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Historic Documents Up For Bidding

By Susan Dunne

February 10, 2012

An online auction ending Wednesday features documents signed by the four Connecticut men who signed the Declaration of Independence and an acorn carved from a piece of wood from the Charter Oak, the tree where Connecticut's constitutional charter was hidden in 1687 to prevent its confiscation by the British. RR Auction of New Hampshire is the auctioneer.

Rich Malley, head of collections for the Connecticut Historical Society, said thousands of small items were crafted from the wood of the tree, many by John Most, a Hartford piano maker who was commissioned by Isaac Stuart, on whose property the tree stood. The Connecticut Historical Society has many such items.

"We receive many calls each year about these items. How can you prove that a particular item is from the Charter Oak?" he wrote in an email. "You really can't ever prove it unless there is some kind of ironclad documentation accompanying the piece. White oak is white oak, so even if you can prove the item is made of white oak, there is no genetic marker that would point to this particular white oak."

John Reznikoff of University Archives of Westport, owner of the Charter Oak piece and most of the other items, said "Relics just by their nature require somewhat of a leap of faith. The question is: Is that leap of faith a crack in the sidewalk or the Grand Canyon? I only buy things that are a crack in the sidewalk."

Reznikoff called the provenance of the Charter Oak piece, which originates from the John S. Reigart Collection of Historical American Relics, "100 percent credible."

Besides the Charter Oak piece, the Connecticut-related items in the auction include:

*William Williams' 1776 handwritten document "for guns or Fire Arms...procured for ye use of ye colony.

*Williams' reimbursement of Pounds 100 from Connecticut for attending Continental Congress, dated May 28, 1777.

*Roger Sherman's document for a land sale for his brother-in-law, James Prescott, dated Oct. 17, 1791.

*Document listing money paid to 12 members of the House of Assistants of the Connecticut General Assembly, signed by, among others, Sherman and Oliver Wolcott, dated November 1771.

*Letter of congratulations from Samuel Huntington to the French foreign minister and chief peace negotiator on "the Important Glorious Success of our Combined Forces in the compleat Capture of Ld Cornwallis and all his Army," dated Nov. 7, 1781.

Malley says that the items up for bid are not important documents in and of themselves, but collectors of signatories of the Declaration of Independence will be interested in them.

"The most interesting is the Huntington piece because of its connection to the Yorktown victory," Malley said.

Another Connecticut-related item up for sale is called "The Huntington Print," a facsimile of the Declaration of Independence printed in the 1820s by Hartford engraver Eleazer Huntington.

The auction is called "American Patriots." Most of the Connecticut-related items have a reserve. Bobby Livingston of RR Auctions would not reveal the reserves, but estimates of the prices the items would fetch are listed on icollector.com.

AMERICAN PATRIOTS auction, with 237 lots, ends at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 15. Initial bids must be placed by 6 p.m. To register and bid: www.rrauction.com.

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
| Last update: September 25, 2012 |
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