Saturday, June 14, 2008

Letters From Beyond: Erwin Rommel; Sigmund Freud; Jack Ruby; Eisenhower; Hitler & Von Hindenburg; Frank James; Beethoven; Ben Franklin; Tschaikovsky

More choice items from Charles Hamilton's 1960s auctions. Where possible I've included the realised (sale) price. I'd also like to clear up any confusion - I don't own any of these items, nor do I own any of the items I've posted of late from the Charles Hamilton auctions. I wish I did. I'd have sold them by now and cashed in. What I do own are the catalogues themselves, I'm merely scanning the best images of interest and posting them up for the world to see. Why? Because if I find them interesting then surely someone else out there does as well.


Auction #11 (January 31st, 1966) contained what I expect was the most important piece to go through Charles Hamilton's hands - the original Pax Mundi, as composed between 1925-1931. We'll cover that very soon. In the meantime what we have here is ERWIN ROMMEL.

Described in one of the best understatements possible as a 'Colourful Nazi field marshal, the 'Desert Fox'; suicide. A.L.S. in German, 3/4 page, 1934.' This is the end of a letter about the publication of his books, signed, "I hope, definitely by the end of July, to be finished with the collection of tasks." Interesting item, no realised price, but the pre-auction estimate as $250.

SIGMUND FREUD. This A.L.S appeared in auction #6, January 14th, 1965. Described as an, 'Extremely interesting letter on psychoanalysis. Freud sends another doctor his diagnosis of a patient suffering from neurasthenic hypochondriac troubles. he suggests a complete mental and physical checkup.' Written on his own stationary, complete with name and address, it was dated January 7th, 1915. So how much did this one sell for? It could have been yours for a mere $375, in 1965 money.

Now to our first letter/signature from someone connected to a Presidential assassination. Offered in auction #7, March 25, 1965, described as a 'Short A.L.S in pencil, nearly 1 full page, April 2, 1964,' it's from none other than Jack Ruby. Interestingly Ruby himself is described as, 'Kennedy's avenger; shot Lee Harvey Oswald.' The note reads, "Thank you for the birthday card and your interest in my behalf. God Bless you and yours, Sincerely, Jack Ruby". I can't help but wonder what the reactions were like when items connected to the JFK assassination began to surface, in this case less than two years after the event. No idea what the letter went for, but the pre-auction estimate was a whopping $600!

Also in auction #7 was this 3/4 page letter, handwritten and signed by ex-President, Dwight D Eisenhower. According to the description this was the first such signed letter offered by Hamilton which bore the signature of Eisenhower, a surprise when you look at the previous six auctions and find multiple letters by John Adams and John Quincy Adams (who, as history records, saved virtually anything and everything that they touched or came into contact with - indeed if you want something by the Adams family then you'd find that, even though the bulk of it is in the Library Of Congress, there's still more than enough of it to go around), Washington, Lincoln and any number of Presidents, including Taft. In 1965 you'd have thought that there'd be more letters and notes by a man who was contemporary than those who'd been dead for nearly 200 years. The pre-auction estimate on this was $300.

Auction #10, December 14, 1965, saw some incredible items being offered up. Again, frustratingly, there's no sheet for prices realised in this catalogue, I'm hoping that someone out there might have that information. The above A.L.S, by none other than Adolf Hitler gives us a good insight into the workings of his mind when it came to, of all things, staffing issues. With a pre-auction estimate of $350, the description states, 'Excessively rare and historically interesting hand-written letter to Mr (Alfred) Rosenberg declining to accept his resignation; "At present I do not wish to take notice of your resignation. You really have no reason for it." It is signed, "Your/Adolf Hitler." The front of the card is heavily engraved in gold, "The best New Years Greetings," which Hitler has added in his own hand, "and also to your good wife," signing, "A.H." The card is undated and the fact that it was found in Hitler's own files indicates that it may not have been sent to Rosenberg, and withheld either, upon reflection, by Hitler himself or by one of his immediate staff, which included several party leaders hostile to Rosenberg and his race theories.'

This truly is a fascinating document indeed. Rosenberg was one of the more extreme members of the Nazi Party, in charge of Racial Theories, he was one of the prime architects of the persecution and elimination, physically, religiously and materially of Jews, homosexuals, blacks, and he was very decisive role in shaping Nazi philosophy and ideology - hell, virtually anyone who wasn't blonde haired and blue eyed was a target for Rosenberg. I'm sure this is hanging very proudly on the wall of some Nazi somewhere, as is the next item. Still it's good to know that for a brief, shining moment Rosenberg himself was hanging proudly at the end of a rope.

This is the original order, signed by bother Hitler and Von Hindenberg, appointing none other than Hermann Goering to the post of Minister Of Aviation. This had a pre-auction estimate of $850 and, oddly enough, if I were to own something signed by Hitler that wasn't a first edition of Mien Kampf, then a document like this would probably have been it. I doubt you'd see it coming up again in any great hurry.

Buying Nazi items, especially Hitler related items, in the mid 1960s was a certainly safer prospect than it is today. Once noted Hitler forger Konrad Kujau threw his work into the mix the question of what is and what isn't authentic became very, very blurred. The man who conceived, created and wrote the Hitler Diaries, Kajau also forged an incredible amount of Nazi era documents along with more than 300 drawings and paintings by Hitler. So when it's now offered to you, buyer beware - it's probably a fake.

Moving from Hitler back into America...this was a lovely lot. Frank James, described as a, 'Legendary American Western desperado, brother of Jesse James'. This one page A.L.S was written to Jesse James Jr and dated 21 September, 1903, it details how Frank was coming to meet Jesse Jr and also how he (Frank) might have located someone who'd robbed Jesse Jr. Can't help but wonder what happened there. I'm still waiting to find something from Jesse James himself in these catalogues, although I have tracked down a long, rambling letter from Cole Younger.

Tell me if it gets any better than this. I'll allow the description to do the talking here. 'Beethoven, Ludwig Van. German composer. A.L.S. in German, 1 full page, no date. To Von Bauman. Interesting letter about the great composer's famous "Trio in B Flat (Opus 97)". The letter, signed "Beethoven," reads: "My dear Sir, I have to ask you again for my piano trio in B flat. The same will be returned within a few days together with the violin sonata in G. I regret that I have to trouble you so often. In haste, your devoted servant, Beethoven."

With a pre-auction estimate of $1,800 this would have been a definite bargain. Anyone know where it now lives?

Sigmund Freud, again. This full page signed letter was written on 25 June, 1911. Described as being 'To a lady,' it details Freud's inability to make a correct diagnosis, or offer any form of meaningful advice without knowing all the details of a particular case. This could have been yours for a virtual pittance, as it had a pre-auction estimate of a mere $200.

Offered in auction #9 (September 30, 1965), which I do have realised prices for, this beautiful full page letter from Benjamin Franklin sold for an incredible $300! You've read that right, $300 would have bought you an original Ben Franklin letter - oh, but for a time machine! Dated August 1st, 1767 (at that time it was just under 200 years old) it was written to the Rev. Mr. Price and detailed Franklin's reluctance to use his influence to obtain an honorary degree for the minister. The price this sold for is just nowhere near enough.

The same could be said for this little note. Written by, wait for it, Peter Tschaikovsky, it contains a choice three bar excerpt in his own hand, and is signed and dated, May 8, 1891. How much for this? $575. Criminal! Now why I believe this is criminal is because the same auction saw letters and notes by Lee Harvey Oswald sell for up to $3,000 a pop. I'm not sure about anyone else, but I'd much rather have the above two items at a fraction of the price over a letter written and signed by a man recently deceased, no matter his notoriety. The other incredible facet of this auction was that Oswald's documents outsold those of John F Kennedy and Jackie Kennedy easily. JFK's letters fetched, on average, around $550 each, Oswald was clearing thousands. Same applied for Jackie Kennedy. It would appear that Oswald, if he did indeed assassinate Kennedy, won in more ways than one.

From auction #12 (March 22, 1966) we have an signed inscription from Benito Mussolini's 1923 book, Il Mio Diario Di Guerra. Sure, he wasn't the best guy in the world, but who could possibly turn down a signed, inscribed, first edition by anyone? I know I'd find it very hard to do so. Even better, according to the description, is that one the back fly leaf of the book the original owner has documented how difficult it was for him to obtain the signature and inscription and has laid in a notarized statement concerning the book and signature. That's exactly what you want to see when buying these kinds of items - proof that it's the real deal, although said documents could be forged, it'd be highly unlikely that anyone would have gone through all that trouble in the early 1960s.

More to come!

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