Collection of signed historical portraits will cross the block Feb. 11

NEW YORK — On Feb. 11 Swann Galleries will auction the Jerome Shochet collection of signed historical photographs, which includes many presidential signatures as well as signed portraits of writers, artists and other important historical figures from the 19th and 20th centuries.

Presidential highlights include one of the earliest signed images of any president, a boldly signed carte-de-visite portrait of John Quincy Adams, circa 1825 (estimate $6,000-$9,000). There is also a seated portrait of Abraham Lincoln by Alexander Gardner, signed “A. Lincoln,” as president ($40,000-$60,000); a rare, unusually large portrait of Chester Arthur, inscribed to John Jameson of Amherst, Mass. ($10,000-$15,000); and a photograph of Theodore Roosevelt and his Cabinet, signed by the president and nine other men in the image, Washington, 1906 ($10,000-$15,000).

In addition, there are signed portraits of Presidents Grant, Hayes, Hoover, Johnson, Nixon, Truman, Franklin Roosevelt, Taft, Wilson and more.

There are also items related to notorious figures involved in presidential assassinations. A signed photograph from John Wilkes Booth, inscribed “Yours affectionately,” became one of the most recognizable images of the actor/assassin of Lincoln, 1862-65 ($10,000-$15,000), and there is also a related item, a signed and inscribed portrait of Boston Corbett, the man who killed Booth ($4,000-$6,000). A signed bust portrait of Charles Guiteau, the miscreant who assassinated James Garfield, is also featured, Washington, 1882 ($2,000-$3,000).

Civil War highlights include a Mathew Brady carte-de-visite of Elmer E. Ellsworth, the first notable casualty of the war, who died while removing the Confederate flag displayed in Alexandria, Va. ($4,000-$6,000); and the last known photo of Robert E. Lee, signed “R.E. Lee” ($4,000-$6,000); and a signed and inscribed portrait of Jefferson Davis ($5,000-$7,500).

Among other photographs related to the Civil War and the Western expansion are a Brady carte-de-visite of Kit Carson signed by the frontiersman ($15,000-$20,000); and a signed and inscribed group photograph that belonged to George Amstrong Custer, who is shown with the officers under his command and their wives, Fort Lincoln, N.D., November 1873. On the mount below the albumen print, Custer identified each person, and on the reverse he noted the location ($25,000-$35,000).

Choice World War II photographs include an image of Winston Churchill and 43 other attendees of the May 1944 Dominion Prime Ministers’ Conference, signed by Churchill and others, London, 1944 ($10,000-$15,000); and a very rare photograph of Generals Dwight D. Eisenhower and Douglas MacArthur seated side-by-side in a limousine during Ike’s May 1946 visit to Tokyo, signed by both ($20,000-$30,000).

Among literary figures are a signed and inscribed photograph of Victor Hugo, circa 1867 ($2,000-$3,000); a self-portrait of Lewis Carroll, inscribed to his sister, circa 1875 ($2,000 to $3,000); a profile portrait of Henry James, 1883 ($3,500-$5,000); a rare signed and inscribed photograph of Robert Lewis Stevenson ($7,000-$10,000); and a standing portrait of Oscar Wilde with cigarette in hand ($4,000-$6,000).

Featured photographs of composers include a large image of Antonin Dvorák, signed and inscribed in Czech during the time he spent in the U.S. serving as Director of the National Conservatory of Music, Omaha, 1893 ($8,000-$12,000); a portrait of Johannes Brahams gazing out a window, inscribed in German, “with warm regards,” circa 1894 ($4,000-$6,000); a cabinet card image of Giuseppe Verdi, 1896 ($4,000-$6,000); a handsome photograph of Giacomo Puccini, signed and inscribed in French, Nice, 1906 ($2,000-$3,000); and a bust portrait of George Gershwin, signed and dated 1935, the year his opera Porgy and Bess was first performed ($3,000-$4,000).

There are portraits of several notable inventors and scientists, such as a photo postcard signed by Wilbur and Orville Wright standing with a group of people at the Hippodrome des Hunaudières, circa 1909 ($5,000-$7,500); a large photo of Alexander Graham Bell seated at a table with six American Telephone & Telegraph executives, New York, 1915 ($6,000-$9,000); a bust image of Sigmund Freud, signed and dated 1925 ($8,000-$12,000); and a standing portrait of an elderly Ivan Petrovich Pavlov, Boston, 1929 ($3,500-$5,000).

Rounding out the sale are a group photograph of Helen Keller and her teacher Anne Sullivan with others, signed and inscribed “Sincerely Yours,” by Keller ($3,500-$5,000); a photograph postcard dated and signed “Picasso,” 1958 ($2,000-$3,000); and a portrait of the ill-fated Columbia Space Shuttle mission crew signed by all seven members, 2003 ($8,000-$12,000).

The autographs will be on public exhibition Feb. 6, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.; Feb. 8-10, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; and Feb. 11, from 10 a.m. to noon. The auction will begin at 1:30 p.m. on Feb. 11.

An illustrated catalog, with information on bidding by mail or fax, is available for $35 from Swann Galleries, Inc., 104 East 25th Street, New York, NY 10010, or online at

Live online bidding is also available via

Photos courtesy Swann Auction Galleries.


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