News-Antique.com - Jul 24,2012 - PIERCE, Neb. -- A quill and brass-bound lap desk used in the writing and signing of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo on Feb. 2, 1848, will be sold here on Friday, Sept. 7, by Aumann Auctions, Inc., of Nokomis, Ill., in conjunction with MCHJ Auctioneers of Nebraska. The historic items were owned by Nicholas Philip Trist, the U.S. diplomat who brokered the peace accord.
The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo ended the Mexican-American War and resulted in Mexico ceding 55 percent of its pre-war territory, for which the United States paid $15 million. Second in size only to the Louisiana Purchase, the land acquisition involved 525,000 square miles, including all or part of 10 states: Texas, Arizona, California, New Mexico, Colorado, Nevada, Utah, Oklahoma, Kansas and Wyoming. The deal completed the United State's territorial expansion during the era of Manifest Destiny.
The quill and desk have generated an immediate response from institutions recognizing the historic importance of the artifacts.
"Already we have been contacted by several museums from around the country, expressing strong interest," said auction manager Kelly Aumann. "It's great that they're interested, but we want everyone, including collectors and investors, to be able to bid. An opportunity like this is simply unheard of -- a find like this doesn't even happen once in a lifetime."
The lap desk was made between 1831 and 1837. It bears a brass nameplate engraved "N. P. Trist" and a maker's label, "N. Starkey, Manufacturer of Portable Desks, Dressing Cases, Medicine Chests, and Ladies Work Boxes, No. 52 Walnut Street, Opposite the Exchange Philadelphia."
The quill, filled with plaster and whittled to allow an inscription, is lettered "Treaty of Peace, Feb. 2, 1848, Triplicate, N.P.T.'s [illegible]."
The quill and lap desk surfaced in Omaha, Neb., where some of Trist's descendants had settled. A local antique dealer purchased the items from an elderly man in the late 1970s and sold them to the parents of the consignor in the mid 1980s. For years the objects were wrapped in a quilt and stored in a closet of a small Nebraska farm.
The history behind the artifacts has the suspense of a modern-day paperback thriller.
Nicholas Philip Trist (1800-1874) was commissioned in 1847 by President James K. Polk to serve as executive agent to negotiate an end to the Mexican-American War (1846-1848). During the 16 months of the conflict, the Mexican presidency changed nine times among six men. With the Mexican government in chaos, two attempts at a peace agreement failed.
In September 1847, American forces led by General Winfield Scott took the capital, Mexico City, forcing Mexican General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna to call for an armistice. Frustrated with the lack of a quick settlement, Polk recalled Trist in October, but that news didn't reach the U.S. agent until Nov. 16, 1847, after a Mexican special peace commission was already in place. Sensing an opportunity was finally at hand, Trist defied the president and continued working to formulate a treaty. In a letter to his