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  • Declaration of Independence signer's autograph claims $24,800
  • Post author
    Paul Fraser

Declaration of Independence signer's autograph claims $24,800

Last week, as Independence Day passed, we were considering the value of the Declaration of Independence and its signers' autographs, noting that some of the latter are later than others.

Whilst he might not be Button Gwinnett, Nelson, Thomas Jr was a signer of the Declaration of Independence from Virginia whose autograph is extremely rare, so when a selection of signers' autographs went under the hammer at Ira and Larry Goldberg's at the weekend, his was always likely to attract attention.

The one page signed document, measuring 11¼ x 15¾ inches, originated in York County, Virginia on March 18 1784.

Thomas Nelson manuscript
Thomas Nelson's fought-over indenture manuscript

It was an indenture by which Nelson and his wife sold to Nathaniel Nelson for five shillings (Virginia money) "all that Lott of Land lying and being in the Town and County of York and known by Numbers…as appears in the plan of the said Town…."

It has been adapted on in that the folds have been expertly reinforced on verso with paper strips. There is some uneven toning, but otherwise, this was a choice specimen, accompanied by a transcript.

Thomas Nelson was a wealthy Virginia planter. He represented Virginia at the Second Continental Congress in 1775 at Philadelphia but resigned from Congress in 1777 because of ill health.

 

Thomas Nelson manuscript signature
Nelson's signature on the document

Once his health was restored, he was appointed brigadier general and commander in chief of Virginia's forces at the battle of Yorktown. Cornwallis had made Nelson's home his headquarters and Nelson's artillery was firing over his home in order not to damage it.

Nelson offered a reward to the first gunner to hit his home; a cannon ball still lodged in the wall is evidence of the success of that effort. Nelson succeeded Thomas Jefferson as governor in 1781.

Purchased from Paul Richards in 1981, the estimated value of the manuscript was $15,000 - 20,000, but collectors and investors pushed it a little higher, to $24,780.

 

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  • Post author
    Paul Fraser