Champion for World Peace: Norman Cousins' Papers Debut at Heritage Auctions

DALLAS, Texas - The personal archives of activist Norman Cousins, who dedicated his life to nuclear disarmament and world peace, offers an historic look at his role as a private citizen in bringing about the Nuclear Test Ban treaty in 1963. Never before offered at auction, his correspondences with world leaders, including several American presidents, will be offered in Heritage Auctions’ Historical Manuscripts auction on Oct. 19 in Dallas. 

“The material shines a light on the immense accomplishments of this quiet hero,” said Sandra Palomino, Director of Historical Manuscripts at Heritage Auctions. “Cousins’ role behind the scenes of the negotiations of the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty cannot be overstated." 

Cousins’ response to the bombing of Hiroshima was immediate. He wrote an editorial for the Saturday Review on August 6, 1945, the same day the bomb was dropped on Hiroshima. He founded organizations, and one such effort, the American-Soviet Dartmouth Conferences, brought him to the attention of the Vatican.  In early 1962, Cousins was approached by Father Felix Morlian to act as an intermediary in getting a message to the Kremlin. Cousins stayed in touch with Morlian, but the Cuban Missile Crisis in October 1962, brought new urgency. Wary of potentially violating any U.S. laws, Cousins reached out to the White House to let them know of his communications with the Vatican, at which time President Kennedy asked him to convey messages to both the Kremlin and the Vatican. Cousins flew to the Vatican and then the Kremlin in December 1962; successfully establishing back channels with the Pope, the Kremlin, and President John F. Kennedy and facilitating communications among the three world leaders.

Through Cousins, the three world leaders could quietly communicate their goals without scrutiny, which served to build trust. Although the U.S. and Soviet Union had been negotiating a treaty since the Eisenhower administration, they repeatedly stumbled when it came to the issue of on-site inspections. The Kennedy administration hit the same road block during their negotiations, but via Cousins were able to successfully assure Soviet Chairman Nikita Khrushchev that on-site inspections would not be used as an opportunity for espionage.

The October auction includes an Inscribed News Wire Announcement Signed by President John F. Kennedy to Cousins dated July 23, 1963, which is expected to bring $7,500. “A more clear testament to the value of Cousins role cannot be found,” says Palomino.

Additional historically important items in the archive include:

·         In a 1961 Typed Letter Signed by Nikita Khrushchev, the Soviet leader responds to a proposal that Cousins and Clarence Pickett of the National Committee for a Sane Nuclear Policy made to address the increasing threat of nuclear warfare during the Cold War (est. $1,800). In the letter, Khrushchev admits "we also believe that the problem of disarmament is the most important, truly, the main problem that is currently facing the world."

·         Several Signed Letters to Cousins from Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Prime Minister of India, on his lingering concerns about the current state of the international crisis amidst the Cold War (est. $1,500+). 

·         Correspondence between Cousins and President Dwight D. Eisenhower, including a Signed, Typed Letter declining Cousins' assistance in arranging meetings with scientists on the topic of radio-active fallout but emphatically expressing his concerns regarding the dangers of nuclear armament ($1,500+).

·         Additional correspondence from historical figures such as President Harry Truman; President Ronald Reagan; First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy; Indira Gandhi; President George H.W. Bush; President Franklin D. Roosevelt; theoretical physicist Robert Oppenheimer; Robert F. Kennedy and President Lyndon B. Johnson, among others. 

·         United States Secretary of State Dean Rusk Signed Copy of Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, "a true copy of the United States original of the Treaty banning nuclear weapons tests..." presented to Cousins on Oct. 14, 1963.

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