WESTPORT, Conn. – A signed copy of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s first book, authored before he became president, a newly discovered handwritten and signed letter by Alexander Hamilton, and a 1781 letter signed by George Washington, then Commander of the Continental Army, are expected top lots in University Archives’ next online-only auction on Wednesday, Feb. 27. Absentee and Internet live bidding is available through LiveAuctioneers.
Live bidding for the 266-lot auction is scheduled to start at 10:30 a.m. Eastern time. As with all University Archives auctions, this one is loaded with rare, highly collectible autographed documents, manuscripts, books, photos and relics.
“Our last auction was the best one yet, with over 3,000 registered bidders from over 50 countries and well over an 80 percent sell-through, which is unheard of in our industry,” said John Reznikoff, president and owner of University Archives. “People come back because they know that we have the finest material available anywhere and yet there are still great deals to be had.”
Reznikoff added, “This sale promises to outperform the last one, as it includes some stellar consignments, many of which have not seen the light of day for years. The Hamilton letter, and a Ben Franklin letter, for example, have been off the market for over 140 years. The virgin FDR signed book is part of a collection, 24 strong, with incredible provenance. It’s also market fresh.”
The FDR book, titled Wither Bound (Houghton Mifflin, Boston and New York, 1926) is an important presentation copy, signed and inscribed to Missy LeHand (“M.A.L.”), Roosevelt’s private secretary for 21 years, including while he was president. The book (below), based on a lecture at Milton Academy on the Alumni War Memorial Foundation in 1926, should bring $4,000-$4,500.
The typewritten letter from J. Robert Oppenheimer to Leslie Groves, who headed the top-secret Manhattan Project toward the end of World War II, resulting in the development of the very first nuclear weapon, is part of a significant atomic bomb-related archive originally from the Groves family. It’s likely the finest known letter of Oppenheimer in private hands and should make $10,000-$12,000. There are about 20 other Groves related items from an archive that came from his family. Included is Harry Truman talking about the bomb.
The newly discovered two-page Hamilton letter, apparently unpublished, was dated March 20, 1791 and boldly signed with a flourish, “A Hamilton.” In it, he forwards George Washington’s appointment to Edward Carrington as supervisor of the eventual capital city of Washington. It also discusses other salient issues, to include the Compromise of 1790 (est. $30,000-$35,000).
A remarkable collection of autographs from all 39 signers at the U.S. Constitutional Convention – including Washington, Hamilton, Franklin and Madison – gathered before, during and after the signing of the U.S. Constitution (circa 1752-1835), all generally very good, is estimated at $60,000-$70,000.
An important 1781 letter signed by George Washington, as then commander-in-chief of the Continental Army, written in the hand of his aide Tench Tilghman, to the German Maj. Gen. Baron de Riedesel, regarding the sensitive matter of prisoner exchanges, carries an estimate of $35,000-$40,000. The letter mentions Alexander Hamilton and British Gen. John Burgoyne.
Also expected to change hands for $30,000-$35,000 is a two-page letter signed by Benjamin Franklin (as “B. Franklin”) that was last on the market 140 years ago. Addressed to his nephew Jonathan and ending with, “I am ever your affectionate uncle”, the letter, dated Dec. 22, 1779, discusses funds to outfit the 10,000 troops under the command of Gen. Marquis de Lafeyette.
A substantial archive of nearly 50 Civil War-era theater playbills (circa 1861-1864), mostly from theaters in Boston but also New York City, is expected to garner $30,000-$35,000. What makes the collection significant is that nine of the playbills advertise Lincoln assassin John Wilkes Booth, plus three others with Booth associations. Most show wear typical of their age.
An autographed letter, written and signed by Abraham Lincoln (as “A. Lincoln”) on Executive Mansion stationery and dated May 24, 1864, while the Civil War was still raging, is expected to finish at $13,000-$15,000. The letter is written to Secretary of War Edwin Stanton, instructing him to promote a New Jersey colonel – “the one having best testimonials” – to brigadier general.
A rare manuscript page from the Nobel Prize-winning physicist Richard C. Feynman (b. 1941), written at the dawn of the computer age, in which he illustrates how a computer program can approximate a solution to a differential equation using first-order and second-order Runga-Kutta methods (developed around 1900 by two German mathematicians) should hit $9,000-$10,000.
A four-page letter written and inscribed by then-teenager Jacqueline Lee Bouvier (later Jackie Kennedy) to her childhood best friend Rosamund Lee during the spring of 1943, is estimated to sell for $3,500-$4,000. The letter, signed “Love, Jackie XXX,” is accompanied by a photo of her playing baseball and an original pencil horse drawing by her. It was written from McLean, Va.
Other noteworthy lots include a 1920s-era baseball signed by Babe Ruth, Connie Mack and Gabby Street, in special presentation from the early sports syndicator Christy Walsh (est. $3,000-$3,500); and a formal document from 1932 signed by Japanese Emperor Hirohito (Showa), with calligraphic script, unfolding to 18 inches by 13 inches, in very good shape (est. $2,400-$2,800).