Lincoln portrait created from his words a valuable collectible


The election is over and most of us are breathing sighs of relief. In our house, the phone has stopped ringing. No calls these days wanting our money, our opinion or our vote.

It was simpler "back in the day," say when Lincoln was president. In this edition of What's It Worth?, a reader wants to know about his unusual portrait of the 16th president.

And, we head to Germany, right after World War II, to examine a china plate.

Q. This old picture of Abraham Lincoln has been in our family for some time. It is quite large -- 22 by 16 inches -- and the picture actually is made up of the words to the Emancipation Proclamation. What can you tell us about this, and we would especially be interested in knowing if it is valuable. -- Donald in Kennewick

A. This is a very interesting lithograph of an original work done in pen and ink. Called the Emancipation Proclamations by collectors, this calligraphic portrait is the words of Lincoln's official move to free all the slaves in the Confederate States.

A preliminary proclamation was issued in September 1862 and the presidential proclamation was issued Jan. 1, 1863. The words from both are used in this work of art.

Most people today believe the Proclamation ended slavery in America. Technically, it ordered the advancing Union Armies to treat all slaves in the Confederate States as free men. The former slaves were free, but not made citizens.

The practical fact was, the military forces of the north were given orders as to how slaves were to be regarded; in effect they had been made free. Eventually, 4 million slaves were effected.

Written by hand in a beautiful script, some words of this document were lightened or darkened by the author -- R. Morris Swander -- to form a portrait bust of Lincoln.

Printed and sold by the Art Publishing Association of Philadelphia in 1865, the work is well-known but comes up for sale infrequently. Considered an important piece, it is held in the archives of such institutions as the Library of Congress, the New York Historical Society and Brown University, the Ivy League school in Rhode Island.

Earlier this year, an identical image in original frame sold at an auction in Tennessee for $700.

Q. What can you tell me about this plate; part of a larger service? The markon the back says it was made in Germany. -- Mary in Kennewick

A. Your plate is from a line of fine china made by the Royal Tettau factory, lnear the city of Coburg, north of Munich.

Fine quality porcelain has been made there since the firm was founded in the late 1700s. It is still in operation today and sells products around the world. The company also produced the famous Royal Bayreuth porcelain.

The back mark tells us this was made between 1946 and 1949.

The factory was in the part of Germany controlled by U.S. forces following the war.

Royal Tettau designed hundreds of china patterns through the years; this is a variation of a line called "Sterling Rose." It could have been part of an extensive dinner service. The pattern offered everything from soup bowls to gravy boats, along with various sizes of platters, vegetable dishes and accessory pieces.

Value of a single dinner plate in the retail market is about $40.

* Terry Maurer, Tri-Cities personal property appraiser, is a member of the Certified Appraisers Guild of America. For possible use in a future column, direct questions on your antiques and collectibles to What's It Worth? by email to tchwhatsitworth@

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