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John Steinbeck’s love letters, personal photographs and a telegram from JFK go up for auction

John Steinbeck’s love letters, personal photographs and a telegram from JFK are among a trove of the author’s treasures going up for auction after almost two decades in storage amid a 30-year legal battle over his estate. 

The vast collection will go under the hammer next month and includes a lock of the author’s baby hair, an elephant’s foot trash can and miniature coffin containing a hummingbird given to him by a witch doctor in Mexico

Nobel Prize winner Steinbeck – best known for The Grapes of Wrath and Of Mice and Men – died in 1968. A number of his belongings had been kept in storage in New York City after the 2003 death of his widow, and third wife, Elaine. 

Now fans of the Pulitzer Prize winner can get their hands of some of his furniture and poems, as well as personal mementos including wedding pictures and images of the first time he met Elaine in 1949. A telegram from John F. Kennedy inviting the writer to his 1961 Presidential inauguration also features.  

A note written by Steinbeck and found by Elaine after his death reads: ‘That’s the greatest crime one can commit against oneself – the refusal of any experience good or bad, pleasant or painful. That is a kind of negation I hope I never come to.’

Professor Jay Parini said of the items: ‘Having a little piece of Steinbeck can be incredibly moving.’ 

John Steinbeck pictured with wife Elaine in Virgin Islands. The author's love letters, personal photographs and a telegram from JFK are among a trove of the author's treasures going up for auction after almost two decades in storage

John Steinbeck pictured with wife Elaine in Virgin Islands. The author's love letters, personal photographs and a telegram from JFK are among a trove of the author's treasures going up for auction after almost two decades in storage

John Steinbeck pictured with wife Elaine in Virgin Islands. The author’s love letters, personal photographs and a telegram from JFK are among a trove of the author’s treasures going up for auction after almost two decades in storage

Love letters written to Elaine from Steinbeck. The collection will go under the hammer next month on the writer's birthday

Love letters written to Elaine from Steinbeck. The collection will go under the hammer next month on the writer's birthday

Love letters written to Elaine from Steinbeck. The collection will go under the hammer next month on the writer’s birthday 

An elephant’s foot trash can, pictured, and a tiny coffin containing a hummingbird, right, given to him by a witch doctor feature

An elephant’s foot trash can, pictured, and a tiny coffin containing a hummingbird, right, given to him by a witch doctor feature

An elephant’s foot trash can and a tiny coffin containing a hummingbird, pictured, given to him by a witch doctor feature

An elephant’s foot trash can and a tiny coffin containing a hummingbird, pictured, given to him by a witch doctor feature

An elephant’s foot trash can, left, and a tiny coffin containing a hummingbird, right, given to him by a witch doctor feature

A telegram from John F. Kennedy inviting the writer to his 1961 Presidential inauguration also features, pictured

A telegram from John F. Kennedy inviting the writer to his 1961 Presidential inauguration also features, pictured

A telegram from John F. Kennedy inviting the writer to his 1961 Presidential inauguration also features, pictured 

Heritage Auctions have already sold off a number of Steinbeck’s belongings for more than $150,000. They then handed over 100 boxes to Curated Estates to auction on February 27, Steinbeck’s birthday.  

Also included are pictures of his dog who featured in his book Travels with Charley. Grandson Bahar Kaffaga told The Wall Street Journal: ‘The Estate is pleased that they are now getting the attention they deserve.’

It comes after lengthy legal battles over his estate.  

A federal appeals court attempted to close the book on endless litigation between the relatives of author John Steinbeck in a September ruling that upheld a $5 million verdict against his daughter-in-law, but threw out $8 million she faced in punitive damages.   

The decision by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals delivered partial victories to the late author’s stepdaughter, Waverly Scott Kaffaga, and to Gail Steinbeck, the widow of his son, Thomas.

The court upheld a jury verdict two years ago in Los Angeles federal court that found Gail Steinbeck and her husband meddled with Kaffaga’s plans as executor of the estate to profit off the Nobel Prize-winning author’s works.

Gail Steinbeck helped kill a remake of ‘The Grapes of Wrath’ to be directed by Steven Spielberg and an ‘East of Eden’ reboot to star Jennifer Lawrence, Kaffaga said.

The lawsuit followed decades of disputes between Thomas Steinbeck and Kaffaga’s mother over control of the author’s works. Kaffaga’s mother, Elaine, was Steinbeck’s third wife and was married to him when he died in 1968. 

In a statement Curated Estates, who will auction more than 200 lots once belonging to Steinbeck, said: ‘This auction goes through John’s life from childhood to eighteen years of John and Elaine’s marriage to Elaine’s life after John’s passing. 

‘These important objects and ephemera have been in storage for almost 20 years and are offered to the public for the first time here.’  

Pictured from John and Elaine's wedding album feature in the lot. Nobel Prize winner Steinbeck - best known for The Grapes of Wrath and Of Mice and Men - died in 1968. A number of his belongings had been kept in storage in New York City

Pictured from John and Elaine's wedding album feature in the lot. Nobel Prize winner Steinbeck - best known for The Grapes of Wrath and Of Mice and Men - died in 1968. A number of his belongings had been kept in storage in New York City

Pictured from John and Elaine’s wedding album feature in the lot. Nobel Prize winner Steinbeck – best known for The Grapes of Wrath and Of Mice and Men – died in 1968. A number of his belongings had been kept in storage in New York City

A collection 13 Handwritten Cards for various holidays and anniversaries from John Steinbeck to Elaine Steinbeck

A collection 13 Handwritten Cards for various holidays and anniversaries from John Steinbeck to Elaine Steinbeck

A collection 13 Handwritten Cards for various holidays and anniversaries from John Steinbeck to Elaine Steinbeck

John and Elaine leave New York for Genoa, Italy. Heritage Auctions had earlier sold off a number of Steinbeck's belongings for more than $150,000. They then handed over 100 boxes to Curated Estates to auction on February 27, Steinbeck's birthday

John and Elaine leave New York for Genoa, Italy. Heritage Auctions had earlier sold off a number of Steinbeck's belongings for more than $150,000. They then handed over 100 boxes to Curated Estates to auction on February 27, Steinbeck's birthday

The couple are pictured in Torre del Lago Puccini in Italy in 1954

The couple are pictured in Torre del Lago Puccini in Italy in 1954

Heritage Auctions had earlier sold off a number of Steinbeck’s belongings for more than $150,000. They then handed over 100 boxes to Curated Estates to auction on February 27, Steinbeck’s birthday. The couple are pictured left leaving New York for Genoa, Italy and right Torre del Lago Puccini in Italy in 1954 

Elaine Steinbeck died leaving her daughter as executor of the estate. Gail Steinbeck became executor of her husband’s estate when he died in 2016.

The court threw out the punitive damages because it said Kaffaga hadn’t shown Gail Steinbeck, who lives off publishing royalties of $120,000 to $200,000 a year — could afford it.

Gail Steinbeck’s rental home and belongings in the ritzy Santa Barbara County enclave of Montecito were severely damaged or destroyed by mudslides last year that killed 23 people, her lawyer said in court filings. He estimated it would take her 65 years to pay off the punitive damages.

The lawsuit followed decades of disputes between Thomas Steinbeck and Kaffaga's mother over control of the author's works. Kaffaga's mother, Elaine, was Steinbeck's third wife and was married to him when he died. The couple are pictured

The lawsuit followed decades of disputes between Thomas Steinbeck and Kaffaga's mother over control of the author's works. Kaffaga's mother, Elaine, was Steinbeck's third wife and was married to him when he died. The couple are pictured

The lawsuit followed decades of disputes between Thomas Steinbeck and Kaffaga’s mother over control of the author’s works. Kaffaga’s mother, Elaine, was Steinbeck’s third wife and was married to him when he died. The couple are pictured

Author John Steinbeck and wife Elaine, who died in 2003, leaving her daughter as executor of the estate

Author John Steinbeck and wife Elaine, who died in 2003, leaving her daughter as executor of the estate

Author John Steinbeck and wife Elaine, who died in 2003, leaving her daughter as executor of the estate

While lifting that penalty from Steinbeck, the ruling may finally free Kaffaga to make the most of Steinbeck’s copyrights. His major works have not come to the big screen in recent years.

Kaffaga ‘is looking forward to bringing Steinbeck’s many works to life for future generations’, attorney Susan Kohlmann said in a statement.

The 3-0 ruling said it should mark an end to nearly a half-century of coast-to-coast litigation over the rights to Steinbeck’s works. The judges said Kaffaga even could seek a lower court injunction to end what it called Steinbeck’s ‘recidivist litigation.’

‘This has to end. We cannot say it any clearer,’ Judge Richard Tallman wrote.

This lot includes the wedding announcement of John Steinbeck and Elaine Scott from Elaine's Mother, most likely published in Texas. This lot also includes Elaine Scott's official divorce papers from Zachary Scott dated December 20th 1950 allowing her the freedom to marry John Steinbeck and the Property Settlement agreement between Zachary Scott and Elaine Scott

This lot includes the wedding announcement of John Steinbeck and Elaine Scott from Elaine's Mother, most likely published in Texas. This lot also includes Elaine Scott's official divorce papers from Zachary Scott dated December 20th 1950 allowing her the freedom to marry John Steinbeck and the Property Settlement agreement between Zachary Scott and Elaine Scott

This lot includes the wedding announcement of John Steinbeck and Elaine Scott from Elaine’s Mother, most likely published in Texas. This lot also includes Elaine Scott’s official divorce papers from Zachary Scott dated December 20th 1950 allowing her the freedom to marry John Steinbeck and the Property Settlement agreement between Zachary Scott and Elaine Scott

A note written by Steinbeck and found by Elaine after his death reads: 'That’s the greatest crime one can commit against oneself - the refusal of any experience good or bad, pleasant or painful. That is a kind of negation I hope I never come to.' Professor Jay Parini said of the items: 'Having a little piece of Steinbeck can be incredibly moving'

A note written by Steinbeck and found by Elaine after his death reads: 'That’s the greatest crime one can commit against oneself - the refusal of any experience good or bad, pleasant or painful. That is a kind of negation I hope I never come to.' Professor Jay Parini said of the items: 'Having a little piece of Steinbeck can be incredibly moving'

A note written by Steinbeck and found by Elaine after his death reads: ‘That’s the greatest crime one can commit against oneself – the refusal of any experience good or bad, pleasant or painful. That is a kind of negation I hope I never come to.’ Professor Jay Parini said of the items: ‘Having a little piece of Steinbeck can be incredibly moving’

John and Elaine Steinbeck in Florence, Italy at Beacci Pensione in 1953. Grandson Bahar Kaffaga told The Wall Street Journal: 'The Estate is pleased that they are now getting the attention they deserve'

John and Elaine Steinbeck in Florence, Italy at Beacci Pensione in 1953. Grandson Bahar Kaffaga told The Wall Street Journal: 'The Estate is pleased that they are now getting the attention they deserve'

John and Elaine Steinbeck in Florence, Italy at Beacci Pensione in 1953. Grandson Bahar Kaffaga told The Wall Street Journal: ‘The Estate is pleased that they are now getting the attention they deserve’

This letter is captioned 'From Joan Crawford ,1949' and is addressed to Elaine. The auction comes after lengthy legal battles over his estate; a federal appeals court attempted to close the book on endless litigation between relatives of the The Grapes of Wrath author in September last year

This letter is captioned 'From Joan Crawford ,1949' and is addressed to Elaine. The auction comes after lengthy legal battles over his estate; a federal appeals court attempted to close the book on endless litigation between relatives of the The Grapes of Wrath author in September last year

This letter is captioned ‘From Joan Crawford ,1949’ and is addressed to Elaine. The auction comes after lengthy legal battles over his estate; a federal appeals court attempted to close the book on endless litigation between relatives of the The Grapes of Wrath author in September last year

Gail Steinbeck had previously said after her husband lost a related case in a New York court that she wouldn’t stop fighting until ‘I draw my last breath.’

While she laughed off that comment during testimony two years ago as ‘silly,’ her lawyer later said they wouldn’t rule out future court action.

Attorney Matthew Dowd said they were pleased the court struck down the punitive damages, but he said they were ‘assessing our options moving forward.’ 

DailyMail.com has contacted Curated Estates for further comment.  

Source: dailymail US

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