Vintage Wall Street Sign Sold for $116,500

By Jillian Scharr
|  Tuesday, Jun 22, 2010  |  Updated 3:04 PM EDT
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Christie's to Auction Kerouac's Typewriter, Rare Books

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A vintage enamel street sign that once marked the corner of Broad and Wall St. sold for $116,500 at Christies' Art Auction to an anonymous phone bidder.

The sign was part of a eclectic collection of historical letters, manuscripts, old books, maps and atlases that included  Jack Kerouac's typewriter and rucksack, and a large collection of William Faulkner first editions being auctioned off all day June 22.

The collection of Faulkner works sold for a total of $833,246.  A copy of the novel "Absalom, Absalom!" sold for the highest price, at $86,000.  Its presale estimate was $40,000 to $60,000.  The Faulker collection was expected to sell for a total of $1,000,000.

A copy of "Light in August," another of Faulkner's most acclaimed titles, sold for $47,500.  Christie's did not identify either buyer.

The vintage street sign, which stood outside J.P. Morgan & Co. bank at the turn of the 20th century, bears scars probably from the 1920 Wall Street bombing, when a wagon of dynamite exploded outside the bank, killing 38 people, causing severe damage to the Morgan building and spurring American fears of Bolshevists and communists.

The sign was constructed in the late 19th century until some time after the bombing, says Christie's.  It was recently displayed at the New York Museum of American Finance.

Jack Kerouac's typewriters, Army Surplus backpack and an oil painting done by him are also for sale. 

According to Kerouac's journal, he bought the rucksack in New York while on his way to visit fellow  writers Allen Ginsberg and Timothy Leary in 1961.  He writes: "went to NY on the 12th of January...miraculously found brand new duckdown sleeping bag & new rucksack & bought em (Army Navy store) then went & met Allen [Ginsberg], [Robert] Donlin, & Timothy Leery [sic] & had the holy mushrooms ... wherein I not only understood everything but remembered everything & Allen was amazed..."

Eighty-eight of the pieces feature author William Faulkner,  including dozens of first editions of his novels and a Time magazine cover featuring the author. One first edition of his novel "The Sound and the Fury" is expected to sell for $40,000-$60,000.

Author John Updike's typewriter is also for sale. Bought in the late 1960s, the typewriter has been donated by Updike's daughter, who will donate half the proceeds to the New York Public Library.  Francis Wahlgren, Christie's International Department Head and Senior Vice President of Printed Books and Manuscripts, expects both typewriters to be popular items, as Cormac McCarthy's typewriter sold for $220,000 in December.

A significant minority of the collection consists of Americana, which Wahlgren explains refers to documents pertaining to the country's history and founding.  Letters from Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, as well as maps by Meriwether Lewis and William Clark and a second edition of the Federalist Papers are among these.

Christie's usually has two sales of books and manuscripts a year, featuring one or two "artifacts" such as the typewriters.  "This sale is the most diverse," Wahlgren said, referring to the variety of texts and artifacts, including the unique vintage street sign.

The gallery of pieces was open to the public until the auction on June 22, but you can still view them online here.

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