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#2855: Dramatic Withdrawal of Haitian Documents from Auction Bloc in Phila (fwd)


Dramatic Withdrawal of Haitian Documents from Auction Bloc in Phila

Twenty-six lots totaling more that 2,500 Haitian historical documents were to 
be auctioned off tomorrow, March 16th, at Samuel T. Freeman & Co., "America's 
Oldest Auction House" in Philadelphia, when their mystery owner abruptly 
withdrew them, less than 24 hours before the sale.  The only explanation 
offered for this dramatic turn of events was that the minimum bids allowed, 
ranging from $150 to $3,500 per lot, were not acceptable to the owner.  The 
material  in question ranged  from administrative correspondence and 
documents of the Christophe, Petion and Boyer era, to the late 19th century 
and the first US occupation of Haiti.  One letter copy book (lot #859) 
contained more than 1,000 letters to and from Haitian historian Beaubrun 
Ardouin.  Freeman's catalog, sale #1050, is available at 

The auction house would not officially reveal the identity of the seller, but 
various indications, including a cursory examination of several lots, point 
to an identical provenance with the two Kurt Fisher collections of Haitian 
historical documents available at the New York Public Library and the Florida 
University archives at Gainesville.  The provenance of those two collections 
has been recently challenged, notably by the Haitian Genealogical Society.  
The Florida institution, which purchased its collection directly from Kurt 
Fisher, naively believes that they were salvaged somehow from the 1958 Hazel 
hurricane in Jeremie, and subsequently sold to Mr. Fisher.  Kurt Fisher was a 
noted Austrian archeologist and collector of Haitian artifacts who died more 
than 20 years ago.

In this particular case, it is not only reprehensible that Kurt Fisher's 
heirs, Haitians by birth, should continue to appropriate important documents 
that belong by right in Haiti's national archives. To divide those documents 
into arbitrary lots and to auction them to the highest bidder is an act of 
extreme contempt and irresponsibility. Typically, a better informed or less 
callous dealer would offer the undivided lot for sale to the two Florida and 
New York institutions, in an effort to minimize their dispersal.  

Daniel Simidor