A wine cooler that belonged to George Washington and Alexander Hamilton fetched $782,500 at Christie’s auction today, topping its high presale estimate of $600,000.
Three bidders vied for the object, with two on the phone and one in the otherwise quiet auction room for a sale that was part of Christie’s Americana week in New York.
The buyer, on the phone, was Gary Hendershott, a collector and dealer based in Little Rock, Arkansas, who is interested in anything pertaining to George Washington.
“There’s so much history involved in this item,” Hendershott said in a telephone interview. “If the economy was better it probably would have been unobtainable.”
“This is unique,” said Seth Kaller, a dealer in historic documents who bid unsuccessfully on behalf of a client. “It has the historic associations between Washington and Hamilton. Plus it’s a New York story because the nation’s first capital was here.”
The Sheffield-plate bowl was designed to the specifications of the first U.S. president to fit four bottles and ice.
It was one of four wine coolers Washington ordered in 1789, the year he was sworn into office and moved into his first official residence, on Cherry Street in Manhattan.
In 1797, as Washington left office and moved to Mount Vernon, he gave one of the wine coolers to Alexander Hamilton, his friend and the first treasury secretary.
In a letter to Hamilton he wrote that the gift is “not for any intrinsic value the thing possesses, but as a token of my sincere regard and friendship for you, and as a remembrance of me.” The passage is part of a long inscription that Hamilton’s descendants had engraved on the cooler, while the letter itself is in the collection of the Library of Congress.
The cooler has remained until now with Hamilton’s descendants.
“I will have a glass of wine out of it the first chance I have,” Hendershott said. “And I will toast George Washington.”