Set of Founding Fathers’ signatures up for sale


A rare collection featuring the signatures of all 56 men who signed the US Declaration of Independence will be put up for sale by a New England auction house tomorrow.

RR Auction of Amherst, NH, is auctioning off the Proctor-Sang-Newell Collection of Signers of the Declaration of Independence. RR Auction calls the collection one of the finest quality sets ever offered for sale.

“Most of the examples are substantial-length letters, many of which feature significant historical content by some of the nation’s most important Founding Fathers,” the company writes in promotional material.

The key signature in the Proctor-Sang-Newell Collection is said to be that of Georgia signer Button Gwinnett. There are just 51 examples of his autograph known to exist – and only 11 in private hands, according to RR Auction.

Individual examples of Gwinnett’s autograph have sold for as much as $150,000, making his signature by far the most valuable American autograph.

Gwinnett, born in 1735, had a relatively short public life, being elected to the Georgia Provincial Assembly in 1769 and serving briefly as the provisional president of Georgia in 1777 before being killed in a duel later that same year.

The Gwinnett signature included in the Proctor-Sang-Newell Collection is described as being from “a historic 1773 document signed by the Georgia signer at an important moment in his life.”

Other “rare and uncommon signers” in the collection include: Thomas Lynch Jr. and Arthur Middleton of South Carolina; Joseph Hewes and John Penn of North Carolina; Thomas Nelson Jr. of Virginia; George Taylor of Pennsylvania; and Lyman Hall of Georgia.

“It is the enormous scarcity of these signatures that make collecting all 56 signers a near-impossible feat,” according to the auction house.

The collection was first assembled by Utica, NY, collector Thomas R. Proctor (1844–1920), a Civil War veteran and descendant of a Revolutionary War soldier.

Proctor’s collection was later acquired by Philip D. Sang (1902–1975), one of three complete sets of the signers he owned during his lifetime.

In 2002, Richard Newell purchased the collection in a private sale.

Newell actually improved the original collection by acquiring finer-quality documents features the signers’ autographs.

These include a Revolutionary War-dated letter by Middleton in which he compliments John Hancock, and a letter by New Hampshire signer Matthew Thornton to the New Hampshire Committee of Safety asking someone to represent him at an important October 1775 meeting with Benjamin Franklin and George Washington.

Newell also added a letter by Robert Morris, written at the end of 1776, in which he acts as agent for the Continental Congress that had fled to Baltimore fearing a British attack on Philadelphia.

There are but 40 complete sets of the signers of the Declaration of Independence in existence, the auction house noted.

(Above: Document featuring rare signature of Georgia signer Button Gwinnett.)

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