Lincoln's chair helping today's slaves
This chair is part of an Abraham Lincoln collection up for auction.
February 15th, 2013
01:59 PM ET

Lincoln's chair helping today's slaves

Looking to add a conversation piece to your Oscar viewing party?

How about the chair in which Abraham Lincoln was reputedly sitting when he received the news he'd been nominated as the Republican candidate for president.

It's the star attraction in a collection of more than 50 historical documents, rare books, images and artifacts related to the 16th President of the United States currently up for bid on eBay.

Ten percent of the final sale price from the auction will support the U.S.-based international non-profit, Free the Slaves, which works with local communities across the globe to end modern-day forms of slavery.

But owning these pieces of American history won't come cheap. The starting bid is $1,000,000 but it comes with a guarantee the collection will be delivered to its new owner in time for the Oscars.

The seller, Seth Kaller, says the Bentwood hickory chair dates back to 1860. According to sources at the time, Lincoln was sitting in this chair when he received a telegram indicating his nomination.

In addition, the collection up for auction contains a first edition copy of the 1860 Lincoln-Douglass Debates, a first-day printing of the Gettysburg Address from the New York World newspaper and two handwritten letters; one opposing the Dred Scott Supreme Court decision that blacks could not become U.S. citizens, and another in which Lincoln argues for Arkansas to be a free-state. There is also a signed quotation from Frederick Douglass, in which he declares his vision of equality.

Sarah Gardner, Major Gifts Officer at Free the Slaves, said: "We are honored Mr. Kaller chose Free the Slaves to receive a portion of the proceeds from the auction. We see it as part of the continued promise to finish what Lincoln started and end slavery. We look at Lincoln as one of the greatest abolitionists in history and we see this event as celebrating his memory. So to be a part of that is really special."

Kaller, a dealer in American Historic Documents, says he timed this auction to coincide with the Oscars, in order to recruit novices into the field of collecting.

"I think a lot of people who have seen the movie may not know that these types of historical items actually exist on the market. One of the reasons we decided to put this collection up for auction on eBay is that we wanted to let people know these really important historical items are on the market and can be collected."

"Lincoln," the highly acclaimed biopic directed by Stephen Spielberg, leads the field with 12 Academy Award nominations, including best picture, best director and best actor. But Kaller insists Lincoln memorabilia is always a hot commodity among collectors.

"Lincoln material has always been popular," says Kaller. "A lot of people recognize him as either the number one or number two greatest presidents in our history. Lincoln is the one who put America back together after the Civil War. Without Lincoln the Declaration of Independence wouldn't mean nearly as much as it does today and without Lincoln America wouldn't be anywhere near the country it is today."

This year marks the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation, an executive order that took effect January 1st, 1863, during the American Civil War. The order proclaimed that all people enslaved in states that had seceded from the Union "are and henceforward shall be free."  It would take another two years, with the ratification of the 13th Amendment, for slavery to be deemed illegal everywhere in the U.S.

The auction closes February 18th at 11 a.m. ET.


soundoff (62 Responses)
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  4. TheGreenMan

    It is a cunning commercial ploy to state that "some of the money" for it will be used to "free modern slaves". That gambit is aimed at wealthy do-gooders, however, how musch is "some" of the money? In percentage terms it may be a miniscule tranche comprised of very very little. If the chair is sold for $1M, will slaves get US$999,999? or more likely will they get a whopping total of ten bucks to spend between them? after auctioneers charges, sellers commission, buyer's commission, sales taxes and all the othe rake-offs have been deducted.

    February 15, 2013 at 11:13 pm | Reply
    • Howard

      The Lincoln-Douglas debates took place in 1858, not 1860 as stated in the article. Is that an error by the reporter or by the people putting that loot up for auction?

      As for the chair, when Lincoln was nominated he had to have been seen as a long shot to win the Presidency at the time. What are the odds that anyone seated with Lincoln when he received the news of his nomination said to themselves at the time, "Oooh! This man is going to be President during one of the bloodiest civil wars in history and will be revered as the man who saved the union and freed the slaves before being assassinated . I'd better make a list of things like that chair he's sitting on 'cause it's gonna be worth a lot of money some day."

      This whole thing smells really fishy.

      February 16, 2013 at 5:27 am | Reply
  5. Aristocles

    His chair should be in the Smithsonian, NOT on Ebay!

    February 15, 2013 at 11:37 pm | Reply
    • Ann

      Interesting

      February 16, 2013 at 3:43 pm | Reply
  6. Jim

    The Smithsonian can – and often does – bid.

    "Some of the money" is ten percent.

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    February 16, 2013 at 3:05 am | Reply
    • Jim

      and "MR RICH QUEST" needs to take his medicine

      February 16, 2013 at 3:06 am | Reply
  7. Al

    Why wouold anyone want this old chair, only good for firewood. Everything he tried to accomplish is falling apart, he only caused a horrible society over the years with 2 races fighting each other. Nody seems to have in love in the hearts or even triy to get along with each other. If we as adults cant get along then how can we teach our kids to play nice, we are horrible parents and citizens.

    February 16, 2013 at 6:56 am | Reply
  8. John

    Why should liberals care. Wasn't he just another dumb republican?

    February 16, 2013 at 7:38 am | Reply
    • Andrew

      Oh, he was a republican, but that was back when the republicans were the liberals and the democrats were the conservatives.... so Lincoln was a liberal.... (gasp!)

      February 20, 2013 at 7:08 am | Reply
  9. Buddy Bear

    How could he have brought the country back together after the Civil War when he was killed just days after the surrender at Appomatix Courthouse? Did I miss something?

    February 16, 2013 at 8:35 am | Reply
  10. mykelkashy

    It's amazing how uninformed we (as Americans) are about our own history. We're so proud of Presidents like Lincoln and FDR without ever once looking at their actions and realizing they were indeed tyrants. In his first Inaugural Address Lincoln said he had no authority and no desire to interfere with slavery in the southern states. When Frederick Douglas met with Lincoln he said Lincoln had no problem in reminding him that he was black and once a slave. As with most wars and everything else in these days follow the money. England was going to finance the Confederacy as long as the war was not fought over slavery. Lincoln saw this simply a political move. Before you accuse me of being a conspiracy theorist I recommend you study economic history as opposed to "mainstream" history. The Ascent of Money by Niall Feguson is a very good start. But like I said, it's amazing how brainwashed we are and never hunger for the full truth.

    February 16, 2013 at 8:53 am | Reply
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    Slaves....like in Mali among the VERY SAME people we're helping to eject al Qaeda from their country.

    Awkward.

    February 16, 2013 at 9:23 am | Reply
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    its nice to have historical reflection like this. aimed to work against modern slavery not only in US. Its ok.

    February 16, 2013 at 11:32 am | Reply
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