Lincoln Civil War letter to highlight antiques show

A rare letter written by President Lincoln to A rare letter written by President Lincoln to General George B. McClellan dated May 21, 1862 at the Kenneth W. Rendell Gallery at The Winter Antiques Show at the Park Avenue Armory. (Jan. 24, 2013) Photo Credit: Linda Rosier

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Thousands of antiques and artifacts from the Middle Ages to the Civil War will be traded and bought in Manhattan starting Friday, including a handwritten letter by Abraham Lincoln.

In the terse letter penned on May 21, 1862, the president urges Gen. George B. McClellan to attack the Confederates in Richmond, Va.

"He was getting fed up with Gen. McClellan, who wouldn't engage. McClellan was not going in if there was a chance of defeat. The war was stagnating and Lincoln needed a victory," said Kenneth Rendell, who collects rare and historical documents, manuscripts and books.

Rendell, who owns the Lincoln letter, hopes to get $575,000 for it at the Winter Antiques Show, which opens Friday at the Park Avenue Armory and runs through Feb. 3.

"Historical letters are windows into people's lives and here Lincoln, in his own hand, shows his directness," said Rendell, who runs a Manhattan gallery. "This is timeless dialogue that's refreshing and historic."

Other valuable letters offered by Rendell were written by naturalist Charles Darwin, abolitionist Frederick Douglass and author Charles Dickens.

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There's also a 47-pound gold bar salvaged from an 1857 shipwreck in which 30,000 pounds of gold sank off the North Carolina coast during a hurricane.

The gold bar has a face value of $1.3 million, said its owner, Alexander Acevedo, who also has a Manhattan gallery.

The precious cargo sailed from California's Gold Rush region to Panama, then was hauled across land to the East Coast, where the SS Central America was to haul it off to be minted, Acevedo said.

Last year, he sold a smaller gold bar recovered from the same shipwreck. "The buyer just said, 'I'll pay you in the morning,' " Acevedo said with a smile. "If you have to ask the price, you are not going to buy it."

Acevedo is also selling a ring that he said contains a lock of George Washington's hair. The ring had been owned by his granddaughter, the collector said.

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Also for sale at the show is a head-to-toe Italian suit of armor minted in 1580 and a "Book of Hours" prayer book used in paying tribute to the Virgin Mary.

The Winter Antiques Show was started by the late Carleton and Grace Lindquist 59 years ago.

When they inherited several Louis Vuitton trunks packed with high-fashion Parisian clothes and accessories, they decided to sell it at the Madison Square Garden Antique Show. They reportedly raised $1,700.

In 1955, they started their own show at the armory.

Proceeds from the sale of $20 admission tickets and corporate sponsorships still goes to a South Bronx charity, East Side Settlement House, that the Lindquists ran for many years. The charity, with an annual budget of $13 million, helps thousands of people with educational programs, college scholarships and social services.

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"Thirty percent of our budget comes from the direct proceeds of the show, which we own and manage," said John Sanchez, the charity's executive director.

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