November 15, 2012

Presidents, Writers, Musicians at Swann Galleries’ Autographs Auction

New York—Swann Galleries’ auction of Autographs on Thursday, November 29 is rich in Americana, and material related to entertainers, scientists, military leaders, presidents, writers and musicians.

The sale opens with a selection of autographs from the American Revolution, including an Autograph Letter Signed by George Clinton to his brother explaining that British troops had arrived at Kingston in advance of his troops leading to the burning of the town, 17 October 1777 (estimate: $3,000 to $4,000); a Letter Signed by John Glover, describing in detail the ambush by Captain Pope’s infantry, Lower Salem, NY, 11 August, 1779 ($1,000 to $2,000); and an ALS by Anthony Wayne to his wife, reporting that he engaged the enemy near Bulls Ferry, Totowa, NJ, 26 July 1780 ($3,500 to $5,000).
From the Civil War is a General Custer Autograph Endorsement Signed “G.A. Custer / Brig Genl,” approving a furlough for William A. Irwin of the First Michigan Cavalry, 27 December 1863, which is additionally endorsed by Judson Kilpatrick as Brigadier General and several other Union officers ($3,000 to $4,000).

Rounding out the Americana section are an ALS from Patrick Floyd Garrett, the man who killed Billy the Kid, Santa Fe, NM, 3 March 1901 ($2,000 to $3,000); two Letters Signed by Alexander Hamilton; and an Autograph Endorsement Signed by Meriwether Lewis, circa 1800 ($3,500 to $5,000).

A large selection of Presidential autographs features a brief Autograph Letter Signed by George Washington, to a gentleman who had offered his services to the President, Philadelphia, 16 June 1793 ($8,000 to $12,000); an ALS by John Adams to the Governor of Mississippi, marked private, encouraging him to continue in his position and congratulating him on his marriage, 1 April 1799 ($6,000 to $9,000); a brief ALS from president-elect William Henry Harrison, ordering the suit for his inauguration, North Bend, OH, 8 January 1841 ($10,000 to $15,000); a Partly-printed Document Signed by James A. Garfield, to John T. Gibson, Esq., reading, in part, “You are hereby suspended from the office of Postmaster at Huntington . . . in accordance with the terms of the 1768th section of the Revised Statutes of the United States,” Washington, 6 June 1881 ($12,000 to $18,000); and a reading copy of a John F. Kennedy campaign speech, 14 pages with notes in the presidential candidate’s hand throughout, October 1960 ($8,000 to $12,000). 

Fascinating material related to scientists and innovators includes an Autograph Manuscript from John Audubon, titled The Ohio, a working draft of an episode from the autobiographical narrative in the Ornithological Biography, circa 1830 ($8,000 to $12,000); two 1859 Signed Documents from Samuel Morse, related to Telegraph Company stock; two lots related to Thomas Edison and his son; a photograph of Albert Einstein and his wife Elsa, signed by both, 1931 ($3,000 to $4,000) and a pair of Typed Letters Signed by Einstein to explorer Mark E. Ridge, regarding stratospheric flight, 1935 ($2,500 to $3,500); and a signed and inscribed first edition of First on the Moon by Neil Armstrong ($1,200 to $1,800).

Also featured is a group of three letters from Chaim Weizmann, as President of the World Zionist Organization, to Rabbi Solomon Goldman, which provide remarkable insight. One letter discusses Weizmann’s interview with FDR and complains of the lack of British assistance and the spread of exaggerations and distortions, and another reports that relations are strained, stating that violence must be avoided, and discusses the importance of immigration to his strategy, 1939 ($10,000 to $15,000 for the group).

Select musician highlights include an Autograph Musical Quotation Signed by Edvard Grieg, 12 bars from his Norwegian Folk Songs and Dances, 1883 ($2,500 to $3,500); an ALS by a 16-year-old Dmitri Shostakovich, describing his first love, 25 August 1923 ($1,500 to $2,500); and a signed cabinet card photograph of Giuseppe Verdi, 1894 ($3,000 to $4,000).

There are 10 lots from a private collection related to Joseph Pulitzer and the founding of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch newspaper, including the partnership agreement forming the publishing company, 1878 ($7,000 to $10,000).

From writers of note are an Autograph Letter Signed from Walt Whitman to his publisher concerning the inclusion of the poem Carol of Harvest in Leave of Grass, 11 August 1867 ($4,000 to $6,000); a book with lesson plans written out by an 18-year-old Robert Frost while working as a science teacher in Lawrence, MA in 1892. The notebook contains 25 pages of handwritten notes and diagrams in pencil, and is accompanied by an index card signed by the poet and stating that he was indeed a substitute teacher at the school ($10,000 to $20,000); an ALS from Mark Twain concerning his unpublished Socratic dialogue The Great Republic’s Peanut Stand, arguing for reforms in copyright law, 1898 ($3,500 to $5,000); and a Typed Letter Signed by Ernest Hemingway, refusing permission to reprint his short story On the Blue Water, the basis for The Old Man and the Sea, written from Cuba, 1952 ($3,000 to $4,000).

A pair of postcards by famous artists are featured: the first, a handwritten card with a small ink drawing signed “Olga et Picasso” to conductor Henri Defossé, Paris, 2 December 1919 ($3,000 to $4,000); the other, from Egon Schiele to a painter friend, 30 October 1916 ($4,000 to $6,000).

From the world of entertainment comes a group of seven letters written by filmmaker Stanley Kubrick to physicist Jeremy Bernstein, most written during the filming of 2001: A Space Odyssey, 1966-70 ($8,000 to $12,000).

The auction will begin at 1:30 p.m. on Thursday, November 29.

The Autographs will be on public exhibition Monday, November 26 through Wednesday, November 28, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; and Thursday, November 29, 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