Established in 1805, Freeman’s auction house is the oldest auction house and one of the first family-owned businesses in America. When Pennsylvania Governor Thomas McKean appointed Tristram Bampfyde Freeman, a print-seller who’d arrived to Philadelphia from London, to the office of auctioneer, the company was officially founded. The auction house remained in the hands of six generations of the Freeman family for over 200 years, until it was recently passed into trustworthy management team who had been in place under the last owner, the late Samuel “Beau “Freeman.
Freeman’s holds tradition close, yet has a progressive mindset towards marketing and promotion. Along with access to a team of top experts in the auction business, Freeman’s has offices in the Southeast and the West Coast, making it a competitive and accessible house in markets all across the country. Headquartered on Chestnut Street in the heart of Philadelphia, Freeman’s offers over 30 live in-house auctions a year, in categories such as fine and modern art, furniture and decorative arts ranging from Pennsylvania Folk Art to Asian antiquities, jewelry, rare books and manuscripts, 20th century design, and more.
There is little that Freeman’s hasn’t seen or sold over its lengthy history, from a chess-playing automaton in 1838, to the Philadelphia Post Office in the 1880s, a desk said to have belonged to Benjamin Franklin in 1962, to a set of rare, early colors from the USS Constitution in 2012. On September 10, 2011, Freeman's held an auction that brought $3.5 million for a Jade seal, triple the highest sale in the company's history.
The March 2014 sale of The George D. Horst Collection of Fine Art resulted in 20 auction records for artists including Howard Russell Butler, Emil Carlsen, and Fred Wagner. Other notable auction records set at Freeman's include one for a sculpture by Wharton Esherick as part of their annual Pennsylvania Sale in November 2014, a watercolor by famed artist and archeologist Howard Carter in June 2015, and contemporary artist Wojciech Fangor in May 2016. In April 2017, Freeman’s hosted 1,000 Years of Collecting, which offered property from the private Washington, D.C. collection of Jeffrey M. Kaplan. The 465-lot sale was offered in two sessions, with 99% sold by dollar and 96% by lot, totaling over $1.2 million in sales. In May 2017, Freeman’s sold paintings and prints from The Stanley Bard Collection , the late manager of the famed Chelsea Hotel. The auction included a painting by Tom Wesselmann, “Face #1,” which sold for $958,000 .
Freeman’s has been entrusted with the sale of some of the world’s most fascinating collections of fine art and antiques, including the Richard M. Scrushy Collection, The Lehman Brothers Collection, Property from the Reed & Barton Archives, The Avon Collection of Photography and The Collection of Historic USS Constitution Colors of H. Richard Dietrich, Jr.
In 2000, Freeman’s formed a marketing alliance with Scotland’s oldest action house, Lyon & Turnbull, expanding their reach into the international market. Established in Edinburgh, Lyon & Turnbull operates internationally, providing valuation and auction services worldwide thus ensuring Freemans’ client's works of art and antiques are seen, desired, and purchased by the world’s largest art markets in Europe, America and Asia. This formidable alliance of highly experienced auction houses, both of which have proven their ability and willingness to change and adapt as needed to ensure their continued success moving in a new era, only strengthens the position of each in the international markets.