An online auction hosted by Westport-based University Archives later this month will feature 288 items of historical significance, including typewriters belonging to Jack Kerouac and Ernest Hemingway, a postcard written by Mahatma Gandhi and a rare letter signed by Pyotr Tchaikovsky.
The items will be auctioned off online on Feb. 26. John Reznikoff, president of University Archives, expects that the typewriters owned by Kerouac and Hemingway, as well as a three 1830s patent documents for Samuel Colt's revolving cylinder guns, will be popular among buyers. Items belonging to Andrew Carnegie, George Gershwin, Elvis Presley, Marilyn Monroe and Harry Houdini will also be part of the auction.
"I do think that the typewriters are particularly interesting," Reznikoff said. "They kind of speak to you when you're looking at them. You know these literary icons used these to create their greatest works."
Other items include a Gordon Bryant portrait of F. Scott Fitzgerald, signed by the author, a letter written and signed by astronaut Neil Armstrong, and a same-day eyewitness account from the Wounded Knee massacre in 1890 in which 300 Lakota men, women and children were killed by the U.S. Army in South Dakota.
"An extremely rare letter signed by President Zachary Taylor, written during his brief five months in office, and a Peter Force engraving of the Declaration of Independence, lead our Americana category," Reznikoff said.
Reznikoff, who was born in Hartford and raised in West Hartford until his family moved to Stamford, founded University Archives in 1979. The company buys and sells historical documents and relics with high standards of authenticity to sell at auctions. Reznikoff is a leading authenticity expert for historical items and his expertise has been used by the FBI, the U. S. Justice Department, as well as auction houses and major authentication companies.
The online auction will be held on Feb. 26 at 10:30 a.m. All items for sale are listen on the University Archives website, but here are a few of the items that will be available for interested bidders:
For the starting price of $16,000, bidders can purchase Hemingway's circa 1950s "Royal" manual typewriter that he used to write his memoir "A Moveable Feast." The typewriter is valued at between $50,000 and $100,000.
The typewriter, according to University Archives, was given to Hemingway by fellow writer A.E. Hotchner. Hotchner, who lives in Westport, met Hemingway in the spring of 1948 when he was assigned to write an article for Cosmopolitan magazine on the future of literature. Hemingway returned the typewriter to Hotchner in 1960 and it remained one of the writer's treasured possessions.
"I've been in the business 41 years and a lot of items come to me because of my reputation," Reznikoff said. "For instance, the Hemingway typewriter came from an author A.E. Hotchner, who is 103 years old and still very sharp. He called me up and said he needed to sell his last things. I've known him for 30 years and have done appraisals for him so he came to me."
Kerouac's typewriter, letters and photos
Fans of the "On the Road", "Big Sur" and "Dharma Bums" can bid on several "poignant and personal" items belonging to the literary iconoclast, including his Smith-Corona typewriter, valued at $18,000 to $20,000, and his correspondence with poet Allen Ginsberg.
The typewriter was used by Kerouac to type his last published work in 1967, "Vanity of Duluoz." The typewriter comes with the original sales receipt and ribbon.
The 19 Kerouac-related items featured in the auction, Reznikoff said, were acquired directly from Kerouac's estate. Other items will be sold over the course of several sales or auction this year.
Bidding for the typewriter begins at $6,000. Other items available include a signed pencil drawing of Kerouac's nephew, family photos, snapshots of Kerouac's cats and items of clothing, such as a chocolate brown suede Dunlap Supreme fedora belonging to the author.
Samuel Colt patents
Three 1830s patent documents for Hartford native Samuel Colt's revolving cylinder guns are another notable item that will be auctioned off. The patents are valued between $40,000 and $50,000.
Bids will start at $13,000 for the patents for Colt's Paterson Revolver No. 5 The guns achieved legendary status in the American West because they did not require their users to reload them after one shot.
"I think the Samuel Colt lot will be really sought after," Reznikoff said.
The patents are displayed in a custom-made black leather case with a gold-stamped smoking revolver on the cover.
A Letter from Tchaikovsky
A letter from Russian Romantic-era composer Pyotr Tchaikovsky will also be available for purchase. Valued at $12,000 to $15,000, the letter is four pages long and makes reference to his three-part opera Mazepa. Bidding starts at $4,000.
The letter is addressed to conductor Eduard Napravnik and discusses logistics for the opera, which is based on a poem by Alexander Pushkin about the battle of Poltava. The opera debuted at Moscow's legendary Bolshoi Theater in 1884.
In the letter, Tchaikovsky explains he will not be able to attend rehearsals of Mazepa in St. Petersburg, because he must remain in Moscow for the rehearsals of the same opera.
The letter is written in Romanized Russian, instead of the Cyrillic alphabet and was composed on Tchaikovsky's personal stationery.