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Recently Uncovered Personal Letters from John Adams and Abraham Lincoln Available for Auction

Raab Collection

Letter from President John Adams (Photo Raab Collection)

An 1824 personal letter containing marital advice for a new bride written by President John Adams sold for $40,000 at auction. And a recently discovered unpublished, early Civil War personal letter written by President Abraham Lincoln will soon be made available for auction. Both historical items came from the Raab Collection.

The Raab Collection announced the discovery and sale of a previously unknown, early 19th-century autograph or “friendship” album, as they were called, bearing marriage advice from a former president and founding father to a young woman. In 1824, when he was 88 years old, John Adams’ advice was simple: Remember where you came from. The volume belonged to Adams’ neighbor, Ellen Maria Brackett, and was handed down through her Massachusetts family continuously before its acquisition this year by Raab.

“What makes this so remarkable,” said Nathan Raab, principal at The Raab Collection, “is that the Adams note is just one of many pages, each documenting a friend or family sentiment to this young woman during milestones in her life. You get a glimpse into the life of a woman like her at the start of our nation.”

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The autograph found within the Brackett album is the earliest presidential signature in an album that public records show having reached the market, explained the Raab Collection saying, “We found no other of either Adams or George Washington. According to the Adams Papers at the Massachusetts Historical Society, only one other example of Adams’ autograph in a similar volume survives, and that is in an institutional collection. By the time the fashion for autograph albums took hold, Adams was too old to oblige requests; this one likely exists only because of their neighborly connection.”

The Brackett family were neighbors of the Adamses in Quincy, Massachusetts.

“I rejoice at your prospect of an intimate connection with the family of my excellent friend Judge Peters, and his excellent lady Miss Robinson, both of whom I shall remember with affectionate respect as long as I live,” wrote Adams in the letter adding, “With my most sincere wishes that you may be attended with every prosperity through life, I subscribe myself your sincere friend.”

As for the Abraham Lincoln letter, it is addressed to American civil engineer and Union Army Colonel Charles Ellet, Jr. and documents Lincoln’s wartime strategizing, shows the use of the science of the day to protect Washington, and sheds light on political tensions. The letter was held in a private collection for at least a century before Raab acquired it earlier this year. It has never before been offered for sale and Raab values it at $85,000.

“Discovering unpublished, unknown letters of Abraham Lincoln is increasingly rare,” said Nathan Raab.”

Raab said that in this letter, Lincoln directs Ellet to seek opinions from his top three generals: Winfred Scott, George B. McClellan, and James Totten. The letter was then carried to the home of McClellan, who snubbed the President by refusing to see Ellet or consider the matter. “This letter is documentary evidence of McClellan’s mistreatment of Lincoln,” said Raab. “As for Ellet, he then published a rebuke of McClellan, which caused newspapers to caricature his efforts.”



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