Oswald, Pollock, Houdini Featured in October Sale

This letter from Lee Harvey Oswald to the head of the Communist Party USA headlines the sale.

LYNBROOK, N.Y. — A handwritten letter by JFK assassin Lee Harvey Oswald, a copy of “LIFE Magazine” from 1949 signed by artist Jackson Pollock and an 1848 Peter Force printing of the Declaration of Independence will headline a 700-lot auction slated for Oct. 24.

The sale, held by Philip Weiss Auctions, will start promptly at 2 p.m. and will feature historical items and autographs, rare books, vintage war posters, maritime material, rock ‘n’ roll memorabilia and occupational shaving mugs.

The Oswald letter is addressed to Gus Hall, the former leader and chairman of the Communist Party USA, and was written on one page using a blue-ink pen. It’s not dated, but it is believed to have been penned in 1963, the year Oswald assassinated Kennedy.

The letter, written in cursive, reads: “Dear Sirs: I have followed the activities of the C.P. for the last few years and have decided that it is very timely and correct for me at this time, to apply for membership in the Communist Party of the U.S. I wish to become a member so I may share as fully as is possible your trails (sic) and tribulations as well as your glories and victories.”

It is boldly signed at the bottom, “Very sincerely, Lee H. Oswald,” and gives Oswald’s mailing address. Gus Hall received the letter and kept it in his personal files until his death.

Artist Jackson Pollock signed this copy of “Life Magazine.” It will also come to sale.

Anything signed by Jackson Pollock is exceedingly rare, as the artist was not given to autographs, so the copy of “LIFE Magazine,” dated Aug. 8, 1949 and signed by Pollock where a story about the painter and his photograph appear, is expected to generate keen bidder interest. The magazine is in overall good condition, with minor fraying.

Jackson Pollock (1912-1956) was an influential American painter and a major figure in the abstract expressionist movement. He was best known for his unique style of drip painting. He was reclusive and alcoholic and was known for a volatile personality. He enjoyed fame but had demons, and he died at age 44 in an alcohol-related car crash.

Printed copies of the Declaration of Independence by Peter Force (1790-1868) are highly collectible and can fetch high dollars at auction. The one being sold was printed in 1848. Force is best remembered as a printer, but he was also a politician, newspaper editor, archivist and historian. He was schooled in printing in New York and later moved to Washington, D.C.

Also featured at the sale will be this copy of the Declaration of Independence printed by Peter Force in 1848.

Force’s greatest achievement came as a collector and editor of historical documents. He owned some of the most important documents of the American Revolution. In 1876, Congress purchased his vast collection of original documents for $100,000. These were installed in the Library of Congress. Force was editor of the “National Journal” from 1823 to 1841.

Items pertaining to history’s most famous magician, Harry Houdini, will also come up for bid. The archive of entertainment ephemera includes brochures, advertisements, programs, letterheads, magician business cards and a rare first-edition of Keller the Magician’s first book.

Houdini was born Erik Weisz in 1874 in Budapest, Hungary. He died in Detroit in 1926.

Occupational shaving mugs are enormously popular with collectors and represent a slice of Americana that has long ago receded into history. Shaving mugs were commonly used in barber shops across America in the early 20th century. They held a cake of soap that would be worked into a lather using a bristle brush to give patrons a close shave with a razor.

This set of barber bottles is expected to garner keen collectors’ interest.

In many barber shops, a shelf often held spots for the personalized mugs of the regulars. These mugs usually had the customer’s name, as well as a hand-painted illustration of the man’s occupation. A barber shop had bragging rights if it had the most shaving mugs of any shop in town, or if the mugs were of influential figures in the community. These mugs are coveted today.

Other items in the auction will include barber bottles, fraternal mugs, a large collection of fine leather bindings, rare books, more than 100 posters from World Wars I and II and rare pieces from the White Star Line ship “HMHS Britannic,” a sister ship of the “RMS Titanic.” The “Britannic” was shaken by an underwater mine in 1916 during World War I and sank, killing 30 people.

Internet bidding for the sale will be facilitated by Proxibid.com and Auctionzip.com. Telephone and absentee bids will also be accepted. The sale catalogue can be found at Philip Weiss Auctions’ website.

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