Swann Auction Galleries will offer a rare and compelling archive spotlighting the life and career of the infamous Roy Cohn during its Printed & Manuscript Americana sale on April 16.
Roy Cohn (1927-1986), famously featured as a character in Tony Kushner's play Angels in America, was one of the most controversial figures in American public life, from his role as a prosecutor in the Rosenberg trial of 1951, to serving as Senator Joe McCarthy's chief counsel in the anti-Communist hearings in the 1950s, to his long career as a right-wing speaker and lawyer for mob bosses, to his epic avoidance of income taxes. Cohn lost his law license in 1986, shortly before his death from what he insisted was liver cancer, but what was widely thought to be AIDS.
Swann’s April 16 auction will feature a collection of Cohn’s correspondence, photographs and memorabilia (estimate: $4,000 – 6,000). Standouts from the archive include Cohn’s ID badge from the McCarthy hearings, as well as a silver-plated cigarette box, a gift from Jeannie and Joe McCarthy, engraved by the couple. There is, moreover, an assortment of hate mail directed at Cohn, in addition to a letter of support from friend, Barbara Walters.
This substantial archive also contains an untitled memoir, possibly an early draft of Cohn’s 1971 A Fool for a Client, although most passages appear to be unpublished. Additionally, included is a range of photographs depicting Cohn in court, with friends, at gala events and notably, with a range of celebrities, from Richard Nixon to a young Donald Trump.
Separately, Swann will offer a gold pocket knife, mechanical pencil and memo pad case inscribed to Cohn (estimate: $2,500 – 3,500). These items were a gift inscribed from renowned mobster turned Vegas mogul Moe Dalitz, a man with whom Cohn later had a falling out.