Harriet Tubman Photo Sold for $161,000 at Auction

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April 1, 2017

A previously unknown photograph of famed Underground Railroad "conductor" Harriet Tubman brought in $161,000 at auction, far more than had been exepected.

The photo shows Tubman in her 40s and was discovered in an album once owned by Emily Howland, who lived in Sherwood, N.Y., near Tubman's home in Auburn. The photo is distinctive, historians say, because few photos of the famed abolitionist remain and the ones that do show her in her elder years.

The photo is in an album containing 43 other photographs, of abolitionists and politicians. Also among those appearing in the album is John Willis Menard, the first African-American elected to Congress. (Menard won a special election in 1868 and was the first African-American to address the U.S. House of Representatives but was ultimately denied his seat by a House committee.)

New York auction company Swann Galleries had expected the album to sell for between $20,000 and $30,000. Winning the auction was Lion Heart Autographs; a representative for the dealer said that it had bought the photo on behalf of another party, whose identity would be revealed in a few days.

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