He might not have won the 1860 Presidential election, but Stephen Douglas finished first twice in Heritage Auctions
' Inaugural J. Doyle Dewitt Collection Americana & Political Signature® Auction, which reached $1,883,533 in total sales.
Two lots bearing his likeness each sold for $118,750 to lead the event, which featured the private collection of DeWitt, who was revered for his extraordinary collection of political artifacts as he was as a giant in the insurance industry.
The auction drew nearly 1,000 global bidders and generated perfect sell-through rates of 100% by value and by lots sold.
"The J. Doyle DeWitt Collection is one of the most significant political history collections in the country, and after this auction, some amazing artifacts are in the hands of collectors who can appreciate them for years to come," Heritage Auctions Americana & Political Director Curtis Lindner said. "The scope of this trove of political treasures is so vast that we could not present it in a single auction, so we will have another Oct. 15."
A Douglas & Johnson: Exceedingly Rare Brady Jugate Ribbon set a new standard for any political ribbon. This example sparked 38 bids while reaching the same price nearly six times its $20,000 pre-auction estimate. This rarity is the key to the Brady 1860 jugates, and has not been brought to market for more than 15 years. It measures 7 inches long by 2 inches wide, and bears exceptionally bold, unblemished portraits.
Reaching the same price was a Stephen A. Douglas: 1860 George Clark Ambrotype and Rare Mate to the Legendary Lincoln Badge, which brought in 25 bids as it blew past its pre-auction estimate of $25,000. Douglas defeated Abraham Lincoln in the 1858 U.S. Senate election in Illinois, but was one of two Democratic candidates who lost the Presidential election two years later to Lincoln. (Heritage Auctions sold an Abraham Lincoln George Clark Ambrotype in 2018 for $35,000.) The Douglas badge, like the Lincoln badge sold three years ago, is manufactured from a portrait taken by Mathew Brady. Ambrotypes were so susceptible to damage that it is no surprise that precious few remain it is believed the offered example is one of fewer than a half a dozen survivors; they were so fragile that they were discontinued in favor of the more durable ferrotype.
Setting a record for the most paid for a political campaign cartoon, a Fantastic Baseball-Themed Currier & Ives Cartoon, featuring Abraham Lincoln more than quadrupled its pre-auction estimate when it sold for $81,250. Widely considered the best political cartoon of the 1860 election because of its connection to the formative years of baseball; this one is exceptionally desirable because it is in color. It features portrayals of the four presidential candidates, each wearing a belt with the name of his team (political party) and carrying a bat acknowledging his political program or platform; Lincoln appears to be on the cusp of winning, standing on "Home Base" while sharing advice with his opponents.
A John C. Frémont: "Fremont, and Jessie" Folk Art Banner reached more than five times its pre-auction estimate when it brought a winning bid of $68,750. Identified as No. 267 in Threads of History: Americana Recorded on Cloth 1775 to the Present by Herbert Ridgeway Collins. The banner depicts the former Western U.S. explorer, military officer and politician and his wife riding horses and wielding whips, dressed in colorful finery, perhaps hunting gear.
Nearly tripling its pre-auction estimate was a James K. Polk: Rare Campaign Flag that inspired 45 bids before ending at $57,500. Items from the 11th U.S. President are difficult to come by, generating high demand among collectors. For comparison: Threads of History: Americana Recorded on Cloth 1775 includes just four Polk items, compared to 29 for Henry Clay. The most prized Polk campaign artifacts include political flag banners like this example, which is in exceptional condition considering its age.
The auction included exceptionally strong results for political ribbons. In addition to the Douglas & Johnson jugate ribbon, highlights included, but were not limited to:
$22,500: Lewis Cass Portrait Ribbon
$20,000: Lincoln & Hamlin Jugate Brady Ribbon
$10,000: Breckinridge & Lane: Jugate Brady Ribbon
$9,375: James G. Blaine: Three "Better" Ribbons
$8,750: Franklin Pierce: Important "Granite Club No. 1. Boston" Portrait Ribbon
$8,125 : Andrew Jackson: Coattail Slogan Ribbon
Other top lots included, but were not limited to:
A William H. Harrison Large Pewter Rim Sulphide Badge: $32,500
A Jefferson Davis: Inaugural Badge Rosette and Confederate States of America Flag: $30,000
A [Jefferson Davis and the Confederate States] "Don't Tread on Me" Flag: $30,000
An Amazing Silk Pictorial Campaign Kerchief featuring Andrew Jackson: $27,500
An Abraham Lincoln: Legendary George Clark Ambrotype Badge From the 1860 Campaign: $26,250
A [Woman's Suffrage] Large Suffrage Banner: $26,250