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Historic Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo artifacts to be auctioned

August 06, 2012|by Carolyn Kellogg
  • The lap desk and quill used to sign the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo on Feb. 2, 1848.
The lap desk and quill used to sign the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo on Feb.… (Aumann Auctions Inc. )

A historic quill and lap desk used to sign the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo will be auctioned Sept. 7 in Nebraska. The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo was signed Feb. 2, 1848, and brought an end to the Mexican-American war.

California as we know it would not exist without it.

The treaty handed over 525,000 square miles of land to the U.S. It encompassed all of what are now the states of California, Utah and Nevada and parts of Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado and Wyoming. It was America's second-largest land acquisition, after the Louisiana Purchase. In exchange, the largely defeated interim government of Mexico got about $3 million in debt relief and a payment of $15 million.

The terms of the treaty were said to be largely dictated by State Department representative Nicholas Trist, operating with Gen. Winfield Scott in Mexico City. President Polk, frustrated by delays in securing a treaty, had recalled Trist, who had declined to agree to the recall. Once completed and signed, the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo was ratified by the Senate, but Polk, furious, fired Trist from his State Department position.

According to Aumann Auctions, which will be offering the artifacts at auction, Trist's expenses were not reimbursed for more than two decades, driving him into financial ruin. After the war, he returned to Virginia, where he practiced law; late in life, he was made postmaster general of Alexandria.

Apparently, Trist kept in his possession his lap desk and a quill used to sign the treaty. The lap desk was made between 1831 and 1837 and is adorned with a brass nameplate engraved "N.P. Trist." The quill was filled with plaster and whittled to allow an inscription, which reads, "Treaty of Peace, Feb. 2, 1848, Triplicate, N.P.T.'s [illegible]."

The wooden lap desk and the quill, inside, were found in the Nebraska farmhouse of Trist's descendants. It had been wrapped in a quilt and stored in a closet. More photographs of the items are online at Aumann Auctions.

The artifacts from the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo will be auctioned in conjunction with MCHJ Auctioneers in Pierce, Neb., and online, live, about 11 a.m. Central Time on Sept. 7.


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