Documents Signed by Historic Personalities from The Raab Collection
Catalog 62 from The Raab Collection.
By Michael Stillman
The Raab Collection of Philadelphia has issued their Catalog 62 of documents signed by major, historic figures. Included are both the most important of American names, such as Washington, Lincoln, Franklin Roosevelt, Hancock and Twain, along with those from across the sea, including Churchill, Napoleon, Queen Victoria and Renoir. Many of these documents provide notable insights into the personalities of the signers or the issues of the times. These are some of the important items available in this latest presentation.
Item 18 is a short story written by Mark Twain, a manuscript copy entirely in Twain's hand. In 1885, Twain published perhaps his greatest book, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. He did not publish another major novel until 1889, but in between he helped U.S. Grant prepare his memoirs and wrote some short stories. In 1887, he wrote this seven-page story entitled An Incident. In it, a young boy, with something of a Huck Finn personality, meets Twain on the street. They talk for a while before the boy realizes who Twain is. Finally, the boy asks, "Is it you?" To Twain, this is the ultimate compliment. He notes that he doesn't like exaggerated compliments unless the person does not realize he is exaggerating. Here, the compliment is not faked, but is simply a genuine recognition that Twain is someone of note. Priced at $43,000.
John Hancock's signature became the most famous one in America when he signed it extra large on the Declaration of Independence to make it quite clear to the British exactly how he felt. However, he had cause to use his famous signature before that momentous occasion, and here is one that ties into the reason why he placed it on that document a couple of years later. Here is a bill of exchange for £200 Hancock, a wealthy New England merchant, drew on his London bankers to make a payment on his behalf. It is signed with his famous "John Hancock." However, the London bankers declined to loan him the money to honor the bill, though Hancock was a good customer. They were concerned about repayment as a result of trade problems in America after the Boston Tea Party, and may well have been concerned with Hancock's attitude, which, to say the least, was not pro-British. Item 12. $35,000.
The American success in the Mexican War turned out to be a mixed blessing. It greatly expanded the nation's territory by adding what is today the American Southwest, but at the same time, it increased the hostilities between the North and South. The reason was that the regions were battling over whether the new territories, and eventual states, would be slave or free. The result was that the two major parties, the Democrats and Whigs, began to divide internally along sectional lines, rather than contest between each other. Daniel Webster, the noted speaker and Whig politician who harbored dreams of becoming President, recognized the internal divisions, and fought gamely to hold his party together. In 1850, he wrote a letter to New York attorney and Whig stalwart John K. Porter outlining his fears. He writes, "There have been those who desire to uphold all sorts of local ideas, prejudices, and animosities, by the general strength of the Whig cause. If we cannot free ourselves from these counsels, the Whig Party must inevitably cease to be a great, strong, and conservative party of the country." To this end, Webster would declare himself a "Union man" rather than a northern man, and supported the Compromise of 1850, which enforced the Fugitive Slave Laws that were abhorrent to the North. It didn't work. It just made the once beloved Webster something of a pariah in his home territory, while the Whig Party still broke apart and totally disappeared within a few years. Item 23. $1,800.
Documents Signed by Historic Personalities from The Raab Collection
Autograph album includes that of obscure Congressman A. Lincoln.
Item 26 is an 1883 letter from former President U.S. Grant to the current President, Chester Arthur. In it, Grant promotes Randolph Keim, who was a reporter during the Civil War who made a habit of speaking highly of Grant, for the position of Director of the Bureau of Engraving and Printing. Arthur might seem a logical candidate to be amenable to such an appeal. Grant had appointed him Collector of the Port of New York while he was president, and Arthur was something of a loyal political hack when rewarded with his party's nomination for vice-president in 1880. However, to Arthur's credit, he rose to his position when President Garfield was assassinated and he was elevated to the highest office in the land. Rather than being the epitome of the spoils system, as many assumed, he became a champion of civil service reform. Instead of acquiescing to Grant's request, Arthur appointed a long time employee of the Bureau to its top position instead of the political choice. $4,000.
Item 22 is a wonderful autograph album with the cover title Collection of Auto-Graphs. William R. Thomas. Thomas was a New Yorker who collected autographs in his hometown and in Washington. Most were signed in 1848 or within a short time of that year. He managed to get some of the best. He obtained the signature of the President, who at the time was James K. Polk. He also obtained that of the Secretary of State and future President James Buchanan. Even more significantly, though Thomas could hardly have appreciated it at the time, he got the signature of an obscure one-term congressman from Illinois, the future President Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln has penned his customary "A. Lincoln" signature. From the Senate, he obtained the signatures of the three great debaters of the era, now near the ends of their careers, Daniel Webster, Henry Clay, and John C. Calhoun. Another giant of the times, Thomas Hart Benton of Missouri has signed, as has Texas' Sam Houston. The eccentric former Vice-President Richard Mentor Johnson has added his name, as has the nation's top general, Winfield Scott. Explorer John C. Fremont and notable Supreme Court Justice Joseph Story are also included. From New York, we find William Seward and Hamilton Fish, both of whom would later serve as Secretary of State, future Confederate General Braxton Bragg, and Manuel Dominguez, a governor of Southern California while it was still part of Mexico. There are many more signatures besides these. $13,000.
On December 14, 1954, Winston Churchill sent a memo to the Queen, recommending an appointment. Churchill has signed the memo, as has the Queen with the initials "E R" and a notation the request was approved. Churchill's request reads, "Sir Winston Churchill, with his humble duty to The Queen, respectfully recommends to Your Majesty that the Reverend John Harrison Duphoy Grinter, B.A., Vicar of Wellington with West Buckland, Vicar of Nynehead and Prebendary of Haselbere in Wells Cathedral, be appointed to the United Benefice of Newark with Coddington in the County of Nottingham and in the Diocese of Southwell on its vacation by the appointment of the Reverend Canon George William Clarkson, M.A., to the Suffragan Bishopric of Pontefract." Huh? What language do they speak in England? Item 36. $5,500.
You may reach The Raab Collection at 800-977-8333. Their website is www.raabcollection.com.