Published: February 20, 2001
Christie’s Auction of Items from the Private Collections of Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt and Family totals $2,675,943 and Sets Several Records
NEW YORK CITY – Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s visionary leadership made him one of the world’s most admired politicians. During a February 14 and 15 Christie’s auction, a letter to his son John, signed with his full name and the postscript “This signature is worth more than just ‘Pa’,” sold for $28,200 underlining FDR’s prophetic gift. Overall, The Roosevelt Era auction totaled $2,672,418 and set several world auction records.
The first session consisted of manuscripts, books and photographs and was arguably the most fascinating part in terms of political and Presidential material. The highest price achieved was for a sepia-toned photograph after the oil painting of Franklin Roosevelt by Frank O. Salisbury and inscribed by the artist to Eleanor. The Cartier framed photograph was purchased for $76,375 by the National Park Service, a world auction record for a Twentieth Century inscribed photograph.
The park service, the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library, and a few members of the Roosevelt family were dismayed by the decision of John Roosevelt’s widow, Irene Roosevelt Aitken, to consign the collection to auction. According to Winnie Hu of The New York Times, park service and library officials won 531 of the “most important historical rdf_Descriptions,” which, writes Hu, will be displayed at the Presidential library or returned to the Roosevelt family homes, Springwood and Val- Kill, which are maintained by the park service in Hyde Park, N.Y. Some $130,000 was donated to the organizations for this purpose.
“We did lose some things we wanted, but we also got some real treasures, and we’re so glad to take them home,” Anne Jordan,chief curator for the Roosevelt sites, told the Times.
Two strong political mementos achieved remarkable prices. One was a print of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s verse Sail on, O Ship of State given by Winston Churchill to Roosevelt and signed by both which realized $64,625. The other was a photograph inscribed by Chester W. Nimitz, Fleet Admiral to the US Navy, to Eleanor Roosevelt depicting the ceremonial surrender of Imperial Japan on September 2, 1945 which made $58,750. A new world auction record was also set for a letter by Franklin Roosevelt when a report he wrote to his son John after the historic Casablanca Conference sold for $49,350.
A world auction record was achieved for Jonas Lie, whose oil painting “Amber Light” was purchased by a private buyer for $149,000. The painting represents Roosevelt’s yacht and was a gift from the artist to Franklin Roosevelt. The section of the Roosevelt private silver also performed well, led by $48,175 for a George II silver coffee pot that was displayed at Val-Kill by Eleanor Roosevelt and $37,600 for an American dresser service used by Eleanor Roosevelt. A gold Patek Philippe openface lever watch, presented and inscribed to Franklin Roosevelt by the Argentine Minister of the Navy realized $58,750.
A set of three late Victorian mahogany dining chairs was acquired for $21,150. The chairs were custom ordered by Sara Delano Roosevelt and given by her as a wedding gift to Franklin and Eleanor. From the home of John Roosevelt, a set of four Louis XVI style ormolu wall lights stamped BY for Alfred Beurdeley achieved $68,150.
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