The key has a gold-plated finish. It is in its original blue velvet box from the jewelry maker who produced it. The box has a gold-wash plaque on the top engraved “Facsimile of Key made in 1812 for the Door of City Hall, New York.” The key bears the seal of New York City and “Mayor Edward I. Koch” in raised letters. The velvet box is in turn in its original white cardboard box, with an identical presentation plate. In addition, the white box has the original square auction sticker, and a star-form gold auction sticker, both from William Doyle Galleries.
James Cagney was born and raised in tough New York City neighborhoods. He started his acting career in the city, first in vaudeville and subsequently on Broadway. In 1930 he signed to Warner Brothers as a movie actor, becoming known for roles as a tough-talking gangster, although occasionally he returned to his roots as a “song and dance man,” most notably in “Yankee Doodle Dandy,” for which he won an Oscar in 1942. After retiring in the 1960s, he received many honors including the Life Achievement Award from the American Film Institute in 1974.
Provenance: George Glazer Gallery; Estate of James Cagney, Sold William Doyle Galleries, New York City, September 30, 1992, Lot 548.