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Vermont Statehood Document, Signed By Thomas Jefferson, Up For Auction

Swann Auction Galleries
This original document, signed by Thomas Jefferson in 1791, officially announced Vermont as the 14th state into The Union. The historical document is up for auction in New York on Thursday.

A sizeable collection of original Revolutionary War era documents will be up for auction on Thursday at Swann Auction Galleries in New York. Several autographed items in the group have historical importance to Vermont, including an original copy of the document announcing statehood in 1791, signed by Thomas Jefferson.

Twenty-eight original copies of this document were distributed when Vermont became the 14th state to enter the Union in 1791. 

Credit Matthew Harris Jouett / Wikimedia Commons
Wikimedia Commons
Written announcements of Vermont's statehood, signed by then-Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson in 1791, were distributed to all of the states in the Union.

Half of the documents went to each of the states in the Union, and the remaining copies were sent to be stored in the Library of Congress. George Lowry, chairman of Swann Auction Galleries, explains where the document up for auction may have originated. “[The document] is certainly one of the original 28. We assume that it came from Vermont because it came to us from the collection of a man that was very, very into collecting Vermontiana," Lowry says.

Although valued at $15,000 to $25,000, Lowry is hopeful the document could bring more at auction. “Similar documents have brought more than that. It really depends on how much interest there is in Vermont history," he says. "I wouldn’t be surprised if we brought in a bit more, around $30,000 to $35,000.” Lowry says he can think of several potential buyers of the document, including Vermontiana collectors, historical societies and collectors of American historical documents.

"[The previous collector] was interested in Vermont, where he had spent time as a child and loved it." - George Lowry, chairman of the gallery at Swann Auction Galleries

Lowry describes the previous owner of the document as a Vermont enthusiast, which is why there will be several other Vermont-related documents up for auction on Thursday, all from the Revolutionary War era. “The man who owned [this document] was a New Yorker who died at the age of 96. He was a collector and customer of [the auction house] since 1953," he says. "He was interested in Vermont, where he had spent time as a child and loved it.”

Credit Swann Auction Galleries
The document is written on a piece of 18th-century paper that has become slightly discolored with time.

Joining the statehood document in the auction on Thursday are several other Vermont-related documents, according to the gallery, including:

  • A land deed transferring 450 acres to the Georgia Township, signed by Ethan Allen.
  • A letter from Ira Allen to the governor of New Hampshire, correcting misinformation of him asking the British government to withhold military supplies to Vermont.
  • A document from 1782, signed by Thomas Chittenden, granting a tract of land near Landgrove, Londonderry and Winhall.
  • A letter from 1779, signed by President of Continental Congress John Jay, resolving boundary disputes among Vermont, New Hampshire and Massachusetts.

The Autographs Auction takes place in New York on Thursday, November 20th at 1:30 p.m. Learn more about all of the documents related to Vermont up for auction on the Swann Auction Galleries’ website.

Patti is an integral part of VPR's news effort and part of the team that created Vermont Edition. As executive producer, Patti supervises the team that puts Vermont Edition on the air every day, working with producers to select and research show ideas, select guests and develop the sound and tone of the program.
Jane Lindholm is the host, executive producer and creator of But Why: A Podcast For Curious Kids. In addition to her work on our international kids show, she produces special projects for Vermont Public. Until March 2021, she was host and editor of the award-winning Vermont Public program Vermont Edition.
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