Signed Documents by the Famed and Their Families from Joe Rubinfine
A new collection of autographed documents from Joe Rubinfine.
By Michael Stillman
Joe Rubinfine of West Palm Beach, Florida, has issued his List 157 of American Historical Autographs. As always, Rubinfine offers a group of documents signed by people you know, or at least people whose places in history are familiar. That latter category includes people like Oliver Wolcott, Caesar Rodney, Richard Stockton, Edward Rutledge and Robert Morris. If their names don't immediately jump out at you, you will recognize their signatures as being highly collectible when you realize they were signers of the Declaration of Independence. Most of the other names herein, however, will be more familiar without the explanation. Here are a few of the names and their documents now being offered by Joe Rubinfine.
Item 34 is a touching but very sad letter from Robert Todd Lincoln, the only one of Abraham Lincoln's four children to survive to adulthood. Robert Lincoln served as Secretary of War in the early 1880s, and at the time of this letter, was the U.S. Minister to Great Britain. Robert had three children, one son and two daughters, meaning that young Abraham Lincoln II, known as "Jack," was the last possible descendant to carry forward the Lincoln name. However, at the time of this letter, January 13, 1890, Jack was seriously ill in France. His father writes to an evident friend that the French doctors have said "il est perdue" (he is lost). Robert recognizes that the odds are against his son, but an English or American doctor thinks he has a better chance if moved to England. "I now feel that he is sure to die remaining here & that a slender chance is given him by taking him away..." Robert did remove his son to England, but on March 5, Abraham II died at the age of 16. That spelled an end to the name "Lincoln" in the President's line. Ultimately, Robert's two daughters produced three grandchildren, but none of them had heirs. The President's line ended when his twice married but childless great-grandchild Robert Todd Lincoln Beckwith died in 1985 at the age of 81. Priced at $3,000.
Here is another letter from a presidential relative, a much happier one, though the writer experienced terrible tragedy in her life. The writer is Anna Harrison, widow of President William Henry Harrison; the recipient was her grandson J. Cleves Short Harrison. The letter is chatty, filled with news about aunts and uncles, cousins and neighbors. Mrs. Harrison tells her grandson to be sure to read the Bible and attend church, and "never think yourself too old or large to learn any thing that is good or usefull." Anna had the shortest stint as first lady as her presidential husband took sick and died after only one month in office. Anna herself was ill at the time of his inauguration, never making it to the White House (William Henry died as she was planning the trip from Ohio to Washington, which she then cancelled). At the time of this letter, January 26, 1847, not only was her husband gone, but nine of her ten children had died, including Cleves' father, yet Anna would live for another 17 years. She resided with her one surviving child, John Scott Harrison, and when his wife died three years after this letter was written, she would help raise her grandson, future President Benjamin Harrison. Anna would outlive a whole slew of grandchildren as well, but J. Cleves would survive to have a successful banking career in Indiana and later retire to Los Angeles. His L.A. home is an official Los Angeles Historic Cultural Monument. Item 47. $2,500.
Signed Documents by the Famed and Their Families from Joe Rubinfine
General Custer shoots a grizzly, Winfield Scott stiffly relaxes in retirement.
Here is one more presidential spouse: the beloved Dolley Madison. She is noted for saving many state treasures, including a Gilbert Stuart portrait of Washington, before the British burned the While House during the War of 1812. Those days were long gone when Dolley wrote this letter, almost two decades after James Madison's presidency ended. On January 23, 1835, she writes to a friend about her health and that of her husband. She is just overcoming a severe case of influenza, but her husband is not doing so well. "Mr. Madison's health is nearly as it was in the summer," she writes, "he is still feeble and confined to his rooms, and if we are so happy as to see him safe through the present extraordinary Winter, we shall hope much benefit from the mild weather and exercise in his Carriage..." The former President would make it through that winter and one more. Even Dolley outlived nine of poor Anna Harrison's ten children, though she became First Lady 32 years earlier than Mrs. Harrison. Item 50. $3,000.
William Tecumseh Sherman liked politics about as much as Georgians liked him. He is best remembered, in terms of politics, for his 1884 "Shermanesque pledge," that if nominated for president, he would not run, if elected, he would not serve. Even years earlier, he felt the same. In an 1868 letter to H.W. Slocum, an officer who served under him, Sherman writes, "As to politics it is impossible for language to convey my distaste of them." He goes on to add, "I have seen Fear, Cowardice, treachery, villainy in all its shapes contort & twist mens judgment & actions, but none of them like Politics." Item 37. $4,000.
Here are a couple of notable signed photographs. Item 36 shows General George Armstrong Custer with a Grizzly Bear he just shot. Next to Custer is his Indian scout, Bloody Knife, along with two others from the military. Bloody Knife, like Custer, would die at Little Big Horn, and undoubtedly the Grizzly would have felt little sympathy for them. $22,000. Item 41 is a photo of a stern but dignified looking, aged "Old Fuss and Feathers," General Winfield Scott. Scott was involved in all of the nation's major military campaigns from the War of 1812 through the Civil War, though he resigned early in that conflict. A southerner loyal to the Union, he devised a plan of surrounding the South through the use of a naval blockade and control of the Mississippi River. It was ridiculed by many who thought there would be a quick war, but it would be implemented in time as the war dragged on and Union victory became less clear. Scott was also the Whig Party presidential nominee of 1852, when the party dumped its incumbent, Millard Fillmore. However, Scott lost to Franklin Pierce as the Whigs disintegrated, northern and southern factions turning on each other. This photo shows Scott in the corpulence of his later years. It also must be among the last signed documents of a long career, as he dated it 1866, and he died on May 29 of that year. $1,000.
You may reach Joe Rubinfine at 561-659-7077, or Joerubinfine@mindspring.com.