Sale 19BP01 | Lot 47

WASHINGTON, GEORGE Autograph letter signed as President to Otho Holland Williams regarding a shipment of fruit trees from Mount Clara to Mount Vernon.

Catalogue: Rare Books, Autographs & Maps
WASHINGTON, GEORGE  Autograph letter signed as President to Otho Holland Williams regarding a shipment of Fruit Trees from Mount Clara to Mount Vernon.

Lot Details

Lot 47
WASHINGTON, GEORGE Autograph letter signed as President to Otho Holland Williams regarding a shipment of fruit trees from Mount Clara to Mount Vernon.
New York: 2 October 1789. One page autograph letter signed "G: Washington" on one long bifolium, the address panel in Washington's hand and franked "President US", with faint franking stamps to address panel, an intact black wax seal, docketting notation "No. 23" to upper left of recto and to address panel "2nd October 1789", a brief note of early provenance to the recto of the second leaf. 12 x 7 /2 inches (30.5 x 19 cm); the letter housed in a double-sided frame which clips onto a fine frame with plaque and portrait. Some faint toned or lightly stained areas in upper margin and along fold, paper replacement to verso where opened, old strengthening to fold on verso, silking to folds on verso of first page and recto of second, small early and faint docketting stamps to address panel, some possible repair to wax seal.
Six months into his first term, President Washington writes regarding a shipment of fruit trees bound for Mount Vernon from the noted greenhouse at Mount Clare, the Baltimore plantation of Margaret Tilghman Carroll, widow of Charles Carroll "The Barrister." The letter is one of several in a harried correspondence between Washington, who had requested some small fruit trees of Mrs. Carroll; Otho Holland Williams, first commissioner of the Port of Baltimore and Revolutionary War Brigadier General, whom Washington had asked to arrange the shipment of the trees from Baltimore to Annapolis; and Mrs. Carroll, who had clearly taken Washington's request to an extreme and hoped to exceed his expectations by making a grand gift to the new President of mature, fruit bearing trees which would require a special and costly vessel to transport. In the current letter, Washington is both explaining his intentions regarding the shipment to Williams and somewhat urging him to convince Mrs. Carroll to reduce her gift as the large trees "would be a robbery of the good Lady without answering my purposes so well as those which were younger." The letter opens with an apologetic Washington reporting that his instructions to Williams were "so incautiously expressed as to lead you into a mistake" and that he intended the "infant growth" trees shipped by some "casual conveyance" or "Packet" rather than the "large vessel" required to move the heavy, fruit bearing trees, and commenting twice that the expense generated by this shipment "far exceed the value of the things." Despite further entreaties to Mrs. Carroll, on October 29th Williams wrote to Washington that "Mrs Carroll sent me five boxes, and twenty small pots of trees, and young plants; among which were two Shaddocks-One Lemon, and One Orange, of from three to five feet in length; Nine small orange trees; Nine Lemon; One fine balm scented Shrub; Two Potts of Alloes, and some tufts of knotted Marjoram" to which Washington, upon return from his New England tour, wrote her on 22 November: "I am overcome by your goodness." Mrs. Carroll's gift to Washington added a variety of valuable fruit trees to the estate which greatly enhanced Washington's greenhouse as it became the most advanced of its time and is still active today.

Autograph letters from the early months of Washington's presidency are infrequently offered at auction (we trace approximately 6 unique examples sold dated 1789) and this letter is enhanced by Washington's franking signature as President and the retention of an intact wax seal. The text of this letter is included in the footnote of the entry for a letter from Washington to Margaret Tilghman Carroll dated 16 September 1789 on the website of the Washington Papers ( We also note the previous sale of a letter from Washington to Williams on this subject also dated 16 September 1789 (Freeman, 5 October 1983, lot 424, $2,500).

C Property of a Palm Beach Collector

Estimate: $25,000 - $35,000
Sold for $25,000 (includes buyer's premium)

Additional Notes & Condition Report

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Estimate: $25,000 - $35,000
Sold for $25,000 (includes buyer's premium)

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Rare Books, Autographs & Maps

Wed, Apr 17, 2019 at 10am EDT
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