Auctions | November 1, 2022

Al Capone Letters Include Request For Bootlegger’s Name


Al Capone, autograph letter signed (as "Al Brown"), to Bill [Sells]. Chicago, IL, 14 June 1924. Estimate: $12,000-18,000


Chicago – On November 8 and 9, Hindman is pleased to present its Fine Printed Books & Manuscripts, including Americana auction. The sale features a scarce 19th century bird’s-eye view map of Chicago, a group of letters written by Chicago’s most notorious gangster, Al Capone, and a remarkable collection of documents signed by three centuries of world leaders including nearly every American president.

The Patrick Atkinson Collection of Signed Books & Manuscripts will be a focal point of the second session on November 9. Mr. Atkinson meticulously curated an impressive collection of books and documents signed by nearly every American president, from George Washington to Joe Biden, as well as other world leaders. Among the highlights from the collection is a 1958 first edition, first printing of Martin Luther King Jr.’s Stride Toward Freedom. The Montgomery Story signed by King and inscribed with his non-violence credo: “The strong man is the man who can stand up for his rights and not hit back” (lot 494; estimate: $8,000 – 12,000). 

Other highlights from the Atkinson collection include a 1785 letter signed by George Washington to his land agent (lot 411; estimate: $6,000 – 8,000); a partly printed document signed by President Thomas Jefferson and his Secretary of State, James Madison (lot 413; estimate: $4,000 – 6,000); and a signed first edition of Mahatma Gandhi’s Young India 1919-1922 (lot 486; estimate: $4,000 – 6,000).

Informed by Atkinson’s years living in the Dakotas, the collection also features several Dakota rarities including works by and about George Armstrong Custer, works in the Dakota language and manuscripts chronicling early settlements in the Dakotas.
Highlighting the auction is a monumental map of Chicago, printed in 1857, prior to the Chicago fire (lot 704; estimate; $50,000 – 70,000). The view, after James T. Palmatary, is incredibly scarce: it is one of only five known copies, and just the second in private hands. The map is remarkable not only for its scarcity and size, but also for its incredible detail. The only other copy of the map offered at auction in at least a century sold at Hindman in 2017.

A significant collection be offered in the second day of the auction comprises letters written by notorious American gangster Al Capone and a small archive of related material.  One letter in particular, written from Chicago in 1924 and requesting the name of a bootlegger, illuminates his thinking during prohibition and his years with the Chicago Outfit (lot 560; estimate $12,000 – 18,000). Capone letters are highly rare, with examples from this prohibition period being virtually unattainable. Only four Al Capone letters have been sold at auction in at least the last 50 years, none of which feature content as compelling as exhibited here, both in terms of the time they were written and the stories they tell.
The first day of the sale will be highlighted by a fine collection of Robert Frost from the Frost family. The most notable lot is a first edition of Frost’s first book of poems (lot 218; estimate: $2,000-4,000), with a letter signed from Robert Frost to his cousin Joseph Frost.

Hindman’s Fine Printed Books & Manuscripts, including Americana auction will be held November 8 and 9 at its Chicago saleroom. Bidding will be available in-person, over the phone, via absentee bid, and live online on Hindman’s Digital Bid Room. For more information and to register to bid, please visit the auction page.