Americana Viewed Across the Centuries

Launch Slideshow

Sotheby's Americana Week offers a look at US history across the 16th to 20th centuries. Filled with furniture, decorative and folk art, silver, ceramics, fine art from notable private and institutional collections, books and manuscripts, these objects embody the rich history and heritage of America. Click ahead for a selection of highlights.

Important Printed and Manuscript Americana, Including Cartography
17 January | New York

Important Americana
18–21 January | New York

Americana Viewed Across the Centuries

  • The 16th Century: Theodor De Bry, Thomas Hariot and John White, [Hariot's Virginia]. Frankfurt: Johann Wechel for Theodor de Bry and Sigismund Feirabend, 1590. Estimate $200,000–300,000.
    Hariot’s Virginia, describing the first British colony to be established in the New World: the first eyewitness pictorial depictions of Native Americans, and the first illustrated account wholly dedicated to any portion of what is now the United States. Copies with contemporary hand-colouring are of the utmost rarity and were no doubt intended for the highest echelons of society, either as commissions or gifts. The publication of this work by De Bry launched what would later become known as his Grand Voyages. It is without question the most important of the series both in terms of contemporary influence and modern historical and ethnographic value.

  • The 17th Century: The Important Mansfield-Merriam Family Pilgrim Century Black-Painted Carved and Joined Oak Wainscot Armchair, New Haven Colony, Probably New Haven, Connecticut, Circa 1640–1660. Estimate $300,000–500,000.
    This armchair was made in New Haven, Connecticut during the mid-17th century and likely originally owned by Richard Mansfield (1611–1655), one of the first settlers of New Haven. It has descended through successive generations of his family and the Merriam family of Meriden for over 365 years until the present.

  • Very Rare Pilgrim Century Carved and Joined Oak Chest with Drawer, Attributed to John Savell (1642–1687), Braintree, Massachusetts, Circa 1670. Estimate $12,000–18,000.
    The carved details in the upper corners of the panels and the horizontal “bar” flanking the central drawer medallion associate this chest to the work of John Savell (1642–1687). This chest is particularly noteworthy in that it appears to retain its original red wash.

  • Rare American Silver Sucket Fork, Maker's Mark BS, Boston, Circa 1675. Estimate $800–1,200.
    The sucket fork was a utensil for eating sweetmeats, or candied fruits, with fork tines on one end and a spoon bowl on the other. This was a form used only by the very wealthy and is incredibly rare to have been produced in America at such an early date.

  • Johannes van Keulen, Pas kaart van de Zee kusten van Nieuw Nederland anders genaamt Niew York. Amsterdam: Johannes van Keulen, 1687. Estimate $10,000–15,000.
    A very fine copy of the second state of this spectacular map, only the second printed chart of New York, Long Island and southern New England. Based on original surveys by the Dutch made just before they surrendered New Netherlands to the English in 1664, this map “arguably represents the apogee of Dutch knowledge of the region, many toponyms appearing for the first time,” writes Phillip D Burden in his book The Mapping of North America. “Although the region is named both New Netherlands and New York the city itself is unnamed. Nearby are a great number of place names including some recognisable ones such as Konynen Eyl., Breukelen and further east on Long Island Heemstede, Ooster Bay and Oost Hampton.”

  • The 18th Century: The Important J. Insley Blair Pilgrim Century Turned Maple and Ash “Mushroom-Arm” Slat-Back Armchair, Norwich or Lebanon, Connecticut, Circa 1700. Estimate $15,000–25,000.
    This impressive armchair is one of approximately a dozen surviving first-generation “mushroom” pommeled armchairs from the Norwich area.

  • Nicholas de Fer, Carte de la Mer du Sud, et des Costes d'Amerique et d'Asie, situées sur cette Mer ... Carte de la Mer du Nord, et des Costes d'Amerique, d'Europe et d'Afrique, situées sur cette Mer. Paris: 1713. Estimate $100,000–150,000.
    Known particularly for the artistic quality of the decoration on his maps, Nicholas de Fer was the most accomplished cartographer in France in the late-17th and early-18th century. In 1690, he became the official geographer to Louis, Dauphin of France, and with support from the Spanish and French royal families, de Fer later became official geographer for Philip V and Louis XIV. The present wall map is without question his cartographic masterpiece and would be used as the basis for Henri Chatelain’s slightly reduced and more commonly found Carte des Tres Curieuse de la Mer du Sud, published six years later. This map is among the rarest separately issued 18th-century wall maps of America, here with stunning original hand-colouring.

  • Very Fine and Rare Chippendale Carved Walnut Open Armchair, Philadelphia, Circa 1755. Estimate $200,000–500,000.
    Surviving with its original surface, this mahogany armchair is a rare and important example of Rococo style seating furniture made in Philadelphia during the mid-18th century. The fine articulation of the high relief carving – comprised of shells and volutes on the crest and seat rails, acanthus knees and fully developed claw and ball feet – is exceptional.

  • Very Fine, Rare and Important Needlework Sampler: “The Chase,” Mary Mchard, Probably Newburyport, Massachusetts, Circa 1758. Estimate $25,000–50,000.
    The present sampler by Mary Mchard is related to one worked by Sarah Toppan, born 16 May 1748, illustrated and discussed in Betty Ring, Schoolgirl Embroidery, Volume I (New York, Alfred A. Knopf, 1993). Another similar example by Mary Starkey (1749–1774), dated 1760 and from Newbury, Massachusetts, is in the collection of Colonial Williamsburg in Virginia (accession no. 1961-57). 



  • American Silver Punch Bowl, Daniel Christian Fueter, New York, Dated 1763. Estimate $15,000–20,000.
    Several years ago, this bowl was dug out of a riverbed near the mouth of Lake Champlain in Quebec, Canada. The surface of the bowl was cleaned, but traces of residue remain underneath as a reminder of its history as buried treasure.

  • The Declaration of Independence. Salem, Massachusetts-Bay: Printed by E. Russell, by Order of Authority, [Ca. 18–20 July 1776]. Estimate $1,000,000–1,500,000.
    A fresh and beautifully preserved contemporary broadside of the Declaration of Independence, this is the authorized printing for Massachusetts, the colony that led the struggle for American independence from Great Britain.

  • Hamilton, Alexander, James Madison and John Jay. The Federalist. A Collection of Essays, Written in Favour of the New Constitution, as Agreed upon by the Federal Convention, September 17, 1787. New York: Printed and Sold by J[ohn] and A[ndrew] M'Lean, 1788. Estimate $200,000–300,000.
    Written as political propaganda for the purpose of supporting New York's ratification of the Federal Constitution, the essays in The Federalist are now recognised as some of the most important American contributions to political theory. Alexander Hamilton was the principal force behind the entry of “Publius” (the pen name shared by all three authors) into the ratification pamphlet wars, but he enlisted Virginian James Madison and fellow New Yorker John Jay as collaborators. Each was assigned an area corresponding to his expertise. Jay assumed responsibility for foreign relations. Madison, knowledgeable in the history of republics and confederacies, wrote on those topics. Having drafted the Virginia Plan, it also fell to him to outline the structure of the new government. Hamilton took on those branches of government most congenial to him: the executive and the judiciary; and he also covered military matters and taxation.

  • The Hopkins Family Very Fine and Rare Chippendale Block-and-Shell Carved and Figured Mahogany Block Front Kneehole Dressing Bureau, Providence, Rhode Island, Circa 1790. Estimate $300,000–500,000.
    Recognised by Wallace Nutting as a “supreme piece of cabinetwork,” the four-shell kneehole bureau represents one of the most high style and regionally specific forms of 18th-century American furniture. This bureau is the effort of an accomplished Rhode Island cabinetmaker from Providence or Newport. It is distinguished by exceptionally articulated shells, a finely executed block front, use of densely grained mahogany, rare diminutive proportions and the retention of a majority of its original brass hardware.

  • Pair of American Silver Tablespoons, Paul Revere, Jr., Boston, Circa 1790. Estimate $10,000–15,000.
    Best remembered as one of the great patriots of the American Revolution, Paul Revere was also a very successful silversmith. By embracing technological developments like rolling mills, Revere was able to greatly improve the productivity of his shop, with smaller products like spoons and buckles accounting for the majority of his work.

  • The 19th Century: The Important Federal Highly Inlaid Cherrywood and Mahogany Tall Case Clock, Case Authenticated to Nathan Lumbard (1777–1847), Sturbridge or Sutton, Massachusetts, Circa 1800. Estimate $80,000–120,000.
    An icon of rural New England craftsmanship in the Federal style, this tall-case clock is the most extravagant of a group of clocks attributed to the shop of Nathan Lumbard (1777–1847), a cabinetmaker working in the Sutton area of Massachusetts. This clock is included in the article written by Brock Jobe and Clark Pearce, “Sophistication in Rural Massachusetts: the Inlaid Cherry Furniture of Nathan Lombard,” published in American Furniture in 1998.

  • Very Fine and Rare Classical Figured and Ormulu-Mounted Mahogany Bureau, Charles Honoré Lannuier, New York, 1810–1815. Estimate $60,000–80,000.
    Stamped four times H. LANNUIER / NEW – YORK, this bureau was made by Charles- Honoré Lannuier (1779–1819) in le gout antique, an early 19th-century style that favoured heavier architectural forms with ornamentation inspired by ancient furniture excavated from archaeological sites. It is one of the few known case pieces by Lannuier that survives.

  • Karl Bodmer and Prince Maximilian Zu Wied-Neuwied, Reise in das Innere Nord-America in den Jahren 1832 bis 1834. Text: Coblenz: J. Hoelscher, 1839–1841; Plates: Coblenz, Paris, and London: J. Hoelscher, A. Bertrand, Ackermann and Co., [1839–1841]. Estimate $250,000–350,000.
    Prince Maximilian zu Wied-Neuwied’s famed narrative of his trip to the US and up the Missouri River in 1833–34, with its magnificent atlas of views and scenes of Indian life by Karl Bodmer, is justly celebrated as the greatest illustrated American travel narrative and the most important depiction of American Indians in the frontier era. Bodmer's engravings of the Indians encountered on the upper Missouri are among the most iconic and celebrated images of the American West. No other images of American Indians even come close to these in accuracy, detail and execution. Less well known, but equally deserving of praise, are Bodmer's depictions of American landscapes, beginning with New York harbor, and including scenes along the way to the stark cliffs of the upper Missouri.

  • American Silver Naturalistic Pitcher, Robert & William Wilson, Philadelphia, Circa 1840. Estimate $9,000–12,000.
    The naturalism of this pitcher reflects a reverence for nature that emerged in the middle of the 19th century during a time of increasing exploration and settlement of America, a subject matter that was widely popularized by the Hudson River School.

  • Julia Ward Howe, Autograph Transcription of The Battle Hymn of the Republic, Illuminated by Charles M. Jenckes in Watercolor and Gouache. [New York: 1865–1869]. Estimate $40,000–50,000.
    In November 1861, inspired by a visit with Massachusetts’s troops in guarding the nation's capitol in Washington, Julia Ward Howe decided to write new lyrics to the popular Union marching song “John Brown's Body Lies A-mouldering in the Grave.” "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" would become the best-known song of the Civil War, arousing fervor as it was sung by the Union armies marching into battle. Howe’s words remain relevant as the most recognized patriotic hymn of all time. Its themes of equality and liberty would be taken up again a century later by Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Civil Rights movement.

  • American Silver and Copper Four-Piece Tea Set, Tiffany & Co., New York, Circa 1879. Estimate $20,000–30,000.
    The 1876 Centennial International Exhibition in Philadelphia was the first official World's Fair in the US, and it exposed many Americans to the arts of Asia for the first time. Afterwards, American silver manufacturers produced silver designs inspired by the Japanese mixed-metal silver techniques that had been so venerated at the fair.

  • Rare and Important Carved and Painted Pine Figure of a Baseball Player, Workshop of Samuel Anderson Robb, New York, Circa 1890. Estimate $300,000–500,000.
    It is thought that the baseball player depicted in this carving is Michael J “King” Kelly, one of the most popular athletes of the 1880s. Kelly had an illustrious career, playing for the Boston Reds, the Chicago White Stockings, the Boston Beaneaters and Cincinnati's Kelly's Killers, also known as the Cincinnati Reds.

  • The 20th Century: American Six-Piece Silver Renaissance Revival Pattern Tea Set, Tiffany & Co., New York, 1904. Estimate $12,000–18,000.
    Paulding Farnham designed this monumental Renaissance Revival tea and coffee service for the 1904 Louisiana Purchase Exposition in St. Louis. The service was so successful that Tiffany & Co introduced additional hollow ware forms and a flatware line in the Renaissance Revival pattern the following year.

  • American Silver Calla Lily Pattern Flatware Service, Peer Smed and Lona P. Schaeffer, Brooklyn, NY, Circa 1930. Estimate $25,000–35,000.
    Lona Schaeffer was the eldest daughter of silversmith Peer Smed and trained in her father’s workshop. Together, the two made some of the only known Arts & Crafts sterling studio hollowware in the 1930s and 1940s to come out of Brooklyn.

  • Ralph Fasanella (1914–1997)
, Mill Workers-Lower Pacific Mill (Working at the Mill), Circa 1977. Estimate $50,000–70,000.
    This monumental work is one of a series of seven paintings by Ralph Fasanella associated with the 1912 textile strike in Lawrence, Massachusetts. After the horrific tragedy of the 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire, where 145 young women lost their lives, a spotlight was shone on the dangerous working conditions immigrant workers often endured. For many throughout the country, aggressive collective action was their only recourse.

  • John F Kennedy, Inaugural Addresses of the Presidents of the United States from George Washington 1798 to John F. Kennedy 1961. Washington, D. C.: United States Government Printing Office, 1961. Estimate $6,000–8,000.
    Inscribed by Jacqueline Kennedy to then-Senator Hubert Humphrey, “For Hubert Humphrey — The President was going to give you this for Christmas — Please accept it from me — With the deepest appreciation. Jacqueline Kennedy, December 1963.”


More from Sotheby's

We use our own and third party cookies to enable you to navigate around our Site, use its features and engage on social media, and to allow us to perform analytics, remember your preferences, provide services that you have requested and produce content and advertisements tailored to your interests, both on our Site as well as others. For more information, or to learn how to change your cookie or marketing preferences, please see our updated Privacy Policy & Cookie Policy.

By continuing to use our Site, you consent to our use of cookies and to the practices described in our updated Privacy Policy.