Historic, Mostly American Documents from Stuart Lutz
Amerlia Earhart and crew on the cover of Stuart Lutz' latest catalogue.
By Michael Stillman
Stuart Lutz Historic Documents recently issued a new catalogue of autographs and signed documents. Most of the signers are people you know, either by name or station (such as signers of the Declaration of Independence whose names may be forgotten but whose role in America's history is not). However, there are also letters from ordinary people, notably, soldiers serving during the Civil War. Their stories are also important, even if in a different way from those of presidents. There are, naturally, plenty of presidents represented here, too. Now, for a few examples of what is available.
It has been 70 years since Amelia Earhart disappeared over the Pacific, yet people still search for her today. Undoubtedly they will continue until the mystery is finally solved. In 1937, she undertook to become the first woman to fly around the world. She came close. Having already flown from Oakland, California, to Lae, New Guinea, she and navigator Fred Noonan took off from Lae on July 2, 1937. Her destination was tiny Howland Island, from which she would continue to Hawaii and finally, back to Oakland. All seemed well, and radio contact was made with Howland, but they never arrived. While the most likely explanation is that they missed the target and eventually crashed into the sea, there has been much speculation, backed by supposed artifacts, that they made it to some other island, only to perish without being found. A massive woman-hunt was undertaken at the time, and searches continue to this day in the sea and on various islands. Still we wait. Item 45 is a remarkable photo. It is that of Earhart and Noonan, along with airplane racer Albert Paul Mantz and navigator Harry Manning, standing in front of her Lockheed Electra aircraft at Oakland Airport. The photograph is signed by all four. The date was March 17, 1937, the start of their first attempt. These four took off on their mission that day, but the plane developed troubles in Hawaii and had to be shipped back to Oakland for repair. On June 1, just Earhart and Noonan made their second attempt, this time quietly leaving Oakland and flying east instead of west. They almost made it all the way. The signed photograph (pictured on the cover) is priced at $11,500.
Item 35 is a signed Calvin Coolidge speech filled with irony. On November 11, 1928 (Armistice Day), President Coolidge spoke before the American Legion in Washington. This date recognized the tenth anniversary of peace, and all seemed well. The President notes that the nation has been bestowed with ten years of peace, and "It is our belief that it is coming to be more and more realized as the natural state of mankind." Of course, the war which ended ten years earlier was "the war to end all wars," and in 1928, it must have looked like that dream would be realized. Ten years hence, the world would be staring down the barrel of its second great conflagration. $2,500.
Some people leave their mark early on. In 1832, Samuel Francis Smith, a seminary student, wrote some lyrics to an old melody, He called it America, though it is often known by its opening line: My Country 'Tis of Thee. Smith was 23 at the time, and though he lived to be 87, nothing else he did ever had quite such a lasting effect. Smith did enjoy a long career as a Baptist clergyman and wrote many hymns. Item 125 is a copy of the lyrics to America handwritten by Smith, autographed and dated July 28, 1894. He was 86 years old at the time and yet it was these long ago lyrics that people still wanted to have. $2,250.
Historic, Mostly American Documents from Stuart Lutz
Handwritten America by lyricist Samuel Francis Smith.
Item 127 recounts a chance meeting in 1886 between an old politician from the first half of the 19th century and a young man who would be president in the 20th. Future President William Howard Taft was a young man of 28, vacationing in upstate New York, when he stopped at a hotel in Louisville, a small town near the Canadian border. He was looking for a ride when he discovered an older gentleman heading for the same destination. Since two could share a buckboard (a horse drawn wagon) for the price of one, they decided to ride together. Taft writes to Harlan Lloyd, his father's law partner, of this meeting. The older gentleman was Henry Allen Foster, who had served in the House of Representatives in the 1830s, and was appointed to replace resigning Senator Silas Wright of New York in 1844 (he served until 1845). Foster later was a judge on the New York Supreme Court. Taft enthuses, "He was in the Senate with Webster, Clay, Calhoun, Tom Corwin and all of those old boys (all but Corwin had died before Taft was born)... He is now eighty five years of age and he is as sprightly as a young kitten." Taft notes that Foster told him he made more money since having to retire from the court twelve years ago because of old age than in all of the rest of his career combined. I can find no other recorded connection between these two politicians of vastly different eras. Foster would die three years after this meeting, while 22 years later, Taft would become President and 35 years later Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. In his letter, Taft also mentions seeing "Nellie," she being Helen Herron whom he would marry the following year. $750.
Only time and events yet to come will tell just how valuable item 147 will become. The book is Leadership, and it was signed by a former New York Mayor with much higher political ambitions, Rudy Giuliani. $150.
Stuart Lutz Historic Documents may be visited online at www.HistoryDocs.com, telephone 877-428-9362.