The words from George Washington's pen are spread throughout the catalog of documents, maps and other archives found in Seth Kaller's White Plains-based office.
"First in war, first in peace, first in the hearts of this country," reads one.
It's that close connection to the words that helped form the United States that Kaller said draws people to the archives he is offering as part of a 104-page catalog relating to George Washington and the Declaration of Independence.
"You can't shake Washington's hand, but you can actually hold in your hand a document he spent time on," explains Kaller. "It's the best personal connection you can actually still make with somebody that lived 200 years ago."
Kaller, 47, has been in the collecting and selling business since 1989. His most recent catalog offers documents ranging in price from $25—for a 1783 voucher for tea—to $1 million. Each offers the opportunity for an up-close view of a piece of America's history.
The collection is aimed for both serious and new collectors and provides different pieces with connections to the important era. Included in the collection are:
- A July 3, 1776 receipt for the purchase of saltpeter; the day between the July 2 resolution and the passage of the Declaration of Independence on July 4 ($2,750)
- A Washington signed honorable discharge and Badge of Merit to a drummer ($14,500)
- The first engraving of Washington Crossing the Delaware, Leutze's monumental work ($10,000)
- Washington's 'Prize in View' letter where he seeks change in leadership, war, finance and government and lays out a survival strategy for a struggling nation ($300,000)
- An extremely rare July 1776 broadside of the Declaration of Independence, 1 of only 6 known copies of the first printing in Massachusetts.
Kaller said the collection is the largest of documents from this time period to be made available in more than 50 years. Also included are drafts of the Bill or Rights and United States Constitution. Wherever a collector's interest may lie, Kaller said the collection offers something for everyone.
"People purchase historic documents and artifacts for many reasons; some have an interest in a particular figure or event, others purchase them to hand down to future generations. Some buyers acquire for personal enjoyment, others to donate to a particular library or museum," said Kaller. "Whatever the reason, this catalog offers a unique opportunity to own a piece of history, and learn from the original documents at the bedrock of our nation’s history."
One of the fascinating things about these drafts are the changes made along the way. Looking at an early draft compared to the final copy of the Bill of Rights provides insight into the debates our founding fathers had while constructing the document.
Analyzing the two shows many of the same debates that exist today.
"We have four different drafts of the Bill of Rights in the catalog and each handle religious liberty as a central issue, but differently," said Kaller. "It's evolving and you can see it evolving."
Purchasing a piece of history has always been a good investment, said Kaller. But sales are also made to museums and public institutions where they are shared for educational purposes. The original documents provide a more life-like and interesting experience as we try to draw connections to the birth of our nation.
"You don't get the same feeling you do when looking at the original," said Kaller. "There's just something more, something iconic and alive about the original documents."
Viewings of Kaller's new catolag are available by appointment only and can be scheduled through his office's website.