Auctions | April 27, 2020

Presidential Letters Lift Historical Manuscripts Auction Above $1.1 Million

John F. Kennedy's uncensored campaign notes, made while suffering from laryngitis, sold for $25,000.

Dallas, TX – A collection of John F. Kennedy’s personal campaign notes and a selection of letters signed by assorted U.S. presidents led the total result for Heritage Auctions’ Historical Manuscripts Auction to $1,164,278 April 22 in Dallas, Texas.

John F. Kennedy Uncensored Campaign Notes Made While Suffering from Laryngitis is a trove of 78 separate pages that sold for $25,000 to lead the sale. On these handwritten pages, the 35th American president addressed a number of topics, including his philosophies, campaign plans and his frustration with asking and answering questions with his staff. He cited specific events, such as his Sept. 12, 1960 speech to the Greater Houston Ministerial Association at the Rice Hotel, a performance that was important to his campaign and is widely considered one of his best speeches. He also alluded to specific people and reveals thoughts about the campaign, such as in his suggestion that it might be better not publicly debate Minnesota Senator Hubert Humphrey, because of the impact laryngitis had had on his voice, and the fact that Humphrey is "pretty good with a crowd.”

“This sale underscored the popularity of presidential manuscripts to collectors,” Heritage Auctions Historical Manuscripts Director Sandra Palomino said. "The demand and the results, especially for the materials written and signed by presidents, underscored their historical significance and their popularity among collectors.”

A pair of letters signed by George Washington sparked competitive bidding. George Washington Letter Signed "Go: Washington" – in which Washington explains to Brigadier General Alexander McDougall his displeasure with the apparent loss of clothing earmarked for troops – sold for $23,750. In George Washington Autograph Letter Signed "Go: Washington", which brought $21,875, Washington encouraged the inclusion of and support for the combat engineers who were the forerunners to what now is the Corps of Engineers.

Two dozen bidders pursued an Abraham Lincoln Autograph Letter Signed "A. Lincoln" to drive its final price to $20,000, against a pre-auction estimate of $12,000. The letter, written to Gideon Welles, Secretary of the Navy, Lincoln addresses how to proceed with resignations for those who wish to withdraw their resignation applications.

A John F. Kennedy Typed Letter of Condolence Signed "John Kennedy" more than tripled its pre-auction estimate when it finished at $20,000. The letter is addressed to Mrs. Rudolph Anderson, Jr., whose husband was killed while on an operational flight Oct. 27, 1962, when his U-2 spy plane was shot down while on a reconnaissance mission over Cuba.

Other top lots included, but were not limited to:
Benjamin Franklin Pay Document Signed "B Franklin Presidt": $18,750
John Hancock Autograph Letter Signed " John Hancock": $18,125
Meriwether Lewis Autograph Letter Signed "Meriwether Lewis": $18,125
Mahatma Gandhi Autograph Letter Signed "Bapu": $15,000
John Adams Autograph Letter Signed " John Adams": $15,000
Fuller Supreme Court Photograph Signed By All Nine Justices: $15,000

The sale also included nine lots from renowned physicist Albert Einstein, including but not limited to:
Albert Einstein Unsigned Handwritten Calculations: $13,750
Albert Einstein Autograph Letter Signed "A.E.": $13,125
Albert Einstein Typed Letter Signed "A. Einstein.": $12,500

Heritage Auctions’ next Historical Manuscripts Auction will be Oct. 21.