NEW YORK – Swann Auction Galleries’ Printed & Manuscript African Americana auction on May 7 totaled $741,581 for the 399 lots with an 89% sell-through rate by lot. It was the company’s first live online auction. Absentee and Internet live bidding was available through LiveAuctioneers.
The top item in the sale was an 1848 letterpress broadside announcing a $250 reward for the return of three runaway slaves, sisters who were house servants for a prominent silversmith from Georgetown, District of Columbia. The 11¾-by-9½-inch broadside sold for $37,500. Prices include the buyer’s premium.
A small photograph of a black family at Point Lookout, Maryland, where many slaves fled during the war, sold for $32,500. The albumen photo was taken by Lafayette V. Newell, a New Hampshire photographer who during the war established himself at the large Union military base in Point Lookout. Numerous African American families, having escaped from slavery in nearby Virginia, streamed into Point Lookout and other Union camps, where they were declared free as “contraband of war.”
A Night-Club Map of Harlem by E. Simms Campbell and featured in the inaugural issue of Manhattan: A Weekly for Wakeful New Yorkers (Jan. 18, 1933), sold for $27,500.
A copy of the 17th annual Afro Travel Guide published by the Travel Bureau, Afro-American Newspapers, Baltimore, Maryland, brought $27,500. The cover price for the 36-page booklet was 25 cents. It competed with the well-known Negro Motorist’s Green Book. It lists more than a thousand hotels and other businesses “providing accommodations for the colored traveler” in addition to numerous advertisements.
A March for Freedom Now! poster that was printed for a protest at the 1960 Republican Convention sold for $17,500. More than 5,000 marchers including Martin Luther King, A. Philip Randolph and Roy Wilkins demanded a conference with the Republican National Committee and a civil rights plank in the party platform.
An early dorm room version of the original I Am a Man protest poster used in the days before Dr. Martin Luther King’s assassination in 1968 sold for $6,500. The lithographer is credited as “Tea Lautrec.”
Additional highlights included:
– Papers of the comedian Nipsey Russell (1929-2000) including a personal letter from Martin Luther King, $17,500.
– ‘Colored Waiting Room,’ metal sign, 1950s, $15,000.
– Abraham Lincoln, ‘The Proclamation of Emancipation,’ seventh printed edition and the only one in separate pamphlet form, 1862, $11,875.
– Archive of photographs of boxing champion Joe Louis, collected by his manager Julian Black, circa 1935-1945 and 1970s, $11,875.
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