Auctions | May 7, 2013

Letters by Ronald Reagan, Emily Dickinson, Albert Einstein Coming Up at Swann Galleries

New York — On Thursday, May 23, Swann Galleries will offer an excellent assortment of Autographs at auction. The sale features Americana, presidential material, musicians, writers, artists, and more.

There are several lots related to Ronald Reagan, dating back to a May 1946 autograph letter signed, written to a fellow member of the American Veterans Committee, on Jane Wyman stationery, that discusses the role of Communists in the organization, and expressing a decidedly liberal viewpoint (estimate: $6,000 to $9,000). There is also an autograph note signed, as President, a retained draft of a letter written to a Viet Nam veteran, containing the line, “I can understand why you think me a closet racist…” March 1983 ($3,000 to $4,000); a color photograph signed by Reagan, First Lady Nancy Reagan, and White House dog Lucky, which was the original artwork used for holiday cards, 1984-85 ($700 to $1,000); and a pair of items written to the Reagans by Mother Teresa, 1984 ($800 to $1,200).

Presidential highlights also include a letter signed from George Washington, an appeal to inhabitants of New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland and Virginia for provisions on behalf soldiers at Valley Forge in the winter of 1778 ($15,000 to $25,000); an autograph letter signed by Thomas Jefferson to James Madison, describing Alexander I as “the watchman of tyranny for Europe,” and suggesting that he might redeem himself by entering in a war with the Turks, May 1822 ($15,000 to $25,000); a partly-printed document signed by Abraham Lincoln, appointing George W. Rodgers Commander in the Navy, February 1863, just months before Rodgers was killed in  action ($7,000 to $10,000); and an item signed by four presidents, a photograph of Dwight D. Eisenhower reciting the Oath of Office, as Truman, Hoover and Nixon look on, circa 1953 ($6,000 to $9,000).

A run of items related to Albert Einstein features a photograph of the scientist, signed and inscribed to the photographer himself, 1931 ($8,000 to $12,000); a pair of typed letters signed in German to engine manufacturer E. Paul du Pont, discussing economics and his views on labor, Princeton, 1935 ($6,000 to $9,000); and a typed letter signed in German, offering to help a professor emigrate to the U.S., but warning about anti-Semitism in America, Princeton, 1945 ($3,000 to $4,000).

From the same era is a group of three typed letters signed by Chaim Weizmann, as President of the World Zionist Organization, to Rabbi Solomon Goldman, President of the Zionist Organization of America, 1938-43, one of which is marked “Secret” and projects a negative outlook for Zionism in light of the British having negotiated with Hitler after the crisis in Czechoslovakia ($8,000 to $12,000).

Musician highlights include a small run of George Gershwin items, such as two signed books, George Gershwin: A Study in American Music and George Gershwin’s Song-Book inscribed to Aileen Pringle, with whom he was rumored to have had a love affair ($2,500 to $3,500 and $4,000 to $6,000 respectively) as well as signed and inscribed photograph of the composer at the piano ($3,000 to $4,000); and a limited edition of the Porgy and Bess score, signed by George and Ira Gershwin, Dubose Heyward and Rouben Mamoulian, New York, 1935 ($6,000 to $9,000).

There is also a brief autograph letter signed, with a sketch of a car and tailpipe, by Bob Dylan, to an unnamed recipient, reading, “You never sniffed drainpipes but you have a good grasp of the Alphabet. Highway 51 is not your Road!” 1973 ($1,000 to $1,500).


A stand-out item among the writers is an autograph letter signed by Emily Dickinson, in which she compares the conflict between the biblical Jacob and Esau to the skirmish in her mind, circa 1881 ($6,000 to $9,000). There are also ALsS from Lord Byron, Joseph Conrad and Charles Dickens, as well as a signed cabinet card photograph of Oscar Wilde ($4,000 to $6,000); a letter from Ernest Hemingway to an editor of the New Republic, in which he writes, “I am a writer and I am a Catholic, but I am not a Catholic Writer,” Key West, 1936 ($3,500 to $5,000); and a typed letter signed by Jack Kerouac, 1962 ($3,500 to $5,000) to a friend he addresses as “MoonCloud.”

The sale concludes with a selection of artist autographs, which includes an archive of 15 letters and postcards from Alexander Calder to his banker and friend Beverly Iszard, containing sketches, 1953-70 ($7,000 to $10,000); two autograph letters signed by Georgia O’Keefe ($1,000 to $1,500 each); a signed ink drawing by James Thurber, a cartoon for the New Yorker, with caption written in his hand ($4,000 to $6,000); and a birthday card from Andy Warhol, listing numbers 1 through 60, on his Studio stationery ($400 to $600).

The auction will begin at 1:30 p.m. on Thursday, May 23.

The Autographs will be on public exhibition Monday, May 20 through Wednesday, May 22, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; and Thursday, May 23, from 10 a.m. to noon.

An illustrated catalogue, with information on bidding by mail or fax, is available for $35 from Swann Galleries, Inc., 104 East 25th Street, New York, NY 10010, or online at

For further information, and to make arrangements to leave a bid or to bid by telephone during the auction, please contact Marco Tomaschett at (212) 254-4710, extension 12, or via e-mail at

Live online bidding is also available via                                   

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Image: Autograph letter signed by Emily Dickinson, circa 1881 (estimate: $6,000 to $9,000).