Oppenheimer Memorabilia All The Rage Right Now Thanks To Oscars Craze

The “Oppenheimer” craze goes well beyond the Oscars. Thanks to the popularity of the Academy Award-winning movie, items involving J. Robert Oppenheimer, father of the atomic bomb, is already fetching tens of thousands of dollars at auction with two days left in bidding.

A Manhattan Project atomic bomb report signed by J. Robert Oppenheimer and 23 others has reached over $35,000, while a letter typed and signed by “Opie” warning about Russia and the nuclear bomb is above $7,000. Both are being sold by RR Auction. Bidding ends Wednesday evening.

Manhattan Project Atomic Bomb Report Signed by (24), with Oppenheimer, Fermi, Chadwick, and Lawrence
Manhattan Project Atomic Bomb Report Signed by (24), with Oppenheimer, Fermi, Chadwick, and Lawrence. (credit: RR Auction)

The 200-page report about the building of the atomic bomb, titled “Atomic Bombs: A General Account of the Development of Methods of Using Atomic Energy for Military Purposes Under the Auspices of the United States Government, 1940-1945,” was written by American physicist Henry Smyth prior to the group testing the device at the Alamogordo “Trinity” test site in New Mexico.

Known as the “Smyth Report,” it was first released to the media days after the United States dropped atomic bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945 during World War II, killing over an estimated 200,000 people.

CONTINUE SCROLLING TO SEE LIST OF REPORT SIGNERS AND READ FULL LETTER

Seven years later, Oppenheimer typed a one-page letter to Stephen White of Look magazine after White asked the acclaimed theoretical physicist to read a draft of his article about the dangers of Russia stockpiling nuclear weapons. Signing the letter “Opie,” he tells White to “print it.”

“I add a ‘print it,’ with the general feeling that you are talking about real things and talking about them in a reasonable way, and that this desperately needs to be done,” writes Oppenheimer.

Robert Oppenheimer Typed Letter Signed on Russia and the Atomic Bomb
Robert Oppenheimer Typed Letter Signed on Russia and the Atomic Bomb. (credit: RR Auction)

Both items have been authenticated by PSA.

And it doesn’t end there. Leaf Trading Cards got in on the action, offering an autographed card of Cillian Murphy, who won best actor for his portrayal of Oppenheimer, for $699. The cards, limited to 40, sold out in hours after going on sale Monday.

2024 Leaf Cillian Murphy autograph card
2024 Leaf Cillian Murphy autograph card. (credit: Leaf)

“Oppenheimer” — which grossed nearly $1 billion — won seven Academy Awards on Sunday night. On top of best actor, the movie took home Oscars for best film, best director for Christopher Nolan, and best supporting actor for Robert Downey Jr.

‘Smyth Report’ Signers

According to RR Auction, here is a list of signers of the “Smyth Report”:

  • Enrico Fermi (1901-1954): American physicist renowned for being the creator of the world’s first nuclear reactor, the Chicago Pile-1, and a member of the Manhattan Project. He has been called the ‘architect of the atomic bomb’
  • J. Robert Oppenheimer (1904-1967): American theoretical physicist and director of the Manhattan Project’s Los Alamos Laboratory
  • Ernest O. Lawrence (1901-1958): American nuclear physicist and winner of the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1939 for his invention of the cyclotron. He is known for his work on uranium-isotope separation for the Manhattan Project, as well as for founding the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory
  • James Chadwick (1891-1974): English physicist awarded the 1935 Nobel Prize in Physics for his discovery of the neutron in 1932. In 1941, he wrote the final draft of the MAUD Report, which inspired the U.S. government to begin serious atom bomb research efforts. He was the head of the British team that worked on the Manhattan Project
  • Harold C. Urey (1893-1981): a Nobel Prize recipient and a world expert on isotope separation, responsible for the heavy water and all the isotope enrichment processes
  • Richard C. Tolman (1881-1948): American mathematical physicist and physical chemist, scientific advisor to General Leslie Groves on the Manhattan Project
  • John H. Manley (1907-1990): American physicist who worked with J. Robert Oppenheimer at the University of California, Berkeley before becoming a group leader during the Manhattan Project, one of Oppenheimer’s principal aides, with particular responsibility for laboratory management
  • Samuel T. Arnold (1892-1956): a provost of Brown University who served Groves in procuring personnel for the Manhattan Project
  • Gen. Kenneth D. Nichols (1907-2000): District Engineer of the Manhattan Engineer District. Nichols led both the uranium production facility at the Clinton Engineer Works at Oak Ridge, Tennessee, and the plutonium production facility at Hanford Engineer Works in Washington
  • Robert F. Bacher (1905-2004): American nuclear physicist and one of the leaders of the Manhattan Project, head of the Experimental Physics Division and the ‘Gadget Division,’ a key assembler of the bombs as well
  • Adm. William R. Purnell (1886-1955): Navy representative on the Military Policy Committee, the three-man committee that oversaw the Manhattan Project, traveled to Tinian as the representative of the committee and coordinated preparations for the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki
  • Adm. William S. Parsons (1901-1953): ordnance expert on the Manhattan Project, best known for being the weaponeer on the Enola Gay
  • Samuel K. Allison (1900-1965): American physicist, director of the Metallurgical Laboratory from 1943 until 1944, and later worked at the Los Alamos Laboratory — where he ‘rode herd’ on the final stages of the project as part of the “Cowpuncher Committee,” and read the countdown for the detonation of the Trinity nuclear test
  • Adm. Frederick L. Ashworth (1912-2005): Navy officer employed at Los Alamos to supervise and coordinate the work of engineers in the testing at Wendover of bomb components then being developed at Los Alamos. He was also weaponeer on the B-29 ‘Bockscar’ that dropped an atomic bomb on Nagasaki
  • Gen. Thomas F. Farrell (1891-1967): Deputy Commanding General and Chief of Field Operations of the Manhattan Project, acting as executive officer to Major General Leslie R. Groves Jr.
  • Col. Elmer E. Kirkpatrick (1905-1990): a special assistant to the director of the Manhattan Project, Major General Leslie R. Groves, Jr. He was sent to Tinian as liaison to the Twentieth Air Force where he was responsible for base development in support of Project Alberta and the 509th Composite Group
  • William Shurcliff (1909-2006): American physicist, employed to ‘locate, examine, and make secret all non-gov’t-controlled U.S. patent applications related to S-1 (the atomic bomb)’. Through October 1944, he ‘put to sleep’ (as he put it) at least 131 patent applications from 95 separate inventors
  • Col. Franklin T. Matthias (1908-1993): American civil engineer who directed the construction of the Hanford nuclear site, a key facility of the Manhattan Project and the site of the first full-scale plutonium production reactor in the world
  • Isidor I. Rabi (1898-1988): American physicist who won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1944 for his discovery of nuclear magnetic resonance, later a consultant to the Manhattan Project. Rabi attended the Trinity test in July 1945
  • James B. Conant (1893-1978): one of the most influential scientists in the Manhattan Project and a top-level government liaison
  • George L. Harrison (1887-1958): Henry L. Stimson’s special assistant for matters relating to the development of the atomic bomb. One of Harrison’s notable moments was when he informed Secretary Stimson of the successful detonation of the atomic bomb testing in New Mexico
  • Stafford L. Warren (1896-1981): American physician and radiologist best known for his invention of the mammogram. Warren was Chief of the Medical Section of the Manhattan Engineering District and was responsible for the health and safety of the thousands of personnel involved. He was present at the Trinity nuclear test in Alamogordo, New Mexico, where he was responsible for the safety aspects of the detonation.

Full Letter Text

“Thank you very much for sending me the proof. As you say, it is quite along the lines that you discussed with me; and my response is also similar. I think that you probably pull the dangers up a little too close in time; and many of the things you say, I do not let myself believe to be strictly true. But, like all your friends, I add a ‘print it,’ with the general feeling that you are talking about real things and talking about them in a reasonable way, and that this desperately needs to be done.

“There are a number of reasons—some developed since I saw you—why I am reluctant to appear to be a part of just this story. I want to be very sure that I cry no wolves that are not genuine wolves. But I have thought that I wrote, something long ago which you can perhaps use. This was in the autumn of 1945 in Philadelphia. I think you were there. It was published in No. 1 of Vol. 90 of the Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society. The sentence that I think you might wish to quote is ‘If they are ever used again it may well be by the thousands, or perhaps by tens of thousands.’ The rest of the paragraph is: ‘their method of delivery may well be different and may reflect new possibilities of interception, and the strategy of their use may well be different from what it was against an essentially defeated enemy. But it is a weapon for aggressors, and the elements of surprise and of terror are as intrinsic to it as are the fissionable nuclei.’ I do not know whether this will help; but it is meant to be helpful.”

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