A letter written and signed by abolitionist Harriet Beecher Stowe was set to be auctioned last Thursday by Nate D. Sanders Auctions of Los Angeles at an initial bid of $21,000.
Stowe, the author of the novel “Uncle Tom’s Cabin,” was a renowned abolitionist who supported the Underground Railroad, offering shelter and aid to escaped slaves from the South. Stowe and her husband, Calvin Ellis Stowe, housed runaway slaves in their home in Cincinnati.
The letter being auctioned off is a response to a correspondence Stowe received from a man who sent her an article outlining slavery’s negative impact on the country, according to a press release from the auction. She wrote the letter in Andover on Oct. 27, 1852.
Sam Heller, a spokesperson for the auction, said he expects the letter will certainly go for higher than the initial $21,000. He said it demonstrates how committed Stowe was to fighting against slavery and overturning the horrors of it.
“It’s a very rare item,” he said. “It’s over 150 years old, so it is definitely scarce with a lot of historic value.”
The letter currently belongs to a collector named Paul E. Bechet, who also owns a first edition copy of “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” that is still covered in its original wrapping and printed out of Boston. It is the most rare version of the original first printing, according to Heller. It will also be auctioned at an initial bidding price of $20,000.
“(Bechet) thought it was time for someone else to cherish it,” he said. “It is a very historic and important letter.”
Stowe moved to Andover in 1852. In a letter she wrote to her husband that encompasses her thoughts on the town, she recalled days spent horseback riding to Pomps Pond and climbing Prospect Hill with friends. She called Andover a “lovely” place with “so many beautiful walks.”
“It seems almost too good to be true that we are going to have such a house in such a beautiful place and to live here among all these agreeable people,” Stowe said in the letter.
During the dozens of years Stowe lived in a home she referred to as the “Stone Cabin” in Andover with her family, she was the most talked about character in town. Andover is where Stowe published many of her articles, as well as where she published many columns for the Andover Advertiser.
In the fall of 1853, African-American abolitionist Sojourner Truth visited Stowe and stayed at her Andover home for several days. She was hoping to get a recommendation from Stowe on how to help sell her book: “Narrative of Sojourner Truth: A Northern Slave.”
Heller said the letter did not sell during the auction Thursday, as it did not reach the necessary bids to sell, and it will now go into the online store for buyers who are interested.