FALLS CHURCH, Va. – This year marks the 150th anniversary of Alexander Graham Bell’s most famous invention: the telephone. While scientific history is mired in controversy over who actually devised the first electronic speech-transmitting device, with a number of contenders in the fray, it was Bell who received the US patent for the telephone, on March 7, 1876. In recognition of Bell’s world-changing invention, Quinn’s has included several significant early documents and other ephemera pertaining to the telephone patent dispute in its February 20 Presidential Autograph and Americana Auction. Bid absentee or live online through LiveAuctioneers.
Featured: Extraordinary archive chronicling Alexander Graham Bell’s battle for telephone patent and establishment of AT&T; women’s suffrage books inscribed by Susan B. Anthony
Papers associated with the many legal challenges to Bell’s invention are of inestimable importance, as decisions from those cases went on to set precedents that affected future patent litigation. Quinn’s is proud to present several significant lots of ephemera directly associated with the dawn of telecommunications, starting with a first edition of Bell’s first report on the telephone, titled Researches In Telephony. In this account, Bell includes a word-for-word description of the first successful transmission of human speech via telephone, occurring on March 14, 1876. The report is part of a disbound 8-volume set and is estimated at $2,000-$3,000.
Bell’s The Second Bell Telephone Patent: Improvements in Electric Telephony relates to US Patent No. 186,787, which was issued on January 15, 1877. The second of Bell’s two fundamental patents for the telephone, it provided sweeping protection for the Scotsman’s invention, clearing a pathway for AT&T’s near-century-long monopoly in the marketplace. The lot offered by Quinn’s consists of three pages, two of them having intricately detailed illustrations and diagrams. Estimate: $1,000-$2,000
An extraordinary collection known as “The Telephone Cases” is a virtual archive of literature chronicling the years of litigation that ended in a win for Bell and untouchable status for AT&T until 1982, when the Bell System was finally broken up. The auction lot includes 20 original pleadings, complaints, briefs and filing documents associated with the nearly 600 cases filed by and against the American Bell Telephone Company and its adversaries. The lot estimate is $1,000-$2,000.
As would be fitting for a Presidents Day auction, the beautifully curated 166-lot sale includes a broad array of Presidential autographs and memorabilia. In addition to documents and other materials signed by James Madison, James Buchanan and Theodore Roosevelt, there are letters and photographs hand-signed by Ronald Reagan, George HW Bush, and George W Bush. A football emblazoned with the Presidential Seal and signed by four consecutive Presidents – Bush, Clinton, Bush and Obama – is accompanied by a letter from the original owner, Worthington W White, who was an administrative officer and executive residence usher at The White House. Its estimate is $1,500-$2,500.
An attractively framed presentation dated February 14, 1865, features an Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865) signed and sealed government appointment of J(ohn) H(olmes) Goodenow to the position of Consul General of the United States at Constantinople. Additionally, it is signed by Lincoln’s Secretary of State William H Seward [who later negotiated the United States’ $7.2 million purchase of Alaska from Russia]. The Lincoln appointment is from the penultimate month of the Civil War period. Estimate: $4,000-$6,000
Another framed presentation that would be of great interest to scholars and collectors of US Presidential material is anchored by a check drawn on First National City Bank of New York account of John F Kennedy. The $10.71 check is dated September 27, 1961 and made payable to Bethesda Engravers as payment for the engraver’s plate used to print JFK’s inaugural invitations. Handwritten by White House staffer Pamela Turnure, the check was then hand-signed by Kennedy. The framed grouping includes the actual engraver’s plate, an inaugural invitation and a letter on White House stationery. Estimate: $4,000-$6,000
From the realm of authorized Presidential art, Quinn’s offers Jo Davidson’s (American, 1883-1952) bronze bust of President Woodrow Wilson (1856-1924). Modeled at The White House in June of 1916 and of exceptional quality, it measures 8 inches tall, 9 inches wide and is artist-signed on the back. Its pre-auction estimate is $2,500-$3,500.
A much earlier work that may have been stitched for the 1836 Presidential election [won by Martin Van Buren], a patriotically themed needlework (shown at top of page) depicts American Flags outlined in silver thread and an eagle with an E Pluribus Unum pennant. Measuring 25¼ by 23¾ inches (framed) and possibly crafted from silk thread, it comes to auction with an $800-$1,200 estimate. The Presidential category is rounded out by several political buttons, including an 1861 Lincoln brass ferrotype pin, $200-$300; and a colorful McKinley/Roosevelt jugate medallion ribbon button, $140-$240.
Certainly not to be overlooked are two important lots tied to women’s suffrage. The first is Ida Husted Harper’s 2-volume set titled Life And Work of Susan B Anthony. Published by Bowen-Merrill Co., in 1898 and 1899, the set is dated and inscribed by Anthony to her cousin, Mrs. Sarah Anthony Burtis, who assumed the post of acting secretary at 1848 Rochester Women’s Rights Convention. Estimate $800-$1,200.
The second lot consists of a 4-volume set of books titled History of Woman Suffrage by Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B Anthony and Matilda Joslyn Gage. With lengthy personal inscriptions by Anthony and illustrated with steel engravings, this sought-after set is estimated at $2,000-$3,000.
Quinn’s Feb. 20, 2023 Presidential Autograph and Americana Auction will commence at 2pm Eastern time. Bid absentee or live via the Internet through LiveAuctioneers. For additional information about any item in the auction, call Andrew Shifler at Quinn’s, 703-532-5632, ext. 576; or email Andrew.Shifler@quinnsauction.com. Visit Quinn’s online at www.quinnsauction.com.
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