Wednesday, May 2, 2012 | 12:30 PM to 1:30 PMBruce Gimelson grew up in Philadelphia where he attended Central High School and the University of Pennsylvania. Since graduating college he has purchased, sold or brokered tens of millions of dollars of autographs, rare coins, stamps and art.
Early in his career Mr. Gimelson bought and sold the Dunninger Collection of Houdini memorabilia that included 1900 locks and keys, and most of the magic equipment the great escape artist owned at his death. This eventually was incorporated into the Houdini Magic Hall of Fame in Niagara Falls, Canada. Shortly before the 200th anniversary of Napoleon's birth in 1969, he purchased the Abbe Vignali Collection of Napoleonic relics which contained such rarities as the original death mask of the Emperor taken by his personal physician on St.Helena, Dr. Antommarchi, a copy of Napoleon's will in the hand of his priest, the silver chalice from which he drank his last drops of water, various altar cloths and clothing including a pair of his pants.
In 1973 Mr. Gimelson appraised the Papers of Dean Acheson, Secretary of State under Harry Truman, and later advised in the sale of the Truman letters in the archive.A few years later he purchased the libraries of Pearl S. Buck and Herbert Bayard Swope, the owner and editor of the New York World. And in 1975 and 1981 he made two major purchases of art and artifacts from the Union League Club in Philadelphia.
Mr. Gimelson has owned or brokered three sets of letters of the Signers of the Declaration of Independence, including one he purchased from Dr.Joseph E.Fields, the recognized expert on Button Gwinnett and George Washington, on July 4, 1976. Washington has always been a favorite specialty of Mr. Gimelson, and he has owned hundreds of letters and documents (most prominent being his 22 page Whiskey Rebellion speech to Congress), oil paintings (including seven Gilbert Stuart portraits, as well as portraits by Edward Savage, Rembrandt Peale, Charles Wilson Peale and Joseph Wright) and more than 40 items that have belonged to Washington. Mr. Gimelson is currently working on an archive that consists of the personal papers of Thomas Hartley Crawford, Superintendent of Indian Affairs in Washington, from 1838-1845.