The extraordinary Dow Collection of Abraham Lincoln memorabilia sold for $803,889, double expectations, at a Historical Americana auction held Jan. 24, 2015 by Heritage Auctions
in Dallas. This year marks the 150th anniversary of the president's assassination, and the collection's top lots were captured by one-of-a-kind memorabilia tied to assassin John Wilkes Booth.
A superlative display of photographs and scarce autographs from Lincoln, Booth, and Boston Corbett, the soldier who shot and killed Booth a set nicknamed "The Martyr, The Assassin and The Avenger" sold for $30,000 and a set of four oil paintings created for a carnival side show displaying the mummified remains of a man who claimed to be Booth himself, also sold for $30,000. An 1861 letter written by Booth to a friend boasting about his career and value as an actor also brought $30,000.
"The public was so disgusted by Booth's atrocity that most all letters, signatures and documents mentioning him were destroyed after Lincolns death, making any that survive 150 years later exceedingly rare and valuable," said Don Ackerman, Consignment Director for Historical Americana at Heritage Auctions. "The Dow Collection gave us a unique perspective of the assassination and I doubt we'll ever see a grouping like this outside of a museum setting."
The rare items were collected beginning in 1963 by the late Donald P. Dow, second-generation owner of Dow Art Galleries of Fort Worth. Amassed primarily before the advent of the internet and centered on Lincoln's April 15, 1865 assassination and manhunt for Booth, the 302-lot Dow Collection held historical rarities not seen in more than four decades. Among the rare autographs, photographs and relics included a lock of Lincoln's hair, removed by Surgeon General Joseph K. Barnes shortly after Lincoln was shot, which hammered for $25,000, and a clipping of blood-stained linen taken directly from the President's death bed, which sold for $6,000.
A unique 1864 letter signed by Lincoln authorizing an P.O.W. swap involving Confederate General Robert E. Lee's son from a Union prisoner of war camp sold for $27,500.
An eyewitness account of the assassination, written by Treasury Department employee Samuel I. Koontz who sat just 15 feet away from the President at Ford's Theater, sold for $27,500 and a second first-hand account written by W. Martin Jones sold for $14,375. A display of signatures by Lincoln and each of his cabinet members below a print depicting the first reading of the Emancipation Proclamation sold for $22,500.
Booth's military arrest warrant sold for $21,250, following a war by two phone bidders.
Additional highlights from the Dow Collection of Abraham Lincoln:
The only known surviving prototype cambric cape and photograph belonging to the Hartford Wide Awakes, a group backing Lincoln's 1860 Presidential campaign, sold for $21,250.
The original diary kept by James Rowan OBeirne, a Washington, D.C. Provost Marshal active in the hunt for Booth, sold for $15,000.
A framed White House Funeral Admittance Card sold for $11,875.
A letter signed by Mary Todd Lincoln, on her personal mourning stationary, sold for $10,625.