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Lot #163
John Brown

Twenty-two-year-old JOHN BROWN signs a receipt months after the celebrated Denmark Vesey case

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Twenty-two-year-old JOHN BROWN signs a receipt months after the celebrated Denmark Vesey case

A Connecticut-born farmer with Calvinist roots, John Brown (1800–1859) was a lifelong opponent of slavery. Strong words turned to action in the 1850s when, amid the heated debate over the admission of Kansas as a slave vs. a free state, the increasingly zealous Brown moved there and led a guerrilla band in the murder of five pro-slavery settlers that came to be known as the Pottawatomie Massacre. Supported by six wealthy patrons, Brown hatched an ambitious plan to capture the Federal arsenal at Harper’s Ferry and distribute the weapons to slaves. The violent plot ultimately failed when he was captured by Robert E. Lee, tried, and hanged, becoming the most visible—and still-controversial—martyr to the abolitionist cause. ADS, one page, 7.75 x 4, Hudson [Ohio], December 5, 1822. A manuscript receipt acknowledging payment from “Persis Case eighty four cents in full of all accounts existing betwen [sic] me and the estate of Gideon Case.” The lower portion bears a receipt in another hand, signed “Horace Rogers,” acknowledging payment of $2.37 from Case “on a school bill.” At the time he penned this receipt, Brown ran a small tannery, a trade he had learned from his father, outside of Hudson, Ohio. Earlier in the same year, on July 2, Denmark Vesey, a freed slave, was executed after his conviction for organizing an abortive slave rebellion that would have been one of the largest in history. The Vesey case had a direct effect on Brown’s views regarding slavery and abolition, culminating in the events that secured Brown’s place in history. In fine condition, with horizontal folds (not affecting the signature), a hint of scattered toning, and very faint show-through from writing on reverse, all of which are mentioned for the sake of strict accuracy. The writing and signature are clear, bold, and completely unaffected, which, together with the early date, makes this an exceptional and visually pleasing relic of the fabled abolitionist. JSA/John Reznikoff Auction LOA and RRAuction COA.

Auction Info

  • Auction Title:
  • Dates: #344 - Ended April 15, 2009