Rare Revolutionary War letter written by George Washington in 1779 to John Jay, President of the Continental Congress

THOMASTON, ME:  A historically important 1779 letter written by George Washington to John Jay, President of the Continental Congress, will be sold at auction on Saturday, August 25.  The only thing missing from this rare document is the signature.  The letter was found with deeds that belonged to members of the Jay family.  The current owner of the document said that the signature was clipped and sold many years ago, believing the accompanying note to be of no value.


This letter, dated 4 June 1779, was probably written at a pivotal time in the Revolutionary War to thank Jay for his work in the Continental Congress, which on the 6th of June had secured an enormous loan from the French to carry the Continental Army through the coming winter.  Shortly after this, Washington was encouraged enough to send out General "Mad" Anthony Wayne on a series of successful harassing actions against the British.


Thomaston Place Owner and Auctioneer Kaja Veilleux noted:  “This amazing letter was brought to us, along with other rare John Jay estate documents, on a recent “Free Appraisal” Tuesday at our gallery.  It’s a great discovery, and we encourage collectors who have examples of Washington autographs to examine their items.  If there is a chance that the letter and signature could be reunited, it would be a historically significant find.”


The letter reads: "Camp at Smith's Tavern in the Clove (Ramapo Pass, Sloatsburg, NY), June 14th, 1779. Sir, I have had the honor to receive your Excellencys (sic) favor of the 8th instant with the enclosed Act of the Congress of the 7th. The honorable testimony of their approbation expressed in that act, contains such favorable Sentiments of my conduct as deserves my warmest acknowledgements. I have the honor to be” (with greatest respect)... (lower portion removed).


Authenticated Washington autographs alone sell for between $5,000 and $10,000, but signed letters can bring much more -- $15,000 to $30,000, depending on the subject.  Signed letters of historical importance can bring very large sums, such as a 1787 letter in which he praised the new U.S. Constitution that sold in 2009 for $3.2 million.  Another letter, in which Washington communicated his intention to resign his commission at Continental Commander in 1783, brought $362,500 in a 2012 auction.


This letter, without the signature, is estimated to bring between $5,000 and $6,000.  If the original signature could be found and reunited with the note, the value could rise to ten to fifteen times that estimate.


Many other important treasures will come to the auction block on August 25 & 26 at Thomaston Place Auction Galleries.  These include paintings by Andrew and Jamie Wyeth, Milton Avery, Maurice Utrillo, Bernard Buffet, Edouard Cortes, Waldo Peirce, and Howard Chandler Christy, plus large collections of important Asian antiques, fine antiquities, Faberge items, and estate jewelry.


The auction will begin at 11:00 a.m. EST each day.  A complete, full color catalog, with detailed descriptions and photographs, is available, and all lots can be viewed at Thomaston Place Auction Galleries’ website,


In addition to live bidding in the auction hall, Thomaston Place accepts bids via absentee, telephone, and on the internet (via Thomaston Live, Invaluable, or Live Auctioneers). The buyer’s premium is 17% for live, telephone, and absentee bidders and 20% for online bidders.  Please call 1-207-354-8141 for more information, or to reserve seats in the auction hall.


The gallery will be open for previews Monday, August 20 through Friday, August 24 (between 9:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. each day) and from 9:00 to 11:00 a.m. Saturday and Sunday morning before the auction begins.


Thomaston Place Auction Galleries is Maine’s premier international auction company located on U.S. Route 1 in Thomaston.  Thomaston Place is a leader in discovering Maine’s antique and fine art treasures by offering Free Appraisals each Tuesday at the gallery, creating fundraiser events for civic and charitable organizations, and providing house call appraisal services.  Their expertise in researching, preserving, and marketing antiques and fine art has earned Thomaston Place the respect of buyers, collectors and experts worldwide.

Comments (0)
If you wish to comment, please login.