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2015 Bookseller Resource Guide

From Pilots to Presidents

Leslie Hindman’s May sale features a little bit of everything. By Peggy Carouthers Peggy Carouthers is the custom content manager at Journalistic, Inc. She lives in California.

On May 1, Leslie Hindman Auctioneers will hold its Fine Books and Manuscripts sale in Chicago. The sale will feature items from literature and science to travel and exploration.

One of the highlights is a collection of free frank covers from presidents and first ladies. In the United States, franking privileges were first granted in 1775, when members of the Continental Congress bestowed the privilege on its members. This sale will include free franking notes from James Monroe, Dwight Eisenhower, Julia Grant, Jacqueline Kennedy, and Sarah Polk. Most notably, the sale will include free franks from George and Martha Washington.

George Washington free frank dating from 1779 (estimated at $4,000-6,000). Courtesy of Leslie Hindman.
Martha Washington free frank dating from 1800 (estimated at $30,000-40,000). Courtesy of Leslie Hindman.
The Wright Company’s certificate of incorporation signed by Orville and Wilbur Wright (1909, estimated at $20,000-30,000). Courtesy of Leslie Hindman.

George Washington’s cover dates from 1779, when he was commander of the Continental Army (estimated at $4,000-6000). The Martha Washington frank, however, is especially rare. Mrs. Washington died in 1802, only two years after she was granted franking privileges. Only four of her frank signatures are known to have survived. This particular cover is estimated at $30,000-40,000, and is on an integral leaf to a letter written by George’s personal secretary, Tobias Lear. The letter was written in 1800, ten months after George’s death, and requests that the recipients cancel Martha’s newspaper subscription because she couldn’t manage all her regular subscriptions.

“It’s a really wonderful and rare example of Martha Washington’s free frank that we’re very honored to handle,” said Gretchen Hause, senior specialist and director of the Fine Books and Manuscripts department.

The sale will also feature a substantial collection of aviation materials, including a signed photograph of Orville and Wilbur Wright. The photo was taken on September 9, 1908, in Fort Myer, Virginia, when Orville made the first hour-long flight. The photograph—signed by both brothers—is estimated at $8,000-12,000.

“It is more common to find photographs signed by only one of the Wright brothers,” Hause said, “so it’s very uncommon to see both signatures, especially on a photograph which captures one of their pioneering moments.”

Another key aviation item up for auction is the certificate of incorporation for the Wright Company, dated November 18, 1909 (estimated at $20,000-30,000). It contains the signatures of both Wilbur and Orville, as well as their business partners.

“The Wright Company was created so the brothers could capitalize on their invention of the practical airplane, and it protected the rights of their other aeronautical inventions,” Hause said. “In Dayton, Ohio, the company constructed the first building meant expressly for the purpose of building an airplane, and it continued to be a forerunner of aeronautical engineering and the manufacturing of planes until it later merged with the Martin Company.”

Though these are just a few of the extraordinary items buyers can expect at the sale, there will be many more across many different categories. “It will be a nice cross section of the books and manuscripts market as a whole,” Hause said. “We’re pleased to bring some of these highlights to market.”

Learn more at Leslie Hindman.
Peggy Carouthers is the custom content manager at Journalistic, Inc. She lives in California.