Cole Porter & Monty Woolley Letters, ca. 1940

Value (2013) | $30,000 Auction$50,000 Auction

Growing up, my mother lived in a carriage house, and the main home was owned by a man by the name of Monty Woolley, and after he passed, he gave my grandparents the option to purchase the house, which they purchased and moved into. And when they were getting ready to sell the house years later, a trash man came in and started taking out all these boxes of memorabilia, and my mother had the option and she took and filled her trunk up with, you know, what she found, and here we are today.

Well, here we have a picture of Monty Woolley-- he was nicknamed "The Beard," and we can see why-- next to the famous man who wrote some of these letters, Cole Porter. Monty Woolley was a legendary Broadway actor who was in the play The Man Who Came to Dinner, and it was modeled after a gruff theater critic at the time, Alexander Woollcott. It really propelled him into stardom. He met Cole Porter when they were both at Yale together and they had a very long, loving, and very intimate relationship their whole lives. Now, out of everything you brought, we took out 32 of these letters because it was just impossible to look at everything. Firstly, they're all written in hand by Cole Porter, signed by him. Some of them have beautiful drawings, and we even saw a few that had musical notes in them. But what I think is so important about these is these were extraordinarily close friends. Cole Porter was married, but he had many relationships and scandalous parties with gay, bisexuals, cross-dressing. It was the height of the avant-garde '20s and '30s. And I love this letter that was written in 1919. "I thought of you last night, Mont. "Linda had a great big comfortable box at the opera "for the opening of the Ballet Russe, "and you should have been in it, "especially when during the Prince Igor thing, they started..." and then we have a musical note for it, "and it is our tune, isn't it, Mont?" They are such personal, loving letters, and they're from a time in his life before Cole Porter's accident, where he was charming and enthusiastic, and it really shows through these letters. And in the letter in the bottom here, we have this wonderful stationery, and it references his nickname. Cole Porter says, "You're a bad Beard. Where are those beautiful, long letters of yesteryear?" And I love this Western Union telegram from 1941. Cole Porter letters can run anywhere from $300 to $500 to $1,000 to $1,500. But your letters are exceptional. And my valuation-- and I've spoken to a number of the other appraisers-- for the letters that you have brought us, not the four boxes of archives, but for the letters, would be between $50,000 and $70,000 at auction.

Ooh. Thank you!

Thank you so much for sharing this with us. It's been a pleasure.

My pleasure.

Appraisal Details

Heritage Auctions
New York, NY
Value Update (2013)
$30,000 Auction$50,000 Auction
Appraised value (2011)
$50,000 Auction$70,000 Auction
Pittsburgh, PA (August 13, 2011)
20th Century
December 23, 2013: We contacted appraiser Kathleen Guzman for an updated appraisal in today's market.

Current Appraised Value: $30,000 - $50,000 (Decreased)

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