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Price Realized: $1,800 With Buyer's Premium Show Hammer Price
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Sale 2223 Lot 110
"THE BEGINNINGS ARE SO HARD AND SO COSTLY" (INDIANA.) Gex-Oboussier, Louis. Archive of 7 letters from a Swiss settler on the Indiana frontier. Most about 10 x 8 inches and 3 pages each, most leaves with additional lines cross-written in red ink; various conditions, with one letter missing a substantial fragment. Vevay and New Harmony, IN, 1803-43
David Louis Gex-Oboussier (1761-1845?) was a native of Switzerland. In 1803, he went to America with his family. These letters, all written in French, are Gex's reports back to his Swiss patron Jean Mennet in Antwerp. The first letter reports that Mennet's land in Point Pleasant (now West Virginia) had proved impossible to cultivate, and that Gex had become a frontier settler in Switzerland County, Indiana. His second letter recommends his new home to settlers, although he remarks that land across the river in Kentucky is preferable because of the legality of slavery. The remaining letters include news about his extended family and other Swiss settlers in Indiana, including the death of Gex's wives in 1808 and 1832. On 10 January 1809, he discusses an article on American settlement which he had written for the Journal de Commerce, and writes "Les commencemens sont si pénibles & si couteux pour des Europeens qui comme moi arrivent avec des données aussi fausses que celles que j'avoir tiré de la correspondance," which translates as "The beginnings are so hard and so costly for Europeans who come, as I did, with ideas so false as those I had received from the letters." He gradually became an important figure in the early years of the Indiana vineyards (see Butler & Butler, Indiana Wine, pages 41, 58, 72-75), but his profits were modest. In 1823, he notes that he has not bought any clothing during his entire time in America, wearing homemade garments into the field, and an old suit on Sundays. Circa 1825, he moved to New Harmony, IN, where a utopian project was being launched by Robert Owen. The final letter was written from New Harmony when he was 82, shortly before his death.
Provenance: These papers were owned by Edward Eberstadt & Sons in the 1950s. They were shown to the Indiana Historical Society, where extensive notes on the papers are still available for research. An invoice from Eberstadt to another library shows that the asking price was $1750 in 1959. with--a related letter from C. de Rhem of New York to Mennet concerning Gex-Oboussier, 1841 * a contemporary extract of Gex-Oboussier's 1826 letter, which mentions his enthusiasm for the writings of Robert Owen * and 5 pages of typed notes and extracts on the letters, in English.Price Realized (with Buyer's Premium) $1,800