To Marcus Gutierrez ’18, lover of history and his alma mater, the modest-looking piece of paper merited a day-long bidding war that ping-ponged 45 times and required an assist from a cadre of like-minded Hamiltonians.
The determined former history major led a group of 11 young alumni in the successful effort to buy at auction a document signed on Feb. 25, 1822, by New York Governor DeWitt Clinton, known as “the father of the Erie Canal.” The purchasers then promptly turned the prize over to Hamilton’s M.C. Lang Special Collections and Archives.
The auction was a fundraiser for St. John’s University School of Law, where Gutierrez is a student. The Clinton document authorizes the appointment of one Lorenzo B. Jones, of the county of Rensselaer, as commissioner of deeds. “It’s a neat, preprinted form, completed in manuscript, by one of New York State’s most famous governors,” says Christian Goodwillie, director of Hamilton’s special collections and archives.
Gutierrez, who spent hours as an undergraduate in the archives researching his theses, loved the Mohawk Valley threads shot through the document’s history. Clinton’s son was a member of Hamilton’s Class of 1825. His uncle was George Clinton, the first governor of New York, a U.S. vice president, and for whom the village of Clinton is named.
As for Jones, Gutierrez found that his son was born and raised in Utica, served as a brigadier general in the Civil War and as lieutenant governor, and became a prominent businessman.
To Gutierrez, it was all irresistible. “I said to myself, wouldn’t it be cool if we were able to get this document? And then bring it back to Upstate New York where it belongs?” he recalls.
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His friend Michael Russo ’18, also a St. John’s law student, concurred and agreed to chip in. For backup, they enlisted support from alumni friends including Gutierrez’s brother, Joshua Gutierrez ’19. It wasn’t a hard sell. “We’ve always felt an obligation to give back to Hamilton,” Gutierrez says of the adhoc group of graduates.
The bidding began at about $90 at 7 a.m. and topped out at roughly $700 just before 10 p.m. Once they had the prize in hand, Gutierrez and Russo took a few minutes to admire the scrap of history before packaging it for delivery to College Hill.