LINCOLN PARK, N.J. (AP) – The Steinbeck Collection, an upcoming sale at a New Jersey auction house, might as well be called “Travels with Elaine.” Curated Estates offering a trove of materials on Feb. 27 that has been sitting in a Manhattan warehouse for about two decades. They include dozens of letters that John Steinbeck’s wife, Elaine, wrote home from their world travels. Absentee and Internet live bidding is available through LiveAuctioneers.
Steinbeck, author of The Grapes of Wrath and East of Eden among other works, and winner of the Pulitzer Prize and the Nobel Prize for Literature, died in 1968. Elaine Steinbeck, his third wife, died in 2003. She was an actress and Broadway stage manager, and a prodigious writer of letters home.
There are dozens of long missives in her careful hand, describing the couple’s trips to Africa and Spain in 1952, to Sweden to receive the Nobel Prize in 1962, and to the White House in 1964 to stay with Lyndon and Lady Bird Johnson. She reports that her husband had been called in to work on LBJ’s acceptance speech for the Democratic National Convention in Atlantic City. “But that is confidential,” she writes. “That is something you just don’t talk about.”
The sale also includes intriguing odds and ends from the lives of both Steinbecks: the Presidential Medal of Freedom that Johnson awarded him, a small medallion she received from Richard Rodgers for her work on Oklahoma, a hummingbird made of colorful thread wrapped around a stick. Steinbeck said he got the hummingbird from a witch doctor, and wrote that it holds “just about all the magic there is in the world.”
John Steinbeck is one of America’s greatest storytellers. His work has garnered him the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Award and the Nobel Prize. Elaine Steinbeck was a tour de force in John’s life accompanying him around the globe on travels. Elaine was notable in her own right as one of Broadway’s first woman stage managers. The auction goes through John Steinbeck’s life starting from his childhood through eighteen years of John and Elaine’s marriage to Elaine’s life after John’s passing. These important objects and ephemera have been in storage for almost 20 years and are offered to the public for the first time.
Many of the photos, letters and writing in this auction have not been available to the public until now and will never all be presented together again. Photos of John and Elaine’s world travels from Moscow to the Caribbean to South East Asian are available. Correspondence between the Steinbecks and many notable people such as Joan Crawford, the Hustons, the Kazans and the Kennedys are available. Childhood items from John Steinbeck include a lock of baby hair, his high school diploma, his confirmation certificate, along with photos of John Steinbeck’s hometown Salinas, Calif. There is also furniture and decorative items from the Steinbecks’ homes.
“We are excited to offer this historic collection at auction on John Steinbeck’s birthday – Feb. 27th. The lots in this sale will help Steinbeck scholars and collectors more completely understand one of the world’s greatest 20th-century authors.” said Jason Iorio, co-owner and auctioneer at Curated Estates.
By WARREN LEVINSON, Associated Press
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