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Nov 14, 2017 12:25 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Mulford Copy Of Declaration Of Independence Fetches $1.8 Million

The buyer with Kip Blanchard at Saturday's auction. COURTESY BLANCHARD'S AUCTION SERVICE
Nov 14, 2017 2:56 PM

Colonel David Mulford’s copy of the Declaration of Independence, which had for centuries been in the hands of his East Hampton descendants, sold for a whopping $1.8 million at an auction on Saturday in Potsdam, New York. Also sold that day, for $348,000, was a trove of historical documents chronicling the lives of the Mulford, Gardiner and Buell families in the East Hampton area over almost 150 years.

The 1776 copy of the Declaration of Independence, the only one of its kind in private ownership, had been in the hands of an anonymous descendant of one of East Hampton’s founding families, having sat for years in a desk drawer in St. Lawrence County, New York. It had originally been expected to fetch between $500,000 and $1 million, and the family papers from 1667 to 1815 were expected to sell for about $25,000 to $50,000. A single individual bought both lots, according to Blanchard’s Auction Services, which noted that the total sale price included a 20 percent fee.

The buyer was Holly M. Kinyon of California, a descendant of John Witherspoon, one of the Declaration’s signatories. According to the Watertown Daily Times, she flew into Potsdam from the West Coast and was late for the auction after almost having an accident with an Amish buggy on her way.

Kip Blanchard, the auctioneer, said on Tuesday that Ms. Kinyon felt the supporting documents in the second auction lot would shed light and provide a context for the Declaration itself. “It really is great that it all stays together,” he said.

Mr. Blanchard said that there had been a lot of interest from East Hampton in the two auction lots, including from other private individuals.

Dennis Fabiszak, director of the East Hampton Library, was among the remote bidders on the Mulford-Gardiner-Buell documents, having hoped to secure them for the library’s Long Island Collection—but the price ended up being far out of reach.

Library officials were disappointed, Mr. Fabiszak said by email on Monday, but they plan to reach out to the auction winner to try to arrange a loan of the documents to the library.

Ms. Kinyon could not be immediately reached for comment. She told the Watertown Daily Times that she intended to display the documents in some way so that the public can enjoy them. “It will not be in my home, I want to make that very clear,” she reportedly told the Watertown newspaper, which serves Jefferson, St. Lawrence and Lewis counties in upstate New York.

Mr. Blanchard said he was “really pleased” with the work of a historian, Keith Arbour, who put together the catalogue for Saturday’s auction.

“I learned so much about East Hampton,” Mr. Blanchard said, adding that now he would have to pay a visit.

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