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Hamilton letters, manuscripts grab $2.6M at auction

Katya Kazakina

Sotheby’s sale of Alexander Hamilton letters and manuscripts in New York exceeded expectations by generating $2.6 million as the auction house capitalized on the historical figure’s surging popularity.

A 1777 document appointing Hamilton as aide-de-camp to General George Washington fetched $212,500 as part of the special auction on Wednesday from the family archives of the first U.S. Secretary of the Treasury, whose life inspired the Tony Award-winning musical “Hamilton.” A few minutes later, the earliest surviving love letter from Hamilton to his future wife Eliza, which began “My dearest girl,” sold for $118,750, surpassing the high estimate of $60,000.

The auction had been expected to tally $1.4 million to $2.1 million. All 77 lots sold, according to Sotheby’s.

The hit musical “brought some new collectors in and got the general public more interested in American history,” said Seth Kaller, a rare manuscript dealer who bought about 20 lots.

One purchase — the only known letter of Hamilton’s son Philip to his father, from 1797 — was for $40,000, more than triple the high estimate. Kaller said he acquired it for the Gilder Lehrman Collection, an historical archive established by financiers Lewis Lehrman and Richard Gilder. It will be on public view at the New-York Historical Society, Kaller said.