Historic and Signed Documents from Stuart Lutz
The latest from Stuart Lutz Historic Documents.
By Michael Stillman
Stuart Lutz Historic Documents has issued a new catalogue of...exactly what you would expect. The catalogue does not have a title, but the contents can be described as, historic documents, overwhelmingly from Americans, with the vast majority signed. Being primarily signed documents, these are unique, one-of-a-kind items. Some discuss matters of great importance, others mundane concerns and formalities of the day. What ties them together is the historic roles each of these people played, whether in the arts, politics, finance, military, science, or other fields. Here are a few of these intriguing documents.
Thomas Edison was, of course, one of the giants of science, not the military. After all, he invented just about everything. However, the government asked his help during the First World War, appointing him head of the Naval Consulting Board. Naturally, they were looking to him for technological advice, not military strategy. In particular, the government looked to Edison to help devise ways of locating German U-Boats (undersea boats, or submarines). Item 37 is a January 9, 1918, signed letter from Edison to Admiral Edward Eberle. In it, Edison asks the Admiral to "please allow my assistant Mr. Silver to experiment in your laboratory for a few days until SP 192 gets out of the ice." SP 192 was a submarine patrol boat Edison was given to use, and it must have been temporarily iced in during the dead of winter, resulting in this request to use on land facilities instead. The letter contains a notation from the Admiral to another officer to grant permission to Mr. Silver. Priced at $1,500.
Well, there was one major invention of the era not attributable to Edison, and item 123 contains an amusing connection. It is an autographed letter from Thomas A. Watson to "George" explaining, "I have written the Telephone Company to put in the Telephone and Exchange and private line and have them working by June 5th." The telephone is the item Edison did not invent. It was invented by Alexander Graham Bell, and Thomas Watson was the Watson of Bell's famous instruction, "Mr. Watson. Come here; I want you." Those were the first words ever spoken over a telephone, during the year 1876. Now it was 1912, and Bell's valued assistant Thomas Watson had to apply to the phone company for service like everyone else. $900.
Item 48 connects a famous and serious American Supreme Court Justice with a strange comic performer. It is a copy of Felix Frankfurter Reminisces, a memoir by Justice Frankfurter. In it is the inscription, "for Harpo Marx, whose Susan, through the magic of her own charm, has endowed him with more charm than his own powers could generate. With the judicial and therefore sober regard of Felix Frankfurter February 8, 1962." Harpo was the mute member of the zany Marx Brothers, Susan his wife. This book is ideal for those who collect Justice Frankfurther or Harpo Marx, and perfect for anyone, should there be such a person anywhere on earth, who collects both. $750.
Historic and Signed Documents from Stuart Lutz
The grossly overloaded Sultana, on its way to disaster.
Item 50 is a 1936 baseball player's contract, signed by famed baseball man and National League President Ford Frick. The contract was between the Pittsburgh Pirates and John J. (Jack) Tissing of Denver. For a salary of $400 per month, Tissing was to participate in all training sessions, exhibition games, regular season games, and the World Series. Wishful thinking! The Pirates finished in fourth place that year and did not make it to the Series again until 1960. Tissing was long gone by then. In fact, he wouldn't have made it to the World Series in '36 even if the Pirates had won the pennant. Tissing was cut or otherwise departed the team on May 30, after just two months. It was his only year in the majors. Tissing was a pitcher, and he finished his season and career with a 1-3 record, along with 3 hits in 11 at bats. He returned to Colorado where he died in 1963. $200.
Item 54 is a letter from General, later President, Ulysses Grant concerning a shady figure in America's worst maritime disaster ever. On July 31, 1864, Grant wrote Quarter Master General Montgomery Miegs concerning the interest of Reuben Hatch to be appointed Chief Quarter Master at New Orleans, or if not, some other post. Hatch was already a dubious character, having been tried for accepting bribes, but exonerated with the help of powerful friends, notably a brother who was a public official from Illinois with connections to Lincoln. Perhaps Grant was torn, deciding how to recommend yet not recommend Hatch, for he says, "I would in no instance recommend a chief for any staff Dept. to a Dept. Commander desiring always to be in a condition to hold commanders responsible for short comings within their commands. If however you can assign Col. Hatch to the second choice here leaving the Dept Commander to say who shall have the first, I will be pleased." So Grant attempted to get him a job, though not the top one, and yet by the following year, Hatch was Chief Quarter Master for the Mississippi. It was in this position that he approved the placement of some 2,300 people, mainly returning prisoners of war from the South, aboard the steamship Sultana. The ship was to take the Union soldiers home. Its operators were to receive $5 per soldier and $10 per officer to return them north. The Sultana had an improperly repaired leaky boiler, but the Captain would not replace it as it would take too long and he might lose his passengers. So, 2,300 people were placed on board the Sultana, designed to hold 376, and upriver, the boiler exploded and some 1,700 lost their lives. Hatch was never convicted of anything, but he was found with a wad of federal money he was forced to return. The suspicion is that money represented a bribe from the Sultana's Captain to place all of the soldiers on his ship, rather than divide them among several ships available. $4,500.
Stuart Lutz Historic Documents may be reached at 800-428-9362 or HistoryDocs@aol.com. Their website is www.HistoryDocs.com.