Documents signed by John Adams and Louis XVII of France, a letter from poet and abolitionist John Greenleaf Whitter, and an 1852 printing of Uncle Tom’s Cabin are among the papers and documents collected by Marblehead couple Jacques “Jack” and Grace Weil that will be going up for auction this week at John McInnis Auctioneers in Amesbury. Live bidding begins on August 4 at 10 a.m.
“We’re dealing with history,” says Bob Cianfrocca, owner of Salt Marsh Antiques in Rowley, who helped Grace Weil sort and catalogue her estate before her death. “It’s history-making, history-confirming, adding to history.”
Longtime lovers of antiques and history, the Weils owned Jacques H. Weil Antiques in Marblehead until the 1980s, and were regarded as experts in Americana. When they closed their store, they stored much of their inventory and moved many of their best pieces into their homes. In 2019, Grace Weil, then in her 90s, enlisted the help of Cianfrocca to set her collections in order.
The auction of papers and documents, which is being described as unprecedented, includes nearly 700 lots of books, diaries, letters, business documents, maps, and more from the 18th century to the 20th century. A 1797 ship’s passport signed by John Adams had already garnered a bid of $6,000 the day before the live auction.
Two of Cianfrocca’s favorite pieces are a bill of sale documenting the delivery of casks of water to the newly commissioned U.S.S. Constitution and another letter documenting the ship’s visit to Newburyport for caulking. Other items on the block include an 1864 Civil War diary from an African-American regiment, form Rhode Island, a piece of paper signed by Gen Ulysses S. Grant, and an almanac from 1778.
An earlier auction cold off much of the Weils’ collection of furniture and porcelain. Another sale, known as a discovery auction because it will include items across many categories, is expected soon, Cianfrocca says. That auction will include fabrics, more papers, glassware and more.
“It is going to be quite a discovery auction,” Cianfrocca says. “It’s going to be an amazing place to collect Marblehead, Newburyport, and Salem history.”