Album with Lincoln, Grant autographs being auctioned in NYC

AP News
Posted: Mar 18, 2015 11:59 AM

NEW YORK (AP) — An album containing the autographs of Abraham Lincoln, Ulysses S. Grant and other prominent Civil War-era figures is being put up for sale by a New York City auction house.

Swann Auction Galleries in Manhattan said Wednesday the album was compiled from 1861-1864 by the wife of Egbert L. Viele (VEE'-lee), a Union Army general from upstate New York.

Marco Tomaschett, autographs specialist at Swann, said Teresa Viele collected the autographs and handwritten letters from famous political, military and literary figures so it could be sold in 1864 to benefit the U.S. Sanitary Commission, which provided aid to sick and wounded Union soldiers and Confederate prisoners of war.

The album was bought for a winning bid of $20,000 by a member of the wealthy Astor family, who immediately gave it back to Teresa Viele.

The album, owned by one of her descendants, is being auctioned Thursday during a 223-lot auction featuring collections of autographs, manuscripts and photographs of famous Americans and Europeans. The estimated sale price for the Viele album is $80,000 to $120,000.

Other prominent figures from the era who autographed the Viele album include former presidents James Buchanan and Franklin Pierce, Union generals William Tecumseh Sherman and George B. McClellan, and authors Nathaniel Hawthorne and Harriet Beecher Stowe.

The more than 150 autographs, letters and drawings filling the album were collected by Teresa Viele to raise funds during the New York Metropolitan Fair held in late March and April 1864. Similar events were held in states throughout the North to collect money for supporting Union troops and the Sanitary Commission.

Tomaschett said the general's wife used his considerable connections to compile an impressive collection of signatures from some of the most famous Americans of the day.

"It was an easy way to contribute to something without having to give cash," Tomaschett said. "Autographs were something wealthy people of that era collected."

Egbert Viele was born in Saratoga County and educated in Albany. A graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, he commanded troops during the Civil War and worked as an engineer before and after the conflict. His 1865 sanitary and topographical map of Manhattan, known as the Viele Map, is still used as a reference by builders before putting up new structures on the island.