YONKERS, N.Y. – When Walt Disney wrote to a Minnesota man on Nov. 29, 1935, he never dreamed what that letter would be worth one day. Typed on his "Silly Symphony" letterhead, with a large Mickey Mouse in orange and black, it is today something of a holy grail for Disney collectors.
For six years, Disney’s "Silly Symphony" cartoons won Academy Awards and brought about the birth of Donald Duck, among many other characters. Signed with his cartoonists’ pen, Walt Disney’s letter, with its Mickey Mouse envelope, is estimated to sell in the Nov. 12 Yonkers auction of Cohasco, Inc., a dealer in and auctioneer of manuscripts, books, antiquarian materials and collectibles, for $3,500-$5,000.
Six hundred other lots of collectibles in the auction include:
The world’s largest private collection of U.S. Capitol Building memorabilia: Capturing the heart of a collector, 575 items every one showing the famed structure, were gathered over decades. The one-of-a-kind collection even includes a shoe, a miniature piano, and a bell, all depicting the Capitol Building. This year marks the 150th anniversary of the arrival of the model for the Statue of Freedom, which sits atop the Capitol dome (presale estimate, $2,000-$4,000).
A letter from New Orleans writing of the "dreadful gale of wind," certainly a hurricane, in 1837: Part of a 245-item archive of life in New Orleans and the Old South, the original letters and documents describe the lost world of steamboats, cotton trading, plantations, great wealth, the early frontier, sugar, tobacco, and slavery ($48,000-$60,000).
"The Pamphlet That Shaped A Nation," a 26-page booklet printed in 1776 by the same man, John Dunlap, who printed the Declaration of Independence on the night of July 4. Included in the Library of Congress’ online presentation "Creating the United States," only three other original examples of this pamphlet are known ($1,500-$2,500).
Advertising booklet for one of the very first hybrid cars, the 1905 Gas-Au-Lec of Peabody, Mass. Combining gas, steam, and electricity, only four cars were ever built ($110-$140).
Description of the fabled "Letter From Jesus," in an English schoolboy’s notebook of 1698-1702: According to tradition, King Abgar wrote to Jesus, asking for help in curing his illness; he received a reply, and was visited and cured by one of Jesus’ disciples ($400-$600).
An 1816 letter of a plantation overseer, ordering striped fabric for slaves’ clothing ($90-$120).
And many other unusual historical items, in 34 categories, including the most valuable and unusual lot, which is just that: an empty lot of land, but with a secret. Hiding in plain sight in downtown Yonkers, just behind the auction house, is one of the most ancient African-American historical sites in the country. Forgotten for years, it dates to 1682, surpassing even the Manhattan Burial Ground by about eight years. While not in any auction, the Liberation Lawn harbors over 30 specific points and periods of African-American history, a high number for historical sites of any kind.
These points include: the formal entry tended by slaves of the richest couple in old New York, George Washington’s 1776 encampment, land impacted by the very first freedom law of its kind in America over 75 years before the Emancipation Proclamation, rare written documentation of the Underground Railroad on site, and much more.
City plans call for this Liberation Lawn, adjoining the Philipse Manor Historic District, to be strip-excavated, then flooded with cement, for a garage and condo. Efforts of local citizens to preserve Liberation Lawn are ongoing. Its secrets were rediscovered by a rather astonished Cohasco Vice President Bob Snyder, who published them in the Yonkers Historical Society’s Quarterly. Snyder remarked, "That so many key chapters in history occurred on one modest piece of land is extraordinary. It’s highly likely that the number of historical discoveries about Liberation Lawn’s role in slavery and freedom in America will continue to grow. But we’re racing the clock."