Wednesday, April 2nd, 2014
3

A Letter From Tolstoy

Would you like to buy something weird? Hammer Time is our guide to things that are for sale at auction: fantastic, consequential and freakishly grotesque archival treasures that appear in public for just a brief moment, most likely never to be seen again.

In January of 1908, Leo Tolstoy was still seven months from responding to George Bernard Shaw, who had sent him a copy of Man and Superman, but the Irish playwright was very much on the his mind. Tolstoy had read Shaw’s four act drama—twice—and many of the others that came before it. “His vulgarity is amazing,” Tolstoy wrote in his diary. “Not only does [...]

---
0

This Is An Ad By Dr. Seuss, It Will Cost More Than A Caboose (If You Say His Name Wrong)

After receiving twenty-seven rejection letters, Theodor Seuss Geisel published his first children’s book in 1937. But And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street wasn’t going to pay the bills during the Great Depression.

Still, Geisel’s wife, Helen, encouraged the thirty-three-year-old, who'd left Oxford without taking a degree, to pursue an artistic career—which he did, just as practically as he could. Geisel spent his days at the New York City-based humor magazine Judge, and worked on his children’s books during off hours.

But really he was, by then, an ad man. In 1928, the wife of a Standard Oil executive was thumbing [...]

---
2

Nepotism, Slavery And Inheritance: The Tale Of Bushrod Washington

President George Washington’s favorite nephew would go on to make his uncle proud. But at the age of sixteen, rumor had it that Bushrod Washington was bringing shame upon the family.

His mother, Hannah Washington, was the wife of George Washington’s brother—and the gossip had it that her son was attracting unfavorable attention in Fredericksburg, Virginia. Apparently he was getting a reputation.

We don't know now what she wrote to her son, but on November 23, Swann Auction Galleries will place Bushrod’s response up for sale.1 With a steady quill penning careful script, the future Supreme Court justice steadfastly denied the allegation:

The uneasiness I have suffered since the reception [...]

---
3

The Very Best Copy Of "The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test" And Just A Little Of Bill Burroughs' Methadone

For 30 years, Rick Synchef carried around Tom Wolfe’s 1968 book The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test. It was a first edition purchased from a dealer, but it never occurred to Synchef that value might be lost with wear or anachronistic additions. He considered it to be a perfect novel, and collecting the signatures of Ken Kesey and his band of Merry Pranksters the ultimate homage.

“You have to understand, LSD was legal,” Synchef said. Lysergic acid diethylamide was the Prankster’s drug of choice, taken collectively at parties in hopes of achieving true intersubjectivity.

Synchef did not attend those parties, but longed to meet those who did. Every [...]

---
---
2

The Last Of America's Slave Tags

Would you like to buy something weird? Hammer Time is our guide to things that are for sale at auction: fantastic, consequential and freakishly grotesque archival treasures that appear in public for just a brief moment, most likely never to be seen again.

“There’s just one more thing,” the curator of history said, as we were about to hang up the phone, “but I’m not sure if I should tell you.”

I had called J. Grahame Long of the Charleston Museum in South Carolina about a slave tag from 1850 up for sale at the Early American Store. There can be a kind of vexing fetishism [...]

---
0

The Killing Of Neighbors

Hello, would you like to buy something weird? Hammer Time is our guide to things that are for sale at auction: fantastic, consequential and freakishly grotesque archival treasures that appear in public for just a brief moment, most likely never to be seen again.

By the time Robert Simpson Neighbors arrived on the Clear Fork of the Brazos River in Texas, the trouble between the people who lived there and the people who wanted to live there had gotten out of control.

Neighbors had seen it coming. When he first became an Indian agent in 1844, he was shocked to learn his colleagues rarely ventured outside the office.1 [...]

---
0

The Excellent Jewish Propagandist

Hello, would you like to buy something weird? Hammer Time is our guide to things that are for sale at auction: fantastic, consequential and freakishly grotesque archival treasures that appear in public for just a brief moment, most likely never to be seen again.

Arthur Szyk illustrated everything from “Mother Goose” books to Esquire magazine covers, from Coca-Cola ads to one of the world's most beautiful Haggadot—but much of that was just a job. “I am but a Jew praying in art,” Szyk once wrote. He arrived in the United States—having fled Russian-occupied Poland for France, and then London—during World War II, where his ubiquitous caricatures of the [...]

---
1

Inexpensive Japanese Pornography

Hello, would you like to buy something weird? Hammer Time is our guide to things that are for sale at auction: fantastic, consequential and freakishly grotesque archival treasures that appear in public for just a brief moment, most likely never to be seen again.

During the Edo period in Japan, the lord of each province was required to spend six months out of the year in the capital. They were allowed to bring their families to Edo (present-day Tokyo), but more often than not, they were left behind.

In other words, lords got lonely.

There were an abundance of brothels, legalized by the shogunite, but also the sexually [...]

---
1

The Mysteries of Ambrose Bierce

Hello, would you like to buy something weird? Hammer Time is our guide to things that are for sale at auction: fantastic, consequential and freakishly grotesque archival treasures that appear in public for just a brief moment, most likely never to be seen again.

If novelist Carsten Stroud has $53 or so to his name, we hope he hurried over to Heritage Auction house for their most-recent sale of books and autographs. Under the hammer: a British first edition of Ambrose Bierce’s In the Midst of Life: Tales of Soldiers and Civilians, which contains "An Occurrence at Owl Creek," a short story Stroud recently listed as one [...]

---
1

Eldridge Cleaver's Emo Diary

Hello, would you like to buy something weird? Hammer Time is our guide to things that are for sale at auction: fantastic, consequential and freakishly grotesque archival treasures that appear in public for just a brief moment, most likely never to be seen again.

Two days after Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated in Memphis, community leaders urged the nation to honor the pacifist leader with nonviolent gatherings. But among the vigils and demonstrations, riots also erupted in over 100 cities, although not in New York.

In Oakland, 15 members of the Black Panther Party parked their cars on Union Street, just a few blocks from where [...]

---
2

The Nobel Peace Prize For Espionage

Hello, would you like to buy something weird? Hammer Time is our guide to things that are for sale at auction: fantastic, consequential and freakishly grotesque archival treasures that appear in public for just a brief moment, most likely never to be seen again.

On February 28, 1933, the Reichstag Fire Decree gave Adolf Hitler the emergency powers he needed to suspend civil liberties, and the Nazi party wasted no time targeting political opponents.1

Carl von Ossietzky was arrested by the special police that very morning. It was not the first time the editor-in-chief of Die Weltbühne (The World Stage), the voice of leftist intellectuals, had been in a [...]

---
2

A Portrait Of Boxing's First World Championship

Hello, would you like to buy something weird? Hammer Time is our guide to things that are for sale at auction: fantastic, consequential and freakishly grotesque archival treasures that appear in public for just a brief moment, most likely never to be seen again.

"Stephen went down Bedford row, the handle of the ash clacking against his shoulderblade. In Clohissey’s window a faded 1860 print of Heenan boxing Sayers held his eye. Staring backers with square hats stood round the roped prizering. The heavyweights in tight loincloths proprosed gently each other his bulbous fists. And they are throbbing: heroes’ hearts." —James Joyce, Ulysses, Episode 10, The Wandering Rocks

Tom [...]

---
2

W. H. Auden's Juicy Missing Diary Appears! And Then Promptly Disappears, For $74,426.56

Hello, would you like to buy something weird? Hammer Time is our guide to things that are for sale at auction: fantastic, consequential and freakishly grotesque archival treasures that appear in public for just a brief moment, most likely never to be seen again.

Sixty-two years after its publication, notable events in New York City caused the poem "September 1, 1939" to be immediately, and repeatedly, invoked. Its application seemed clear. But so much of Wystan Hugh Auden’s poetry—for both his generation and those to follow—is full of the kind of abstraction that is less readily apparent, of verses that slowly unfurl with each reading.

The sentiments [...]

---
0

One Prescription For Alcohol, Coming Right Up

Hello, would you like to buy something weird? Hammer Time is our guide to things that are for sale in New York City: fantastic, consequential and freakishly grotesque archival treasures that appear in public for just a brief moment, most likely never to be seen again.

Six months before the Senate passed the 18th Amendment banning "intoxicating liquors,” the American Medical Association proclaimed that alcohol’s "use in therapeutics as a tonic or stimulant or for food has no scientific value."1

Two years later, Prohibition had successfully lured millions of principled citizens into the highly lucrative, illegal liquor trade. That included physicians. Under the 1919 Volstead Act, doctors could [...]

---
1

You Can Buy Carl Jung's Letter To The 'New Republic' About UFOs

Hello, would you like to buy something weird? Hammer Time is our guide to things that are for sale in New York City: fantastic, consequential and freakishly grotesque archival treasures that appear in public for just a brief moment, most likely never to be seen again.

Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung was never one to shy away from controversy. When Zentralblatt für Psychotherapie endorsed Mein Kampf without his approval, Jung attempted to eradicate pro-Nazi influence from his publication.1 He parted ways with Sigmund Freud, who once called Jung “his adopted eldest son, his crown prince and successor,” over differing theories on the unconscious. And, as the sex scenes so dispassionately depicted [...]

---
13

Today You Can Buy Queen Mary I's Secret Trump Card

At the age of 15, King Edward VI was dying. For his last act as king, he excluded both of his half-sisters, Mary and Elizabeth, from the line of succession. (To get Mary out of the line, he had to ditch them both.) His Protestant cousin, Lady Jane Grey, was named the Queen of England.

Two days after his death, Mary raised an army of nearly twenty thousand. It took just nine days for Mary—the only child born to Henry VIII and his first wife, Catherine of Aragon—to correct her half-brother’s final request. Coercion by force was an effective instrument, and it would come to define her reign.

At [...]

---
9

This Functional Yet Minuscule Gold Skeleton Can Be Yours On Monday

Hello, would you like to buy something weird? Hammer Time is our guide to things that are for sale in New York City… fantastic, consequential and freakishly grotesque archival treasures that appear in public for just a brief moment, most likely never to be seen again.

On April Fool's Day in 1896, the Musée du Louvre issued an announcement: For 200,000 francs, they had acquired an ancient Greek tiara that once belonged to the Scythian King Saitapharnes. It was decorated with scenes from the Iliad and bore an inscription experts at the museum dated from late 3rd to early 2nd century B.C.E.

The Louvre proudly placed the Tiara of Saitaferne [...]

---
8

Would You Like To Own This Wacky Telegram From Ernest Hemingway?

In the summer of 1959, Ernest Hemingway lit out for Spain on assignment. He was to write a long article about a series of bullfights between the country’s finest matadors, Antonio Ordóñez and Louis Miguel Dominguin.1 But on the northern side of the Mediterranean Sea, a single commission from Life swelled into a three-part series, during a long summer that would prove to be his last hurrah.

Hemingway formed his own cuadrilla in Málaga, and invited 19-year-old Valerie Danby-Smith to join.2 Val, as he called her, had been sent to interview him for the Irish Times. He rarely entertained requests from journalists at that point, but she had charmed him, [...]

---
10

The Great Nobel Prize Cash-In Begins With A Big Bang

What is the current market value of a Nobel Prize? Until yesterday, that question would have been virtually impossible to answer, which proved to be advantageous to the family of Francis Crick. Heritage Auctions, the entity that conducted the sale of Crick’s 23-carat gold medal in New York this week, declared it a "historic moment."

As such, bidding started at $250,000.

1 Niels Bohr offered his own Nobel Prize to benefit the Finland Relief in 1940. It was purchased by an anonymous bidder who donated it to the Frederiksborg Museum. Son Aage Niels Bohr, a nuclear physicist, also won the prize. The younger Bohr died in 2009, and whoever [...]

---