WILTON, Conn. – A letter handwritten and signed by Albert Einstein to President Herbert Hoover in 1929; a one-page letter penned and signed by future President George Washington in 1783; and a charming photograph of baseball legend Lou Gehrig posing with a young boy, signed, with Babe Ruth in the background, are just a few of the rare autographs, manuscripts, books and photos in University Archives’ online-only auction slated for June 30, starting at 10:30 am Eastern time. Absentee and Internet live bidding will be available through LiveAuctioneers.
John Reznikoff, president and founder of University Archives, pointed out that auction regulars will note that the June 30 sale is organized a little differently. “This month, we’ve opted to organize auction lots first by category and then alphabetically,” he said. “This way, you can easily navigate within the section of the auction that most interests you, like superb presidential autographs from Washington to Biden.”
The aforementioned autograph letter signed by George Washington and dated May 15, 1783 was addressed to Miss Sidney Lee, the sister of recently deceased Continental Army General Charles Henry Lee. Washington and Lee had bad blood, but despite this, Washington proved himself a courteous and attentive correspondent, helping Miss Lee obtain a copy of Lee’s will so that she could inherit his estate. The letter carries a pre-sale estimate of $18,000-$20,000.
Albert Einstein wrote a one-page autograph letter in German to President Herbert Hoover after receiving Hoover’s congratulatory 50th birthday message in 1929. Einstein humbly wrote, “I know I am just one of the many who are so happy to use their energy in the service of the understanding of the Sciences…I alone am but a grain-of-dust in the development of the human spirit.” Just one other letter from Einstein to a US President is known. This example is estimated at $50,000-$55,000.
The circa 1933 black and white photo of Lou Gehrig, shown squatting down to pose with a young boy identified on verso as William Grice Bogg, is signed by the Yankee great and has an estimate of $3,000-$4,000. Babe Ruth can be seen throwing a ball in the background. The location is, sadly, unknown. Interestingly, Ruth posed with the same boy a few years later, in a similar pose. That photo, signed by Ruth, is also up for bid with an estimate of $5,000-$6,000.
Alan Turing, the British mathematician who was among the leaders of the British team that cracked the Nazi Enigma machine during World War II, signed a copy of The Theory of Groups of Finite Order, which he gifted to his Cambridge University mentor. The book carries an estimate of $20,000-$24,000. Also of note is a General Biochemistry textbook signed by Richard Feynman and profusely hand-annotated by him with more than 215 words in the form of abbreviations, hypothetical questions, flow charts, chemical formulae, and margin notes. It is estimated at $6,000-$7,000. Science fans will also enjoy a photograph of Stephen Hawking, signed by him as “S.W. Hawking” and accompanied by a letter of provenance explaining that, though Hawking agreed to sign it, he didn’t understand why his signature was considered valuable. It appears in the sale lineup with the estimate of $20,000-$24,000.
A Civil War-dated naval appointment, boldly signed by President Abraham Lincoln and promoting a man named William T. Plant to the rank of Assistant Surgeon in the U.S. Navy, dated April 11, 1862 and countersigned by Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles, is estimated at $6,000-$7,000. Also, a check signed by then-junior Senator from Illinois Barack Obama, drawn from the “Friends of Barack Obama” bank account in 1997, should realize $8,000-$10,000.
A one-page letter handwritten on both sides and signed by Uncle Tom’s Cabin author Harriet Beecher Stowe, penned in Andover, Massachusetts on Oct. 27, 1852 and containing superb content on slavery, has an estimate of $6,000-$7,000; while the Oberlin College Commencement Exercises Program, dated June 14, 1965 and signed twice in red ink by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., where he delivered the school’s Commencement Address, is expected to garner $5,000-$6,000.
The architectural plans for Frank Lloyd Wright’s last Usonian house in Wausau, Wisconsin, a circa-1957 drawing or rendering of the Duey Wright House, signed by Wright, should sell for $6,000-$7,000. Also, a copy of the 1981 soft-cover book Warhol, boldly signed seven times by Andy Warhol himself, and accompanied by a drawing by the artist, is estimated to bring $5,000-$6,000. It was an exhibition catalog published in conjunction with a show in 1981.
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