Auctions | March 14, 2019

Handwritten Letters by Thomas Jefferson, Davy Crockett, and More at University Archives Auction on March 27

Westport, CT - Historically important letters handwritten and signed by U.S. President Thomas Jefferson, Confederate States President Jefferson Davis and legendary frontiersman Davy Crockett, plus a rare patent assignment document signed by Albert Einstein, will be featured in University Archives’ next online-only auction, slated for Wednesday, March 27th.

Live bidding for the 276-lot auction is scheduled to start promptly at 10:30 am Eastern time. As with all University Archives auctions, this one is loaded with rare, highly collectible autographed documents, manuscripts, books, photos and relics. Online bidding is via and 

In addition to live and Internet bidding, phone and absentee bids will also be accepted. “The March auction is highlighted by rarities, things that for one reason or another are unique,” said John Reznikoff, president and owner of University Archives. “It is also a very diverse sale, and it features one of our strongest representations to date of material regarding the Founding Fathers.” 

The Thomas Jefferson one-page letter, signed “Th. Jefferson” and dated Jan. 8, 1801, when he was Vice President and President-elect, was addressed to Richard Robinson, Jefferson’s assistant overseer at Monticello, Jefferson’s estate home in Virginia. He writes about needing help in reassembling and erecting the columns for the home’s east portico and, in doing so, references the nephew of his concubine and slave, Sally Hemings. The letter should bring $35,000-$45,000.

The Jefferson Davis letter is historically significant in that it is Davis’s acceptance letter as the Provisional President of the Confederate States. Signed (“Jeffn Davis”) and dated (“April 18, 1861”), at the outbreak of the Civil War, the letter is addressed to D.F. Jamison, president of the South Carolina Convention. In it, Davis humbly promises to fulfill his duties as the president, a position he would assume in November of 1861. The letter is estimated to hit $30,000-$35,000.

Also expected to reach $30,000-$35,000 is the one-page Davy Crockett letter, signed (“David Crockett”) and dated (“5 May 1830”). It’s a fine if somewhat frantic letter, full of misspells and largely devoid of punctuation. Heading home from Washington, Crockett had reached Maysville, Kentucky when he realized he’d lost a portrait of himself after leaving Frostburg, Maryland. He enlisted the help of Michael Sprigg of Maryland, a fellow legislator in the 20th / 21st Congresses.

The Albert Einstein offering isn’t a letter but perhaps something even better: a patent assignment document signed by Einstein and touching on his Nobel Prize-winning work on the photo-electric effect. His colleague, Gustav Bucky, also signed the typewritten, two-page document. The patent was for a “Light Intensity Self-Adjusting Camera”, an automatic camera developed five years before Kodak’s Super-Six 20. The rare document should command $20,000-$24,000.

A superb George Washington document, signed as President and dated Feb. 10, 1790, in which he appoints a port collector for North Carolina, matted with a portrait of Washington, should sell for $18,000-$20,000; while a letter written and signed by John Adams regarding the 1765 Stamp Act of Congress, to Jedidiah Morse for his Annals of the American Revolution, dated Sept. 11, 1815 and housed in a custom clamshell case, is expected to change hands for $10,000-$12,000.

A sepia tone bust portrait photograph of Irish author Oscar Wilde (1854-1900), signed as “Oscar Wilde” and dated “Jany. 23 ‘82”, depicting the long-locked dramatist in an overcoat with a wide fur collar, carries an estimate of $6,000-$7,000. Also, a two-page letter beautifully handwritten in French by the Russian Empress Alexandra Feodorovna, World War I-dated in January 1915 and signed (as “Alexandra”), with mention of the French Red Cross, should bring $2,400-$2,600.

A small archive of autograph letter drafts, notes and documents pertaining to Lenny Bruce (1925-1966), revealing the business and personal side of the controversial comic, six pieces total, some inscribed and signed, has an estimate of $2,400-$2,600. Also, a check signed by baseball great Jackie Robinson (as “Jack R. Robinson”), in the amount of $6.50 and made out to the “Cinderella Ball Committee”, framed with a photo of Robinson at bat, should garner $700-$800.

Lots pertaining to renowned French scientists Pierre and Marie Curie are expected to attract keen bidder interest. They include a one-page letter written in French by Pierre Curie, signed and dated April 7, 1905, addressed to the Royal Society of Surgery and Medicine, with his photo (est. $7,000-$8,000); and a rare formal portrait photograph of Marie Curie, shown seated in a chair, signed on the mount as “M. Curie” and dated “November 8, 1929”, framed (est. $6,000-$6,500).

A single-page typed letter, signed by Walt Disney and dated Jan. 23, 1942, in which Disney discourses on what his studio can and can’t do to support the war effort in the aftermath of Pearl Harbor, has an estimate of $3,000-$3,500. Also, a five-page letter, handwritten by Vivien Leigh and dated “Dec. 10th” (presumed to be 1939), to her agent, John Gliddon, regarding her fears of having to attend the opening of Gone with the Wind in Atlanta, should sell for $1,500-$1,700.

As with all University Archives online auctions, this one is packed with important, scarce and collectible signed documents and other items relating to some of the most famous names in all of history. The firm has become world-renowned as a go-to source for rare material of this nature.

University Archives was founded in 1979, as a division of University Stamp Company, by John Reznikoff, who started collecting stamps and coins in 1968, while in the third grade. Industry-wide, Reznikoff is considered the leading authenticity expert for manuscripts and documents. He consults with law enforcement, dealers, auction houses and both major authentication companies.