site supervisor Wade Catts told reporters.

At its auction, University Archives will also sell a letter written by Jefferson Davis, the president of the Confederate States of America, to Confederate John Taylor Wood, during the former’s exile in Canada after the Civil War. Davis discussed the plight of African Americans in the Deep South.

“The negroes have to a great extent become vagrant and the common complaint was that neither crop or stock could be protected from their thieving,” the letter reads. “The poor creatures are however much to be pitied for their destitution and we who knew their utter inability to govern themselves may well question whether they or those who forced them into their present condition are most responsible for the crimes they commit.”

Among other artifacts up for sale include a document in which President George Washington appointed Irish immigrant Thomas Lowry to serve as the first United States Marshal of New Jersey; a personal check from the early political career of President John F. Kennedy; a receipt signed by Benjamin Franklin on behalf of the Pennsylvania Gazette; a signed first-edition copy of The Babe Ruth Story; and checks signed by Marilyn Monroe and Joe DiMaggio.

In another auction to be held in October and November by Holabird Western Americana Collections of Reno, Nevada, artifacts from the wreck of the S.S. Central America — which sank during a hurricane off the coast of North Carolina in 1857 — will go under the hammer. Among the items are jewelry made from gold discovered during the California gold rush, gold miner pants, photographs, bottles, and pistols.

“These incredible artifacts that were in secure storage in three different states are now giving us a glimpse of Gold Rush-era daily life for passengers and crew in the 1850s,” remarked Dwight Manley, of the California Gold Marketing Group of Brea, the organization that owns the objects.

A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that a Holabird Western Americana Collections auction had already taken place. The auction will occur later this year. 

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