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George Washington's Thanksgiving document fails to sell at auction

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A rare document signed by George Washington proclaiming Thanksgiving a national holiday, which would have set a record price for an American historical document if it had reached its high pre-sale estimate, did not sell at auction on Thursday.

The proclamation, signed by the first U.S. president on October 3, 1789, in New York, is one of two known surviving copies of the proclamation. The Library of Congress has the other copy.

Christie's had expected it to sell for between $8 million and $12 million. The auction house sold Washington's annotated copy of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights (1789) in June 2012 for a record $9.8 million.

"The proclamation did not find a buyer," a spokesperson for Christie's said after the brief, special one-lot sale.

In the one-page document establishing the first federal Thanksgiving Day, Washington wrote, "both Houses of Congress have by their joint Committee requested me to recommend to the People of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer ..."

The document that was offered by an anonymous seller was considered to be in excellent condition. It was last sold at auction in 1977, when it fetched $3,800, according to Christie's, which added it has been sold privately since then.

The Mount Vernon Ladies' Association of the Union, a non-profit education group that owns and operates the museum at Washington's Virginia home, paid the 2012 record price for Washington's annotated copy of the Constitution and Bill of Rights, which had been in the Mount Vernon library until 1876.

(Reporting by Patricia Reaney; Editing by Bob Burgdorfer)

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