A Freudian Slip of Paper: 1933 Analysis Bill Comes to Auction

Despite the waning influence of his work in contemporary psychology, Sigmund Freud’s ideas, personality, and image continue to attract admirers. Freud’s importance to western culture is demonstrated by the widespread familiarity of his name and of the notion of the unconscious mind.

Cinema has been greatly influenced by his work—consider the films of Alfred Hitchcock from the 1940s and 1950s. Even today, Freud inspires important filmmakers: David Cronenberg’s latest film, A Dangerous Method, which screened early this month at the New York Film Festival at Lincoln Center, is a fictionalized account of the relationship between Freud and Carl Jung.

A practicing psychoanalyst or an avid moviegoer might be equally delighted by an item offered in our November 2011 auction of autographs. Lot 89, a brief note written out and signed by Freud on his correspondence card, states directly and without ceremony the amount of money due him for 23 hours of psychoanalysis.   

Freud wrote this bill for services rendered in 1933, a year of tremendous historical importance for the West. In that year, Hitler became Chancellor of Germany, leading to the destruction or flight of some of the greatest scientific minds of Europe; the Great Depression was at its worst, causing many to loose faith in the notion that science can solve our economic problems; and the World’s Fair opened in Chicago, celebrating a century of scientific progress and technological innovation. Also during that year, the American recipient of the bill, Roy R. Grinker, Sr., visited Freud in Vienna to be psychoanalyzed for the purpose of furthering his own study of psychology.   

Dr. Grinker, who was among Freud’s last patients, later founded the now-defunct Institute for Psychosomatic and Psychiatric Research and Training at Michael Reese Hospital in Chicago. For the privilege of being analyzed by the father of modern psychology, Dr. Grinker paid Freud’s rate at the time of $25/hour. Freud’s bill shows 2,400 Austrian shillings due for 23 hours between the months of September and October. One can only speculate on whether Dr. Grinker got his money’s worth.