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Sotheby's Offers Trove of Historic Documents Chronicling African American History, from the Eric C. Caren Collection

Other important items concerned with slavery and abolition are two very rare 19th century broadsides. The earlier is an 1845 circular announcing the formation of a Massachusetts committee to oppose the admission of Texas (at the time still an independent nation) into the United States as a slave state (estimate $2/3,000). The announcement is signed in type by many prominent abolitionists, including Elihu Burritt, William Lloyd Garrison, Wendell Phillips, Charles Sumner, and John Greenleaf Whittier. There is also an 1848 broadside from Salem, Ohio, promoting an abolition newspaper issued by the Western Anti-Slavery Society whose motto was “No Union with Slaveholders” (estimate $1,500-2,500). The broadside proclaimed: “The Executive Committee of the Western Anti-Slavery Society take this means of addressing you, personally, to solicit your co-operation in an effort to extend the circulations of the Anti-Slavery Bugle." The Anti-Slavery Bugle was a radical Garrisonite abolitionist newspaper, issued from 20 June 1845, to 4 May 1861, which also advocated for supported women’s rights and criticized churches that neglected the anti-slavery cause.

SCIENCE

The achievements of Granville T. Woods, who was known as “the Black Edison” in the press, are celebrated in a volume concerning Woods' patent for an electrical railway system with underground conductors (estimate $4/6,000). Woods (1856–1910) was the first African American to become a mechanical and electrical engineer after the Civil War. As an inventor, he held more than sixty patents, including those for an automatic brake, an egg incubator, and for improvements to other technologies such as the safety circuit, telegraph, telephone, and phonograph. This invention, like many of Woods’s other innovations, prompted a lawsuit by white inventors trying to claim his work. Ironically, Woods was sued twice by Thomas Edison himself—but both suits were unsuccessful.

CIVIL RIGHTS

The collection also features material from the 20th century, as the early Civil Rights movement coalesced in the 1930s, such as a powerful and startling anti-lynching image, circa 1937, which was issued by the New York City Rebel Arts Group, a left-wing artist cooperative (estimate $1,500 - $2,500). The silk-screened cloth banner is a striking visual statement that depicts a clenched hand holding a protest sign in front of a factory that reads "Stop Lynching," above the caption "Shame of America.”






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  • Pictured Left to Right: John Hancock and Benjamin Lincoln's Commission as Major General, signed by John Hancock; Mcelroy and Nicholson Patent Documents, Primarily Relating to Granville T. Woods; Benjamin Harrison, Document signed as governor of Virginia, certifying the service of Daniel Cumbo
    Pictured Left to Right: John Hancock and Benjamin Lincoln's Commission as Major General, signed by John Hancock; Mcelroy and Nicholson Patent Documents, Primarily Relating to Granville T. Woods; Benjamin Harrison, Document signed as governor of Virginia, certifying the service of Daniel Cumbo
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