Trove of U.S. presidential artifacts to be auctioned in Boston

BOSTON Wed Aug 20, 2014 7:16pm EDT

BOSTON (Reuters) - A Rolex watch that belonged to Dwight D. Eisenhower and a cane used by Franklin Delano Roosevelt will be among hundreds of U.S. presidential artifacts to be auctioned off in Boston next month, an organizer said on Wednesday.

The 420 items, which also include a pair of Abraham Lincoln’s eyeglasses, will go on sale at an auction at Boston’s Omni Parker House hotel on Sept. 17-18, said Bobby Livingston, executive vice president of RR Auction.

The artifacts come from the collection of Raleigh DeGeer Amyx, a former messenger for FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover, who started befriending former White House employees such as maids, butlers, groundskeepers, Secret Service agents and valets in the early 1980s, Livingston said.

"If Raleigh didn’t purchase them, curate them and take care of them, they would have been lost," he said.

Among the most prized items in the collection is a watch given to Eisenhower by the Swiss watchmaker Rolex in gratitude for his role in saving Europe from the Nazis during World War Two, Livingston said.

The gold-colored watch, with Eisenhower’s initials engraved on the back, is believed to be the most valuable Rolex in private hands, Livingston said, and is expected to fetch more than $1 million.

Eisenhower gave the watch to John Moaney, an Army sergeant who was his valet for nearly 30 years after being assigned to him in wartime London in 1942, as a token of his appreciation, RR Auction said in a statement. The two became close personal friends.

Amyx acquired the watch from Moaney's widow, Delores, who worked as a cook for Eisenhower and his wife, Mamie, from their time at the White House until the end of their lives, the auction house said. The Moaneys lived at the Eisenhowers' private residence in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, after Eisenhower left the White House.

Other items include a wool-and-satin cape and beaver-skin top hat worn by Roosevelt, as well as a bone-handled cane used by the president while attending important meetings, such as one captured in a photograph with British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, Livingston said.

Amyx’s collection includes White House china dating back to Thomas Jefferson and a lock of hair from John Adams, the second president of the United States, Livingston said. More recent presidents whose personal effects will be auctioned include George H.W. Bush, he said.

(Editing by Frank McGurty and Mohammad Zargham)

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