Presidential, Americana and more featured in Swann Sept. 25 Autographs Auction

NEW YORK—Swann Galleries’ auction of Autographs on Sept. 25 offers diverse subjects including Americana and presidents, business and military figures, scientists, entertainers, musicians, writers, and artists, including cartoonists.

Among the Americana highlights are a Revolutionary War item, a partly printed document signed by George Washington as Commander-in-Chief, granting a military discharge, 9 June 1783 (estimate $8,000-$12,000); an autograph letter signed by Sam Houston, clarifying the pronunciation of his name as “Hooston” or “Hewston,” and stating, “I think House-ton [is] perfectly ridiculous,” 11 March 1858 (estimate $3,000-$4,000); and a collection of correspondence and documents signed by Jay Gould, the infamous financier.

The section of American presidential material includes a manuscript document signed by James Buchanan, as president, contracting with sculptor Hiram Powers to create marble statues of Franklin and Jefferson for $10,000 each, Washington, 26 January 1859 (estimate $3,000-$4,000); and Abraham Lincoln’s Civil War appointment of Thomas Alexander Scott to Colonel of Infantry, Washington, 4 May 1861—Scott later would become president of the Pennsylvania Railroad (estimate $8,000-$12,000).

Twentieth-century presidential highlights include a retained draft of a document signed by Franklin Roosevelt, as president, concerning the founding of the first presidential library, Washington, 19 December 1938 (estimate $4,000-$6,000); and two Kennedy items: a four-page autograph manuscript of handwritten notes for his 1956 Harvard commencement speech, and a typescript draft with extensive holograph corrections for the same speech (estimate $6,000-$9,000 each).

Other famous figures of the century are represented by an autograph draft of a letter from Harry Houdini to Julius Zancig, asking about the latter’s mind-reading act, with Zancig’s typed letter response, 1925 (estimate $10,000-$15,000); a typed letter signed by Sigmund Freud, in German, to his nephew Edward Bernays, Vienna, 2 February 1925 (estimate $4,000-$6,000); a typed document signed by Joseph Stalin, a secret memo signed in the months following Hitler’s invasion of Russia ordering the creation of a new infantry officer reserve, Moscow, 7 October 1941 (estimate $6,000-$9,000); and an autograph quotation signed by Mohandas Gandhi, with the words “God is Truth,” under a woodcut portrait of Gandhi (estimate $2,000-$3,000).

There is excellent material relating to musicians, including a three-page autograph letter signed, in French, from Richard Wagner to publisher Gustave Flaxland, exhibiting his anti-Semitism, Lucerne, 20 April 1869 (estimate $3,000-$4,000); a substantial autograph musical quotation signed by Antonín Dvorák, from his opera Cert a Káca [The Devil and Kate], Prague, 26 June 1899 (estimate $5,000-$7,000); and an archive of correspondence between Maria Callas and her godfather, Leo Lantzounis, 1961-64 (estimate $3,000-$4,000).

There is a strong selection of items pertaining to writers. Examples include two typed letters signed with initials by Dashiell Hammett, during his military service in the Aleutian Islands, October 1944 (estimate $2,000-$3,000); a pair of autograph letters signed from Henry Miller to his lawyer and friend Samuel S. Goldberg, exploring ways to publish his banned books (estimate $1,000-$2,000); an archive of correspondence from Eudora Welty to her childhood friend, Willie Spahn, mostly from trips to Europe, 1949-54 (estimate $4,000-$6,000); and the autograph manuscript working draft of Saul Bellow’s 1976 Nobel lecture, beginning, “I was a very contrary undergraduate more than forty years ago,” circa December 1976 (estimate $6,000-$9,000).

Unusual items signed by artists include are a poster invitation to a 1985 party at the Palladium celebrating the opening of an exhibition of work by Andy Warhol and Jean-Michel Basquiat, signed by both artists (estimate $1,000-$1,500); and a large selection of original cartoons drawn by various artists, many for the New Yorker.

The auction will begin at 1:30 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 25.

The autographs will be on public exhibition Saturday, Sept. 20, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.; Monday, September 22 through Wednesday, Sept. 24, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; and Thursday, Sept. 25, from 10 a.m. to noon.

 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

For further information, and to make advance arrangements to bid by telephone during the auction, please contact Marco Tomaschett at (212) 254-4710, extension 12, or via e-mail at