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Update: Bull Market for Ye Olde Vermont Documents 

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Several documents related to early Vermont history were recently offered for sale at Swann Auction Galleries in Manhattan.

The items came from the collection of Milton R. Slater of Sleepy Hollow, N.Y., who died earlier this year. Swann's experts judged the most significant piece to be a 1791 declaration by the United States Congress certifying Vermont's admission to the Union as the 14th state. The act of Congress bears the signature of Thomas Jefferson, who at the time was U.S. secretary of state.

Other Vermontiana on the auction block included a deed signed by Ethan Allen and a letter signed by his brother, Ira.

UPDATE: Most of the documents sold for prices that were well above what Swann had estimated. The Vermont statehood declaration, one of 28 copies signed by Jefferson, went for $32,500; Swann had forecast that it would fetch between $15,000 and $25,000.

The 1774 land deed signed by Ethan Allen sold for $13,750, more than triple its high estimate. A 1779 letter bearing the most famous signature in U.S. history — that of Declaration of Independence-endorser John Hancock — earned $20,000; Swann had predicted it would go for between $8,000 and $12,000.

The lowest estimate had been $200 to $300 for a land grant signed in 1782 by Thomas Chittenden, the state's first governor. Despite its poor condition, it sold for $1,430.

The estimated price range proved accurate for an 1808 letter signed by then-U.S. secretary of state John Quincy Adams notifying the editors of the Vermont Republican in Windsor that their newspaper had been chosen to publish U.S. congressional documents; it sold for $1,375.

The letter signed by Ira Allen in 1806 failed to reach the estimated price of $2,000 to $3,000, instead selling for $1,500.

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Kevin J. Kelley

Kevin J. Kelley

Kevin J. Kelley is a contributing writer for Seven Days, Vermont Business Magazine and the daily Nation of Kenya.


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