A Visit with Jeremy Markowitz at Swann Galleries
Our conversation then segways to the two then-upcoming sales* that I had indicated to Mr. Markowitz that I wanted to talk particularly about: Sale #1951, 100 Rare & Important Travel Posters, 11/11/02, and Sale #1952, Autographs, 11/14/02. *[Editor’s Note: though these sales were upcoming at the time of our interview, they will have transpired by the time members read this piece in December’s AE Monthly.] Although Markowitz has already convincingly made the case for travel posters as a form of Americana, we talk about the Autographs sale first in that it contains more material that would be traditionally deemed Americana.
Markowitz has thoughtfully pulled the “highlights” of the Autographs sale, which are stacked neatly on bookshelves adjacent to the long table we’re sitting at. As we talk he takes down particular items and shows them to me while we discuss them – an auction junkie’s dream! I ask Markowitz which pieces in the sale he would buy, assuming that he had the means. He answers quickly, as if he had been considering this question for sometime. “My favorite overall lots in this sale involve the Charles Lindberg material. [Lots 28, 29 & 30].” This is not an earth shattering surprise, considering that one of the Lindberg pieces, a signed photograph, decorates the front cover of the catalogue. And indeed, Lindberg pieces are extraordinary, especially Lot 28 which is billed in the Autographs catalogue as “The Ultimate Air Mail Letter”: a typed letter signed by Lindberg to James F. Prince of the Wright Aeoronautical Corporation, carried with Lindberg on that first fateful transatlantic trip and mailed from Paris just after the trip’s completion. “Of course any manuscript item is intrinsically unique – but within that spectrum, you buy some manuscript items knowing that there is similar material out there. With the Lindberg material, the items are unquestionably unique and there is a paucity of similar material out there. There is a very small amount of Lindberg material available on the open market, period, and the amount available contemporaneous with Lindberg’s first New York to Paris 1927 transatlantic flight is tiny by nature due to the configuration of the plane: there was very little room on the plane for much else than gasoline, and any weight that Lindberg carried was extra and potentially harmful weight. Anything extra he had with him had to be literally stuffed in his pockets. This letter was written a couple of days before he took off, when he was waiting for the weather to clear. But it was mailed from Paris. To understand the importance of this letter you have to understand that Lindberg’s flight itself was incredibly important to American history and culture, not just to aviation history. They held the largest ticker tape parade for him ever when he returned to New York. What makes this item of supreme importance is the fact that it is an item that comes directly from the event that created Lindberg’s mythological status.”