Abraham Lincoln’s mallet, Einstein’s telescope, JFK’s annotated inaugural address, Jackie Kennedy’s childhood letters, the Cowardly Lion’s own copy of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, and more — all offered in New York on 5 December
1. Abraham Lincoln’s mallet
The earliest artefact attributed to Abraham Lincoln in private hands (and still owned by the family that received it from him), this bench mallet was fashioned from a broken rail-splitting maul in 1829. It is an evocative piece that links Lincoln’s formative years and his later political image as ‘The Railsplitter’. According to The National Museum of American History, ‘the idea of creating the image of Lincoln as “the railsplitter” was the inspiration of Illinois politician Richard J. Oglesby. He sought to find “one thing in Mr. Lincoln’s unsuccessful career as a worker that could be made an emblem”.’
Most recently, this touchstone to Lincoln’s adolescence, which was spent in the Pigeon Creek community near Gentryville, Indiana, from late 1816 until early 1830, has been exhibited at the Indiana State Museum in Indianapolis.
Albert Einstein’s telescope
This telescope is understood to be the only scientific instrument owned by Albert Einstein (1879-1955) ever to be offered at auction. Einstein was visiting the US when the Nazis seized power in February 1933. He was never to return to Germany. His stepdaughter, Margot, who followed him to America in 1934, organised the shipment of all the furniture in his Berlin apartment, including this telescope, with the help of the French Embassy. A photograph dated circa 1927 shows Einstein in his Berlin study with the telescope in the foreground.
In 1938, Einstein presented this telescope to his friend Leo Mattersdorf, president of the Amateur Astronomers Association and for many years Einstein’s accountant and tax advisor. Mattersdorf also advised Einstein’s close friend Dr Gustav Bucky (1880-1963), who had introduced the two men soon after Einstein arrived in America. Every year from 1937 Einstein hosted the Mattersdorf family at his Huntington summer house or Princeton home.
Only one other telescope associated with Einstein is known: one that was given to him (rather than purchased by Einstein) in 1954, the year before his death. The present telescope was exhibited at the Chabot Space and Science Center in Oakland, California, from 2000 until 2017.
JFK’s inaugural address — annotated in his own hand
John F. Kennedy's inaugural address, delivered on 20 January 1961, features some of the most oft-quoted phrases of the century — ‘And so my fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you: Ask what you can do for your country’ is one of the most famous dictums ever delivered by an American President. It ranks alongside Lincoln’s 1864 closing, ‘With malice toward none, and charity for all’, and Franklin Roosevelt’s 1933 admonition, ‘The only thing to fear is fear itself’.
In Kennedy’s own copy of the Inaugural Addresses of the Presidents of the United States, his own speech, which appears on pages 267 to 270, features 11 passages of particular importance that he has highlighted in blue ballpoint pen. There is also one correction Kennedy has made to a sentence on page 269, adding his initials ‘JK’ to the right. The volume contains an additional annotation by Jacqueline Kennedy on the title page: ‘Hyannis July 1963, J. marked his passages in Inaug—& corrected it.’ This document was sold in Jacqueline Kennedy’s estate sale in 1996.
Jackie Kennedy’s earliest-known letters
This incredible trove of previously unseen correspondence contains the earliest-known letter written by the girl who would grow up to become one of the most recognised women on the planet. Postmarked 9 April 1943, when Jacqueline Bouvier was aged 13, and addressed to her close friend, Rosamond Lee, aka ‘Rosie’, the letter closes affectionately, ‘I miss you terribly. I am still I mean you are still my best friend and I hope I am yours.’
Many of these letters are illustrated with drawings — one shows the horse ‘Rosie’ will ride when she visits, another shows Kennedy’s latest hairstyle. They are written in an unfiltered stream-of-consciousness style that brims with youthful excitement. In these letters, the young Jackie shares details of her life, tries to play matchmaker (replete with a drawing of the eventual wedding), and makes plans for their future.
It appears the women fell out of touch for some time, until the death of Kennedy's mother when they reconnected, and Lee returned the letters to Kennedy. Her reply is telling: ‘These letters you sent really affected me — what extraordinary friends we were — and yes how lonely I was missing you — with all the jokes and bravado... How I loved seeing you this summer — and hope we do this winter too — a million thanks for the letters — it’s eerie to be able to replay your life xxx Jackie’.
A William Stone-engraved copy of the Declaration of Independence
In 1820 — roughly 40 years after the Declaration of Independence was adopted by Congress and signed in Philadelphia by 56 delegates — Secretary of State John Quincy Adams commissioned engraver William J. Stone to execute a full-scale facsimile of the Declaration, which itself had badly deteriorated in the intervening years. It reportedly took Stone three full years to complete his engraving work on the copper plate.
Copies were distributed to the President and Vice President (two each), two to former President Madison, 20 copies to the two Houses of Congress, two to the Marquis de Lafayette, 12 copies for the departments of government, two copies for each of the three surviving Signers (Jefferson, Charles Carroll, John Adams), two for the President's house, one each to the Governors of the States and Territories, one copy to the Councils of the Territories, and the remaining copies to the various universities and colleges of the United States.
According to the most authoritative census, in 1991, there were some 31 surviving parchment copies, of which 19 were in institutions. This example, one of only six known proofs executed on paper, was presented to Brigham Young when he became territorial governor of Utah and remained in his family for several generations.
The Cowardly Lion’s very own copy of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz
Bert Lahr, who portrayed the Cowardly Lion in the film classic, The Wizard of Oz, was the owner of this first edition of L. Frank Baum’s best-known book, which features Lahr’s adored character on the cover. As far as can be determined, this is the only first edition that has provenance from any member of the cast of the 1939 film.
This first edition is accompanied by a vintage publicity photograph from the 1939 film featuring Terry the cairn terrier as Toto, Judy Garland as Dorothy, and Ray Bolger, Jack Haley, Frank Morgan and Bert Lahr as the Scarecrow, Tin Man, Wizard and Cowardly Lion respectively, posed before an oversize book. In addition, a 1997 provenance note is provided on Bert Lahr’s stationery and signed by his two children, Jane and John Lahr.
Five versions of an original unpublished love poem by Bob Dylan
These items offer a glimpse of the singer-songwriter’s creative process and reveal an important side of Dylan — that of the romantic poet.
Margie Rogerson was a successful San Francisco-based designer whose career was launched by her signature micro mini-dress. In 1977 she was contacted by Howard Alk, a filmmaker and longtime friend of Dylan’s, and his wife, Joan, about purchasing a cape for Dylan. The transaction eventually led to Dylan’s first song with Rogerson in mind: Is Your Love in Vain, recorded on 1978’s Street Legal album. The song was written in response to a humorous note Rogerson had added to one of his orders.
Despite this evident chemistry, it was only in 1983 that Dylan and Rogerson became romantically involved. Their relationship was first immortalised on Infidels (1983), in the songs Sweetheart Like You and Don’t Fall Apart on Me Tonight. Their creative collaboration continued intensely over the ensuing decades, as evidenced by this poem. The first two versions are small-format working drafts containing a handful of revisions; the next three are larger-format and represent versions of the final work, with identical text but alternate illustrations.