Famous Signatures And Documents From The Raab Collection
Catalogue 50 from The Raab Collection.
By Michael Stillman
Catalogue number 50 is now available from The Raab Collection. Raab specializes in signed documents and autographs. You won't find any obscure signatures in this collection. Every signature is from a name you will recognize, or from a person with some important place in history. This is a catalogue of the most collectible names from the past. Here are a few examples.
Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton were often on opposite sides when it came to plans for the new republic. Hamilton wanted to see the nation develop as an economic and trading power. Jefferson preferred to see an agrarian democracy. Hamilton had more success in promoting his ideas with President Washington. In 1789-90, he pushed through his program to levy taxes on imported goods, both to operate the government, and most importantly, pay off federal debts from the Revolution and assume those of the states. Jefferson had particularly opposed the assumption of states' debts. The initial duties were insufficient to cover these needs, and so in early 1790, it was necessary for the government to raise those fees. Item 3 is An Act for the Payment of the Debts of the United States, as passed by Congress and certified as a "true copy" by the Secretary of State. Ironically, Washington's Secretary of State whose duty it was to certify this copy was none other than Thomas Jefferson, who opposed many of the expenditures for which taxes had to be raised. Priced at $17,500.
It is probably the most recognizable signature of anyone in America. Item 4 is an example of John Hancock's "John Hancock." Hancock was President of the Continental Congress from 1775-77, and was the first to sign the Declaration of Independence, in the boldest of signatures so the British could not miss it. Hancock would go on to serve as Governor of Massachusetts during most of the years from independence until his death in 1793. This item is the appointment of Peleg Chandler as coroner of Cumberland County (now part of Maine). The signature is the same flourished autograph which graces the Declaration of Independence. $6,000.
Item 13 is a most interesting document concerning Henry Clay's early days in Congress. Clay would go on to be best remembered for his compromises, his battles with Andrew Jackson, and his close but unsuccessful run for the presidency in 1844. However, he first came to Washington as one of the "war hawks," those who successfully pushed to have America go to war with Britain in 1812. One of the major causes, and one which led to great indignation on American shores, was the British habit of impressing U.S. sailors into their navy. The British still recognized these sailors as British subjects. But, once the war was over, America was unable to get Britain to renounce the right to this practice. In this 1839 letter to Robert Chilton, a very early photographer, Clay admits that America was not able to secure everything it wanted, but quit the war because it was "exhausted." Clay then points out that with Britain's various European wars which led to the impressments now over, she would not have any call to use the practice anyway, and the United States could go back to war refreshed if the practice resumed. It never did. $6,300.
Famous Signatures And Documents From The Raab Collection
The first U.S. pilot's license ever issued.
Item 23 is a remarkable item tying together the U.S., Mexico, Italy and France. In 1860, Giuseppe Garibaldi unified Italy, threw out foreign troops, and set an example for freedom in the world. One of those he inspired was General Luigi Ghilardi. Meanwhile, France was attempting to expand its empire, and had invaded Mexico. Ghilardi traveled to America to meet General McLellan, carrying letters of introduction from Garibaldi. However, with the U.S. engaged in its own Civil War, there was little it could do to help the cause other than provide Ghilardi with safe passage to the border. Ghilardi would make it to Mexico to assist the patriots, but he was later captured and executed by the French in 1864. However, Ghilardi's cause would soon triumph. French forces would leave a few years later and their puppet ruler, Maximilian, was captured and executed in 1867. Item 23 is those introductory letters from Garibaldi that General Ghilardi carried with him to the United States. $1,900.
Here is a most quaint and unusual letter for a politician. Chester Arthur signed it on November 8, 1880, just after he was elected vice-president. It is addressed to George Hillier, a Republican campaign contributor. Hillier had made a $60 contribution, which he followed up with another of $50. However, the later $50 was not needed. So, the Vice-President-Elect sent Hillier a letter saying that it probably would not be needed, and if not, he would send the money back. Send the money back? A politician returning money? Times have certainly changed. Arthur's signature would become presidential a year later when President Garfield was assassinated. Item 28. $1,200.
Here is something rather amazing: the first pilot's license ever issued by the United States. It was issued to William MacCracken, founder of the National Aeronautic Association and a strong advocate for government regulation of aviation in the 1920s. In 1926, MacCracken was appointed Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Aeronautics. He was issued the license in 1927, and it is signed by his boss, Secretary of Commerce Herbert Hoover. The following year, Hoover would be elected president. Along with the license is MacCracken's photo pilot's identification card. MacCracken's license, in its "official no." box, clearly states that it is number "1." Item 38. $38,000.
Not all of the documents are quite so old. Item 54 relates to issues still current today. It is two photographs from the Reagan administration. One shows Mrs. Reagan planting a kiss on her husband's press secretary, James Brady. The other shows the President shaking Sarah Brady's hand. Each comes with an inscription from the first couple. Mr. Brady's is signed by Mrs. Reagan, to my "Y & H" (young and handsome), "with my love." Mrs. Brady's carries a more formal "with warmest regards & friendship" from the President. We can guess which of these two was more comfortable with friends. Brady was seriously injured in the 1981 assassination attempt on Reagan, and although unable to continue to serve, he remained officially as Reagan's press secretary for the remainder of his two terms. However, he and his wife would fall out of favor with many of Reagan's supporters as they became, strangely enough, avid advocates of gun control. The "Brady Bill," which requires background checks for handgun purchases through dealers, was named for them. $3,200.
The Raab Collection is located online at www.raabcollection.com. Their phone number is 800-977-8333.