Emancipation Proclamation copy visits on the way to auction

Before it hits the auction block next week, a souvenir copy of the Emancipation Proclamation signed by Abraham Lincoln spent one afternoon in Philadelphia.

People came for the signature and stayed for the text.

There were 48 copies of the Emancipation Proclamation printed, signed, and sold for 10 dollars apiece at the Philadelphia’s Great Central Fair in 1864. Only 25 still exist. This one was owned by Robert F. Kennedy, the senator and civil rights advocate.

Lisa Washington works a few blocks away from ithe Library Company of Philadelphia, where the document was on display on Monday.

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“My colleague and I decided to come down after the lunch to check it out,” said the Center City lawyer. “It’s a pretty impressive document, My great-grandparents might not have been able to get jobs or have a life is they hadn’t been freed as slaves.”

A Library Company curator, Phil Lapsansky, put on display ancillary historical documents, like an earlier hand-written proclamation that would confiscate property – including slaves – of people who engaged in rebellious activity.

“What is unsaid in this document: if you end the rebellion, we won’t confiscate your property. The way for slavery to be safe in the South is to stop the rebellion.”

The document is expected to fetch over a million dollars when it is auctioned at Sotheby’s next week, with the Kennedy connection driving up the price.

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