PBA Galleries sale Feb. 11 stars President Tyler family archive

Five items relate directly to the Civil War, including letters from a Confederate prisoner of war. Fourteen items in the archive relate to Confederate veterans and veterans organizations. PBA Galleries image

SAN FRANCISCO – PBA Galleries will auction the Tyler-Goodwyn Family Archive of President John Tyler descendants containing approximately 265 letters, documents, writings and manuscripts, plus silver cups and spoons, an engraved gold pocket watch and other family memorabilia circa 1832-1980. The archive will be offered on Sunday, Feb. 11, in an early morning sale in Pasadena, Calif., to coincide with the 51st California International Antiquarian Book Fair. Absentee and Internet live bidding is available through LiveAuctioneers.

An important archive of papers and other items passed down by the descendants of President John Tyler (1790-1862) through his eldest son, Robert Tyler (1816-1877), who married Priscilla Cooper, and whose daughter Priscilla C. Tyler married Albert T. Goodwyn. The Tylers and the Goodwyns were old Southern families, from South Carolina, Virginia and Alabama, long involved in the political, economic and social life of the South, and were owners of slaves and plantations.

One of the earliest letters is from John Tyler in 1834, to his then 18-year old son, Robert, when the elder Tyler was a senator from Virginia, discussing primarily matters of politics and state.

The archive includes letters, deeds, wills, bills of sale and other records detailing numerous transactions in slaves, and in large holdings of land. These latter include the sell-off of land after the Civil War and reacquiring assets in the succeeding decades.

There are also three letters written by Albert T. Goodwyn while he was a prisoner of the Union forces during the Civil War, held on Johnson’s Island in Lake Erie off the north shore of Ohio.

Heirlooms in the Tyler-Goodwyn Family Archive include silver items and a Waltham pocket watch. PGA Galleries image

Following the Civil War, business practices of necessity changed, but large land-owners and slave-holders such as the Goodwyns were able to adapt, and the documents reveal the share-cropping practices that kept the freed slaves in virtual if not actual bondage. There are also a number of papers relating to the curious ownership of a bridge by the Goodwyn family, acquired in the early 20th century.

During this period members of the Goodwyn family became more involved in politics, and various papers and speeches reveal the efforts of the Democratic Party in the South to keep power firmly in the hands of white men. Some of the family were of a literary bent, though more whimsical than serious in nature, and there are several stories and essays by Robert Tyler Goodwyn, some treating in “humorous” fashion the relationships between the white patricians of the South and African Americans. There are, finally, artifacts of the family, including a gold pocket watch from the American Waltham Watch Co., with initials and dates of three family members, beginning in 1852.

The papers are housed in plastic sleeves in six binders, arranged chronologically in 14 different subject categories or sections.

  • Section One – Photographs: Ten photographic images, some from paintings, portraits of family members.
  • Section Two – John Tyler: Letter to son Robert Tyler regarding negotiations with France and their promised payment of $5 million to the U.S. government for violations of trade agreements.
  • Section Three – Slavery: Twelve manuscript letters, documents, bills of sale, etc., relating to slavery, 1838-1850.
  • Section Four – Civil War: Five items relating to the American Civil War, including three letters from Albert T. Goodwyn to family members when he was a prisoner-of-war at Johnson’s Island, Ohio, in 1864
  • Section Five – CSA Veterans: Fourteen items relating to Confederate veterans and veteran organizations, 1903-1935.
  • Section Six – Land: Forty-three documents, deeds, quit claims, and other items relating to land and land transactions, 1832-1939.
  • Section Seven – Business and Finance: Forty-five document, letters, insurance forms, contracts and other items relating to finance and business, including some involving sharecropping, 1867-1966.
  • Section Eight – Bridge: Twenty-five letters and documents relating to the Montgomery Toll Bridge Co., 1915-1934.
  • Section Nine – Politics: Sixteen documents, speeches, and other items relating to politics, including voter suppression in the 1930s and 1940s, 1892-1942.
  • Section Ten – Literary and Education: Thirty essays, stories, school tests, diplomas, and other fictional and factual writings, a number of them relating to race relations, 1867-1942.
  • Section Eleven – Family Letters: Twenty letters between members of the Tyler-Goodwyn extended family, 1834-1928.
  • Section Twelve – Genealogy and Family History: Thirty items relating to the genealogy of the Tyler-Goodwyn extended family, including family trees, memoirs, obituaries, newspaper articles, etc., 1884-1988.
  • Section Thirteen – Wills: Thirteen wills and related testaments of members of the Tyler-Goodwyn extended family. 1900-1951.
  • Section Fourteen – Miscellaneous: Thirteen items of miscellaneous nature, including several relating to the 1918 military service of Robert Tyler Goodwyn Jr. 1891-1962.
  • Overall the archive is in very good condition, with normal wear associated with age, use, and storage, some of the earlier papers with neat archival tape repairs.

The archive, which will be sold as a single lot, is estimated at $20,000-$30,000.

For details contact PBA Galleries at 415-989-2665 or pba@pbagalleries.com.