CALABASAS, Calif. – Howard Hughes remains as arguably the most complex and enigmatic personality of the 20th century. The life of the brilliant, yet eccentric billionaire is the stuff of legend: business magnate, engineering genius, record-setting aviator, Hollywood moviemaker, philanthropist, playboy who courted countless stars, all while living a bizarre and secretive lifestyle suffering from obsessive-compulsive disorder. Those few people who were loyal to Hughes and worked closely with him, including his reclusive years, did not speak publicly about him. The collection contained in the Profiles in History auction on Thursday, July 23, was acquired from Hughes insider Vernon C. Olson. View the fully illustrated catalog on LiveAuctioneers.
Upon his return from the Korean War in 1952, Olson used his accounting degree and took a position as a staff accountant with the Hughes Tool Co. in Culver City, California. Shortly after his employ, Vernon was asked by Mr. Hughes’ personal secretary, Nadine Henley, to become Hughes personal accountant, while retaining his staff accountant position. Hughes was looking for an honest, trustworthy, loyal and discrete person. It was at that point Olson began living a double (professional) life. Other than Miss Henley, no one knew of his alternate position, not even his supervisors early in his career. As he led his “secret life,” he slowly worked his way up in the Hughes corporate world. Through the years Olson became corporate controller, chief accounting officer, senior vice president and a member of the board of directors, all while managing Hughes’ corporate and personal finances. It is in these capacities, he became intimately acquainted with Mr. Hughes’ activities and ventures.
Olson became so well trusted, that upon the passing of Hughes in 1976, he was one of only two high-ranking Summa Corp. (name of Hughes’ business interests after he sold the tool division of Hughes Tool Co. in 1972) executives to continue with the company under the chairmanship of William R. Lummis, first cousin of Hughes. He continued with the company in his financial capacity while sitting on the board of directors. When Summa Corp. was sold in 1996, Lummis granted Vernon Olson legal possession of Hughes’ personal belongings.
Olson spent decades protecting Hughes’ privacy and continued to do so even after his death by disposing of his belongings in a very discreet manner by anonymously donating them to various Las Vegas charitable organizations. Other items he purchased from the estate. Knowing his daughter Mindy’s keen interest in history, Vernon gave her key items of historical and personal significance, spanning Hughes’ fabled career. These are the items being offered in this once-in-a-lifetime sale. Out of respect to both Hughes and her father, Mindy kept these items until now, and her wish is for others to have the opportunity to have a genuine part of the history and legacy that was Mr. Howard R. Hughes.
Among the highlights of this historic sale:
– Over 55 never-before-seen Katharine Hepburn love letters and bedside notes written to Howard Hughes.
– Emerald and diamond engagement ring Hughes gifted to Katharine Hepburn.
– Hughes’ personal 1939 Congressional gold medal recognizing his achievements in advancing the science of aviation.
– Hughes’ signature two-tone jacket worn during his famous flight of the H-4 Hercules (Spruce Goose).
– Hughes’ personal leather aviator helmet.
– Hughes’ personal work desk that formerly belonged to Howard Hughes Sr. from Hughes Tool Co.
– Hughes’ original contract signed by Jean Harlow for her starring role in Hell’s Angels – starting her fabled film career as the “Platinum Blonde.”
– Numerous Howard Hughes signed Hollywood contracts with director Howard Hawks, multiple stars and film studios.
– Hughes’ original Zoë Mozert poster artwork of Jane Russell for The Outlaw used extensively in publicity for the film causing a media censorship battle.
– Hughes’ signed 1947 California driver’s license with numerous law enforcement ‘courtesy cards.’
– Hughes’ personal etched brass ‘Privileged Guest’ card from the Flamingo Hotel-Casino, Las Vegas.
– Numerous photographs from Hughes’ collection chronicling his extensive aviation, Hollywood and business exploits.
These few examples represent a mere fraction of the fascinating items within this sale.
The Howard Hughes collection will be followed by exceptional historical autographs and the Collection of William J. Bell, legendary TV writer and producer. Featured is lot 138, John F. Kennedy’s personal presidential leather G-1 bomber jacket worn aboard the presidential yacht Honey Fitz.
The auction will begin at 11 a.m. Pacific time on Thursday, July 23.
For details contact Profiles in History at 310-859-7701 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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