American Civil War Autograph Album Featured in Swann Galleries’ Autographs Auction, March 19


New York—Swann Galleries’ Spring Autographs auction on Thursday, March 19 offers remarkable examples of Americana; autographs from world leaders, aviators and scientists; and presidents, including fine material from The Forbes Collection.

The top lot in the auction is a remarkable autograph album was compiled for a benefit auction at the New York Metropolitan Fair of 1864. The album was put together by Teresa Viele, wife of General E.L. Viele, and contains more than 150 signatures by prominent politicians, generals, writers and artists of the Civil War period.

During the American Civil War, and especially during the years 1863-64, civilians in a number of large, northern U.S. cities organized fairs for which donations were solicited for the purpose of raising funds and supplies to benefit the war effort. Private charitable organizations collected food, supplies and cash, as well as paintings, statuary, furniture, autographs and other collectibles. The New York fair opened on March 28, 1864, and included this extraordinary autograph album compiled by Viele—also at the fair was a manuscript copy of the Gettysburg Address, contributed by President Lincoln himself!

Lincoln’s autograph is in the Viele album, as are Ulysses S. Grant, Nathaniel Hawthorne, John C. Frément, Louis Agassiz, Emanuel Leutze, and more than 100 others. The album was originally sold to William Astor in the 1864 New York fair auction for $20,000. Astor then topped the generosity of his bid by gifting the album to Mrs. Viele, in whose family it has remained until the present day. The current auction estimate is $80,000 to $120,000.

Among other presidential autographs—many from the Forbes Collection—in the sale are an archive of 27 Typed Letters Signed by Harry S. Truman, including 12 as President, to a Kansas City friend, mostly on political topics, including the WPA, the rationing board, the Dixiecrat movement and the importance of public opinion, Washington, 1938-51 ($5,000 to $7,500); an archive of papers from Richard M. Nixon’s first campaign manager, Roy O. Day, with 28 letters, including six as President, many arranging meetings or publicity, the later ones mostly conveying campaign activities or personal greetings, 1945-74 ($8,000 to $12,000); and a reading copy of John F. Kennedy’s speech delivered at the San Francisco International Airport on September 3, 1960, typescript, unsigned, with scattered holograph annotations, mostly short phrases written between printed lines ($5,000 to $7,500).

There is a fascinating artifact related to the Irish Home Rule movement: a Charles Stewart Parnell autograph manuscript signed, a working draft of his address, “To the Irish People of America,” in which he solicits support for maintaining control of the Irish Parliamentary Party, and requests that his delegates be given a favorable reception and hearing at the 4th General Convention of the Irish National League of America, held in Chicago in October of 1891 ($10,000 to $15,000).


Other historical figures are represented by a brief autograph letter signed, “Freud,” in German, reading, “Thank you for your note. I cannot help taking pleasure in it, since I have so frequently had to listen to bitter and malicious criticism,” Vienna, 14 January 1934 ($3,500 to $5,000); a 1945 Typed Letter Signed by Albert Einstein in English, expressing that he hopes humanity has learned the importance of security, noting that much of what was destroyed cannot be rebuilt and preferring the awareness of the horrors of the past to the uncertainty felt at the time, Princeton, 31 January 1945 ($6,000 to $9,000); and an album commemorating the wedding of Soviet astronauts Valentina Tereshkova—the first woman to have flown in space—and Nikolayev Andriyan,  with photographs of their wedding ceremony and their honeymoon in Cuba, signed by both in Russian, December 1963 ($6,000 to $9,000).

Among the best examples from well known figures in the arts are an autograph manuscript inscribed and signed twice by Daniel D. Emmett, the complete music and lyrics for Dixie, 20 December 1900 ($10,000 to $15,000); an autograph letter signed from Henry James, to the wife of his nephew, almost entirely on events and reflections concerning the start of World War I, London, 20 May 1915 ($5,000 to $7,500); an autograph letter in German signed by Egon Schiele, written just weeks before his death, complaining about the military’s interference in his art, Vienna, 2 October 1918 ($8,000 to $12,000); and several items from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, among them manuscripts of his short stories Through the VeilThe Nightmare Room and The Parish Magazine ($3,000 to $4,000 each).

 The auction will begin at 1:30 p.m. on Thursday, March 19.

The Autographs will be on public exhibition Monday, March 16 through Wednesday, March 18, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; and Thursday, March 19, from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m.

 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

Images are: From an autograph album with 150 signatures of prominent Civil War era figures, 1964. Estimate: $80,000 to $120,000. Albert Einstein, typed letter signed, expressing hope that humanity has learned its lesson from the war, January 1945. Estimate $6,000 to $9,000.                

Auction Guide