Rob Golan is Leland Little Auctions’ Historical and Coins Director. He likes this designation for all that it allows him to evaluate and write about: rare books, antique maps, manuscripts, and so many of the relics from our collective past. Displayed on a shelf above Golan’s desk is the Picture Book of Ancient Coins, a favorite childhood read that uses material culture to make history more accessible to young people. The lessons learned from this small volume transcended its subject and proved highly influential when it came time for Golan to pursue a career path.
In June, Leland Little Auctions will showcase 350+ years of historic militaria under Golan’s direction. Offerings open with a finely bound English translation of Thucydides on the “Peloponnesian Warre” as printed in 1648. Manuscripts also make an appearance with a Pennsylvania soldier’s take on events shaping the Chancellorsville campaign of 1863 and a Confederate POW’s letter to his father in Mt. Olive, North Carolina. Speaking broadly of Civil War soldiers, Golan says, “I feel a real connection to these guys, both sides.” It’s no wonder. His direct ancestors include a Tennessee rebel buried in a mass grave at Point Lookout Military Prison, a Virginia guerrilla blown from the saddle, and an Indiana grandsire who survived the hell of Andersonville.
After admiring a newly arrived 18th century ship’s cannon dredged from Boston Harbor, Golan inspects several antique firearms consigned by a Chapel Hill gentleman. A George III flintlock blunderbuss pistol shines as a highlight of the grouping, with its flared brass barrel signed by a London gunsmith. The consignor’s equally impressive Civil War arsenal boasts two Colt Model 1860 Army revolvers and a splendid Model 1863 Remington “Zouave” rifle with most of its original bluing intact. These old guns were designed with graceful lines yet built for endurance. In fact, as Golan notes, “they all still work.”
June’s auction also touches upon more recent history. World War II comes alive via the mementos of the late 2nd Lt. Pehr B. Moller, U. S. Army Corps of Engineers. This young officer landed at Utah Beach in Normandy with orders to blow up, repair, or build bridges as needed during the final Allied push into a crumbling Third Reich. Moller’s photo archive, service medals, and insignia are being sold as one lot so as to keep his story intact.
Golan never strays too far from the past. He works hard to maintain his early 19th century home, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and when time allows, plays traditional Southern string music on period antique instruments.