In February, a Los Angeles auction house announced the sale of an ink pen for more than $41,000. Included in the lot were two notarized affidavits that helped authenticate the pen’s path from a desk set owned and used by Abraham Lincoln.
Lincoln used the set – two dip pens, a pencil, a letter opener, and a scraper – during the Civil War. Mary Edwards Brown, grandniece of Mary Todd Lincoln and custodian of the Lincoln Homestead in Springfield, Ill., received the set from her ancestor. On May 2, 1925, Brown signed an affidavit attesting that she had inherited, among other items, a “Penholder set, property of Abraham Lincoln.” A notary public, Edna Mae Smith, completed the notarial wording, signed her name, and wrote in the expiration date of her commission, July 18, 1926.
The items listed in the 1925 Brown affidavit, along with a note in Brown’s handwriting describing the desk set, were transferred to Richard Hagen, the secretary-treasurer of The Friends of the Lincoln Shrines in Galena, Ill. The second affidavit, signed by Hagen in 1958, documented the desk set’s transfer from the Friends of the Lincoln Shrines to King Hostick of Springfield, Ill. Hagen wrote that the pen set was “the one and same pen holder set described in a notarized affadavit [sic] dated 2nd May, 1925, and signed by Mary Edwards Brown.” Hagen’s affidavit was subscribed and sworn to before notary public Joan Benson on March 6, 1958, when Benson signed her name and applied her embossing seal.
Three-score years later, on February 22, 2018, Hostick sold one of the pens, adorned with a gold-colored start pattern, through Nate D. Sanders Auctions for $41,250. A certificate of authenticity, based on expert examination of the pen, the two affidavits and Brown’s handwritten note, accompanied the sale.