WESTPORT, Conn. - A fantastic selection of autographed documents, manuscripts, books and relics are up for bid in an internet-only auction already online by University Archives, based in Westport. The auction will go live on Tuesday, August 29th, on Invaluable.com. The catalog may be viewed right now by visiting the University Archives website at www.universityarchives.com.
Choice offerings will include a larger-than-life portrait of inventor Thomas A. Edison, signed by Edison and the artist, Ellis M. Silvette; a letter hand-written and signed by Marilyn Monroe when she was just 17 and still Norma Jeane; a war letter twice-signed by President Abraham Lincoln in 1862, nicely framed; and a letter handwritten and signed by Morse code inventor Samuel Morse.
Also sold will be a pair of letters written and signed by the famously reclusive and enigmatic writer J. D. Salinger. Both were written to Joyce Miller, a lifelong friend and confidante. One is typewritten (except for the signature) and dated 1950, about the time he was finishing writing Catcher in the Rye and living in Westport. The other is a 1969 letter handwritten in New York.
Other items of interest will include a George Washington signed note with his original hand drawing, Winston Churchill’s Cuban cigar with case from 1954, John F. Kennedy’s family-owned oak press-back chair, George W. Bush’s worn pair of Mizuno sneakers, Muhammad Ali’s 1978 contract to fight boxer Ken Norton, and a Yale University track team photo from 1903.
“I love this sale for the breadth of material and the quality of the items,” said John Reznikoff, founder and president of University Archives. “Of course the Edison and the Morse are the best money can buy, but there are many little gems of fantastic content that would rate at the top of the autograph food chain. The Obama and Bush items cover both ends of the political spectrum.”
With an estimate of $70,000-$80,000, the large painting of Edison (1847-1931) by Silvette (Am., 1876-1940) could be the sale’s top lot. The work - 47 inches by 96 inches, in the frame - was commissioned by the New York State Chamber of Commerce in 1929 on the 50th anniversary of the invention of the light bulb and depicts Edison standing in the library of his New Jersey lab.
Marilyn Monroe was Norma Jeane Dougherty and already two years into her first marriage when she hand-wrote a four-page letter in January 1944 to her legal guardian from 1935-1942, Grace (McKee) Goddard. In it, the teenager enthuses about her Christmas purchase of a “Gold Coast monkey coat. Oh, it’s simply beautiful!” The signed letter has an estimate of $18,000-$20,000.
The single page handwritten letter signed by Samuel Morse (1791-1872) is believed to be the finest Morse handwritten letter available. Dated Nov. 11, 1862, the letter is written entirely in Morse’s hand, wherein he proclaims he was the inventor of the telegraph and describes its first use and operation. The lot includes a fine engraving of Morse and should bring $15,000-$20,000.
The Civil War-era letter twice signed by Lincoln is dated Dec. 15, 1862 and was written to Navy Secretary Gideon Welles, with Naval Academy content. Lincoln signed the letter, then added an addendum the following day, which he also signed and dated. The letter is nicely displayed to the left of a color engraving and bust portrait of Lincoln. The lot should gavel for $15,000-$20,000.
The excellent and well-used Kennedy family-owned chair is a classic black painted and stamped press-back oak chair, with a seat height of 17 ½ inches and an overall height of 38 ½ inches. It was made around the middle of the 20th century and would be wonderful as décor in an antique setting, especially considering all of the Kennedys who no doubt sat in it (est. $2,500-$3,000).
At a party held at 10 Downing Street in London, England on Dec. 21, 1954, Winston Churchill presented Roderic Bowen (England’s Liberal Parliamentary Deputy-Speaker) with a fine Cuban cigar and attractive custom case. Both have made their way to this auction, but not before a 19-year embargo. A letter by Bowen confirming the gift is included in the lot (est. $3,500-$4,500).
Owning a signed note handwritten by George Washington would be enough for most autograph collectors, but when the note includes a drawing by Washington of a hand pointing a finger at his message, that’s icing on the cake. The heavily penned note, 2 inches by 3 inches on laid paper, is not dated but it’s believed to have been written around 1789. It has an estimate of $6,000-$8,000.
In 1978 Muhammad Ali signed a four-page contract to fight his nemesis Ken Norton, but Ali’s loss to Leon Spinks that year in what was supposed to be a tune-up fight for Norton voided that contract (and a promised $12.5 million payday for Ali). The contract, actually a photocopy of the original, but still signed by Ali and promoter Bob Arum, is expected to command $3,000-$4,000.
George W. Bush’s personally owned and well-worn Mizuno sneakers, designed by Bush while he was president and showing the personal presidential stitched monogram on the tongue of each sneaker (“President / G.W. Bush”), no doubt graced golf courses, Camp David and elsewhere. The shoes come with a COA from Bush’s valet Samuel Sutton and should reach $2,000-$2,500.
The impressive gelatin silver print photograph of Yale University’s men’s outdoor track and field team from circa 1903 shows 44 varsity and junior varsity team members all dressed in black tanks and white shorts, standing and seated in four rows. All sport white “Y” letters on their tops. The 22 ½ inch by 30 ¾ inch photo is nicely matted and mounted on board (est. $1,500-$2,000).
The large, top-secret dispatch lock box with black leather covering and travel handle owned by David Lloyd George (1863-1945), a key figure in Great Britain during that conflict and the holder of several important government positions after the war, has a pre-sale estimate of $1,000-$1,200. The wood framed box has a beveled top with George’s name embossed, in rubbed gilt.
John Reznikoff started collecting stamps in 1968, while in the third grade, and in 1979 he formed University Stamp Co., Inc. In 1984, he joined forces with Bryan Camarda, a specialist in philatelic material, and the two have been partners ever since. By the late ‘80’s and early ‘90’s, Reznikoff was exclusively dealing in manuscript material under the name University Archives.
For more information about University Archives and the Tuesday, August 29th auction, please visit www.universityarchives.com.
Image: Civil War-era letter twice signed by Abraham Lincoln, dated Dec. 15, 1862 and was written to U. S. Navy Secretary Gideon Welles, with Naval Academy content (est. $15,000-$20,000).