Memorabilia from 9 famous scandals
Everyone loves a juicy scandal, the more baroque and far-reaching the better.
Here are nine of the best from throughout history, along with some amazing pieces of memorabilia associated with them.
9. Profumo Affair
The Profumo Affair of 1961 saw British prime minister Harold Macillan’s war secretary, John Profumo, ousted from his position after an affair with model Christine Keeler (then aged 19).
Keeler, it transpired, was also seeing a Russian diplomat named Yevgeny Ivanov. While Profumo denied passing on state secrets, he was forced to resign.
Prime minister Harold MacMillan resigned a few months later due to the toll the scandal had taken on his nerves.
This signed photograph of Keeler was taken next to the pool at Cliveden House, Buckinghamshire in 1961 – where she met John Profumo.
8. OJ Simpson
On the evening of June 12, 1994, somebody murdered OJ Simpson's ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ron Goldman.
That afternoon, OJ Simpson had attended his daughter's dance recital. Nicole was also in the audience.
While there, OJ signed this programme for a young fan. It is Simpson's last known signature before the murder took place.
No-one saw the collapse of Enron coming.
From the outside it looked hugely successful. Yet years of crooked accounting had hollowed out the company. Far from being a Fortune 500 firm, it was actually billions of dollars in debt.
When the scandal came to light in 2001, a lot of people lost their shirts.
This collection of artefacts includes an Enron-branded Swiss Army knife and (ironically enough) a copy of the company’s code of ethics. It sold for just $50 at Rachel Davis Fine Arts in 2016.
6. South Sea Bubble
Scandals have been a feature of the financial system since its inception, as we’ll see with this next piece.
The South Sea Bubble was among the first major modern financial crises.
The South Sea Company, founded in 1711 to consolidate British national debt and trade with South America, went under in 1720 – following years of corruption and insider trading.
Among the biggest losers was the great scientist Sir Isaac Newton – proof that intelligence is no match for the capricious market.
This receipt instructs the South Sea Company to sell some of his remaining shares.
Bobby Livingston, executive VP at RR Auction, which sold the item, explained: “It’s an extremely rare and attractively penned document with an association to one of Newton’s most questionable experiments."
5. Heidi Fleiss
Heidi Fleiss ran Hollywood’s most high profile prostitution ring.
Some of the world’s biggest stars were alleged to be among her clients.
In 2015, her “little black book” came up for auction on eBay and was later mysteriously withdrawn, presumably to the relief of all those whose names appear in its pages.
4. Sally Hemings
Thomas Jefferson is believed to have taken his slave Sally Hemings as his concubine in the late 1780s, when he was in his mid-40s and she was in her teens.
He fathered several children by her, all of whom he freed, although Sally remained enslaved to him until her mid-50s.
The scandal emerged in the early 1800s, when one of Jefferson’s opponents made it plain he had noticed light skinned children on Jefferson’s plantation.
This didn’t affect Jefferson’s political career, however. He served as president for two terms between 1801 and 1809.
This 1803 satirical poem, titled Black and White, makes repeated reference to his indiscretions.
3. Lance Armstrong
Lance Armstrong, seven-time winner of the Tour De France, was the greatest cyclist in the world.
That was until 2013, when he admitted to steroid use in a reasonably contrite interview with Oprah.
His previous wins, going all the way back to 1998, were rendered void.
This signed jersey, worn by Armstrong during the 2004 Tour De France (which he won), was offered at Graham Budd Auctions in 2012.
Prior to Armstrong’s conviction, it would have been worth thousands.
It sold for just £150 ($225).
Armstrong tweeted: “might have fetched even less if it was actually my signature”
2. Monica Lewinski
Bill Clinton’s sexual relationship with intern Monica Lewinski caused the second biggest political scandal of the 20th century.
Clinton’s insistence that he “did not have sexual relations with that woman” was proven false in an incendiary trial.
While his impeachment was later rolled back, allowing him to serve the rest of his term, his reputation never recovered.
This collection of artefacts relating to the scandal, including Monica Lewinsky’s nightie and a note from Clinton to her, was offered at Goldin Auctions in 2015 but failed to sell.
Watergate is the scandal against which all other scandals are measured.
It’s the reason we attach the suffix “gate” to anything that even remotely resembles a cover-up (check out this enormous list on Wikipedia – personal favourites include “Kimonogate” and “gategate”).
In 2013, Christie’s sold this April 1973 letter from Richard Nixon, protagonist of the sorry affair, for $52,500.
It’s addressed to John Ehrlichman, his former advisor – who he was forced to sack to save face.
The letter ends: “I only wish I could help. Keep the faith--!...
“All will come out OK because we are right."
That proved to be completely incorrect.
Nixon resigned and Ehrlichman went to jail.
The bookmarklet lets you save things you find to your collections.
Note: Make sure your bookmarks are visible.
Click and drag the Collect It button to your browser's Bookmark Bar.