Historic Autographed Documents from The Raab Collection
Signed documents from the Raab Collection.
By Michael Stillman
The Raab Collection has issued Catalog 60 of autographs and signed documents. They are all signed by notable personalities, and most pertain to some event of historic significance. Raab's catalogues are particularly helpful as they provide a wealth of background for most items. You will learn a lot of history, along with being introduced to some of the documentation of the events described. Here are a few of the items available this time.
Item 7 is a rare, likely unique survival from the first congress of the United States. Those who were elected to serve in that first congress in 1789 were required to bring credentials from home, establishing their bona fides. Those who were selected to the Senate or House of Representatives turned theirs over to the Clerk. The Clerk of the Senate retained his credentials, which have since been turned over to the National Archives. Unfortunately, the Clerk of the House tossed his away after they were received. The result is that it appeared none had survived. However, one representative, George Thatcher, who represented Massachusetts (the far northern part of the state which today is Maine) must have asked for his back as a souvenir. Item 7 is Thatcher's credentials, and thorough searching indicates that it is the only such set still extant. The Massachusetts credentials are particularly desirable as they are signed with one of the most collectible of all signatures, that of Governor John Hancock. Priced at $75,000.
One name associated with proper, if not prudish behavior, is that of Britain's most majestic Majesty, Queen Victoria. One might not expect it of this very proper lady, but she was totally in love with and devoted to her husband, Prince Albert. Albert is not associated with great public achievements, though he did much to keep England out of America's Civil War when certain incidents with the Union could have pushed the two nations into war. The great tragedy of the Queen's life was that Albert died young, just 42 years of age. She spent the remaining 40 years of her life in mourning, wearing black, and keeping his rooms in various residences as they were during his lifetime, even having fresh linen and hot water brought daily. Item 18 is a set of the five-volume biography, The Life of His Royal Highness the Prince Consort. Four of the volumes in this set are inscribed by Victoria to John Tulloch, a prominent Scottish churchman. $4,000.
When Albert Einstein first arrived on the shores of America in 1930, he was accompanied by author Hendrik Willem Van Loon. His first address to Americans, while still shipboard, was introduced to the radio audience by Van Loon. In gratitude, Einstein gave the author a memento with his image, and wrote a poem specifically to Van Loon at the bottom. Don't expect great poetry. Longfellow couldn't write about relativity, so Einstein shouldn't be judged by his poetry. Here it is:
"Perfect in English is Herr Loon.
Bravely helped me to the microphone.
Others would be far more befuddled,
Yet he 'really has his act together.'"
Does that even rhyme? Item 53. $7,500.
Historic Autographed Documents from The Raab Collection
John Hancock signed the only surviving first House credentials.
James Buchanan wanted for years to be President. As early as 1844, he was a serious contender. He finally achieved his ambition in 1856, only to ineptly preside over a nation falling apart at the seams, with the South finally seceding during the waning days of his administration. In 1847, he wrote this letter to George Guier, a Philadelphia Democrat who was evidently not a Buchanan supporter. Buchanan, in typical political fashion, pretends he is more interested in the Democratic Party than his own ambitions, and while acknowledging the two haven't been close, attempts to at least neutralize Guier's opposition if not make him a supporter. Writes Buchanan, "I have no ambitious aspirations beyond that of a desire to obtain & preserve the good opinion of my fellow citizens.' Yes, that and be elected President. Item 19. $4,600.
Buchanan failed to win the nomination that year, but it was just as well because the Democratic nominee, Lewis Cass, lost to Whig candidate Zachary Taylor. Taylor ran a candidacy not merely short on specifics, but totally absent of them. Taylor was a war hero, but with the end of the Mexican War, which had helped unify the nation, the disposition of the newly acquired territory, whether it be free or slave, was starting to tear the nation apart. So Taylor ran on his personal popularity, saying little but platitudes. Cass ran on a popular sovereignty platform - let the new territories decide whether to have slavery. This was a more pro-South position as heretofore these areas were off limits to slavery. Taylor said nothing, which appealed more to the North, while his being a southern slaveholder himself, appealed to the South. Writes the vague Taylor in this 1848 letter, "...if I can be instrumental in moderating to some extent the bitterness of party and political asperity, I should consider myself more than fortunate." Taylor did, and won, and then incensed many of his southern compatriots by trying to push the newly acquired territories to statehood while they were free. However, he died a year into office before accomplishing his goals, allowing for weaker leaders than he to try, unsuccessfully, to compromise their way into a resolution. Item 20. $7,500.
You may reach The Raab Collection at 800-977-8333. Their website is www.raabcollection.com.