General History

Listings shown are sorted alphabetically.

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KY Senator and Jackson Postmaster General

William T. Barry, Postmaster General (Andrew Jackson), Senator and Congressman from Kentucky. ALS, Washington, May 28, 1832 to Senator Samuel Smith of Maryland. Two pages, 1st and 2nd of a folded 4to bifolium sheet. Jackson' contrite Postmaster General pleads mercy and forgiveness if he offended the Revolutionary War officer now sitting in the Senate over a patronage application.

Samuel Smith rose to rank of Lt. Colonial in the Continental Army and later Major General of the Maryland Militia during the War of 1812. He served several non-consecutive terms in the US House, US Senate and eventually Mayor of Baltimore.

This is a much better patronage letter than most expressing the no-win competing pressures on early Department heads and the delicacy of dealing with a Senator that also served as an officer in the Revolution. [#5638]

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First two conductors of the Symphony

Boston Symphony Orchestra – the first two conductors of the Orchestra, with autograph letters signed. 1) Sir George Henschel – a single page ALS September 1887 on personal stationery from Kensington informing a friend that he and his wife moved into their new home and inquiring about summer plans. Henschel was a German born British composer and conductor. He served as the Symphony’s first Music Director/Conductor from 1881-1884. There was some minor mounting or tape remnants in the blank corners. 2) Wilhelm Gericke – an untranslated 2 page letter on a 4.5 x 7 bifolium sheet. There is a slight loss of paper on the lower right edge of the 1st page (lower left of the 2nd). Gericke was an Austrian composer and Kapellmeister of the Vienna State Opera. He served as Music Director/Conductor from 1884 -1889 with a return from 1898-1906. [#5088]

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Brooks, Phillips – Episcopal Bishop. ALS, Dec 13, 1892, Boston, small 16vo card. Brooks asks to use a surplice (a clerical vestment) and would like it before 11:30. Apparently he was preparing for a noon service on his 57th birthday. Someone has written Dec. 13, 1835 (Brooks’ date of birth) above the date on the note. The letter is written on his familiar note card, which measures 4 x 3 . There is some slight smudging or feathering of the ink on a few letters, including a couple in his signature, otherwise it is in fine condition. [#2399]

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Blanche Bruce signed album page “B.K. Bruce Miss”. Bruce was a former slave who went on to become the first African-American to serve a full term in the United States Senate. The format of an autograph album page and his adding “Mississippi” suggests this was signed while a Senator. There is a portion of a small newspaper article pasted down to the page. On the other side is an autograph from Chicago businessman Potter Palmer, founder of the famed Palmer House Hotel. Bruce is not an easy signature to find and most seem to be on documents rather than anything from the Senate. [#4746]

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Bulfinch, Charles – leading colonial architect, DS.. Bulfinch helped define the Federalist style in architecture. His best known work today is the Massachusetts State House. But he was also active in Boston’s civic life serving as a Selectman for the then small town. In this fresh looking document Bulfinch and five other selectmen (Ebenezer Oliver, Joseph Lovering, Joseph Austin, Enoch Silsby and Henry Bass)issue a license to sell goods at a “public venue or outcry” (i.e. a pushcart or street corner vendor). It is issued to Thomas Jones for one year commencing July 1, 1817. Bulfinch material has become difficult to find . [#4848]

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Forgery of Richard Henry Lee to Patrick Henry

– notorious early forger. A forged ALS of Richard Henry Lee to Patrick Henry on May 6, 1777. This is a particularly nice example that was pictured in Charles Hamilton's chapter on Cosey in his book Great Forgers and Famous Fakes. The works of some of the early forgers of historic American autographs have themselves become sought after by advanced collectors. [#3996]

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Henry Alexander Scammell Dearborn - Mass. politician, soldier, horticulturalist and author. One page ALS, Roxbury Oct 18, 1835. Possibly a retained copy as there is a draft of another letter on the back. Dearborn delivered an address to the Society for Promoting Agriculture on Oct. 14, 1835. Following his address the Society voted to ask him for a copy, to which Dearborn responds favorably in this letter. His lengthy speech extolled the virtues of the agrarian life to national success. He spoke about the dangers of urbanization morally and economically. His original address is not present but a modern reprint is included.

Roxbury Octo 18 35
I am highly gratified to learn, from some communications, that my humble efforts of cooperation, to advance the laudable objects, for which the Massachusetts Society for Promoting Agriculture was founded have been deemed worthy of approbation, & cheerfully comply with the requests, contained in the vote, which you have so politely transmitted.
With ____ of sincere respect your most obt. St.
H. A. S. Dearborn

John Heard
Benjamin Guild Esq (committee)

[bak page draft]

That of ___ acquisition, which one _____ in the excitement that is given, to the most beneficient attricbutes of the mind and the heart, in ____ ____ pf genius, to ___ & enterprise in ___ the study, _____
It is by repeated trials of strength, that the eagle launches for the _____ lofty ____ on the mountain -regardless of the _____ ___ spent, with the fullest confidence in th____ of however if its wing, in the longest highest & most daring of flight.

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Pay warrant for Salt Petre to make gunpowder

Oliver Ellsworth, third Chief Justice, appointed by Washington. Pay warrant as a member of Connecticut's Committee of the Pay Table, overseeing state expenses during the Revolutionary War. The warrant authorized payment for saltpetre and is dated January 30, 1777. Saltpetre was used for making gunpowder. It is signed "O. Ellsworth". [#4690]

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Marshall Field - businessman, founder of Marshall Field and Company department stores. Signed letter, May 7, 1902 on 5.5 x 8.5 sheet of personal stationery. Field thanks one of Michigan's premier businessmen and philanthropist Peter White for a jug of maple syrup.

The letter may answer the age-old question of what do you give the person who already has everything, especially when that person is one of the most successful retailers who build a fortune selling consumer goods. It appears that the sheet may have originally been a folded 4 page sheet and back sheet neatly removed.

Field was one of the most successful and wealthiest businessmen of the 19th Century. He built through retailing and wholesaling of consumer goods. He helped set a new standard in retailing by selling service and shopping experiences along with his merchandise. Friends with John D. Rockefeller, the two founded the University of Chicago. [#5564]

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DC Mayor, printer, journlist

Joseph Gales - journalist, publisher, printer, Mayor of Washington D.C. (1786-1860). ALS July 31, 1845 to Robert or Richard (?) Smith in Washington regarding a legal claim of money Gales owed. The letter is in excellent condition with overall toning but strong dark writing. Gales was both publisher and reporter for the National Intelligencer, eventually taking over ownership. His partnership with William Seaton produced The Annals of Congress the record of Congressional debates and proceedings from the first Congress in 1789-1824. Gales had been one of the few unofficial reporters of the Senate before Congress formalized the recording of its debates and proceedings. [#5650]

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Elbert H. Gary - prominent business lawyer turned steel industry giant. Gary signs a document "E. H. Gary" granting Cornelius Vanderbilt his proxy vote for the February 24, 1910 meeting of the Robert Fulton Monument Association.

Gary helped form United States Steel and served as its 2nd president. The Indiana steel town of Gary is named in his honor although he never lived there.

Gary's autograph material is not particularly easy to find even though he was one of the best-known industrialists of his day. This has some nice association connecting the 20th Century business giants of Gary and Vanderbilt with Robert Fulton whose work led to 19th Century industrial and commercial expansion. [#5574]

Gibson, Charles Dana

Charles Dana Gibson – artist. Autograph letter signed, 2 sheets front and back, dated in pencil in an unknown hand Sept. 2, 1897. Gibson writes of a brief visit to Bristol (Rhode Island) and looking to buy property there. He asks the recipient for an idea of the price of a couple of lots, one 16 acres the other 13 acres near the point. It is unclear if he actually bought any property there but it was a place he would have visited often. His grandmother lived there and her home was passed down to Gibson's sister.

The letter is written on the front and back of two 8vo sheets of blue paper. The final page with Gibson's signatures shows some lightness either from the pen going a bit dry or some slight fading but still excellent.

Gibson was America's foremost illustrator at the turn of the 19th and 20th Century. He is most famous for his illustrations of savvy, sophisticated women in control of their surroundings and their men. The iconic portrayal was known as a Gibson Girl and the images defined women in the late American Victorian period.

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George Jay Gould - businessman, Railroad Executive. Signed letter, April 1, 1897 on Missouri Pacific Railway letterhead, thanking Washington Times Publisher Stilson Hutchins for some material.

Gould was the son of Robber Baron Jay Gould who dropped some of his father's less scrupulous habits but continued the family legacy in railroads. The letter is in fine condition with some show-through of glue remnants on the back corners from mounting. [#5568]

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Politician turned American Federal of Labor leader

William Green, longtime president of the American Federation of Labor. An early ALS as Ohio State Senator dated May 31, 1912. Although Green had a brief stint in politics his real opportunity to lead and drive change was through the labor movement. In many ways he helped modernize the union movement to be less confrontational and more successful in improve workers standards of living and job benefits. Green informs a supporter that he has been selected by Green to be a delegate to the state senatorial convention. Most of Green’s autographs are from this later period as a union leader. His earlier letters as a politician are less common. [#3512]

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Edward Everett Hale, author and influential clergyman, brief ALS on personal stationery Oct. 14,1905 acknowledging a note but explaining he needs to defer an answer—probably for a speaking engagement. [#4880]

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Will Hays – Postmaster General under Harding and then president of the Motion Picture Producers and Distributors of America – now the Motion Picture Association of America. Hays signs a cover letter sending an autographed photo (not present) to Prof. Charles Rice of Mount Union College. To save Hollywood film production from government censorship over morals and decency Hays led the creation of self-regulated standards on production --The Hays Code. As the protector of American virtues his code became known as the censorship committee. It was the forerunner of the movie ratings system now used. [#4482]

Hopkins, Mark

Educator and theologian, ALS, 1.25 pages front and back of a single sheet, Williams College, Dec. 28, 1855. Hopkins sends or returns some pamphlets. Commenting on the writings, presumably those being sent, from a young student. "The idea--that of the superiority of Christian civilization is one which India especially needs, and it is pleasing to see how a chance spark from this western world may catch there." The letter has some glue remnants at the top of the front side and the bottom of the back side but overall is in fine condition. [#3475]

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Colonial physician and delegate to Continental Congress

David Jackson Colonial physician and delegate to the Continental Congress in 1785 from Philadelphia. Single page ALS April 30, 1792. [#4917]

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Attorney General, Senator, Statesman

Reverdy Johnson - Attorney General, Statesman, Senator. ALS, 2 ½ pages on a small 8vo bifolium sheet, March 17, 1849 as Zachary Taylor's Attorney General. Just two weeks after Taylor's Inauguration, Johnson writes to the new Secretary of the Treasury Thomas Ewing seeking help for a MD. Resident who was seeking an appointment. He signs with his full signature and initials a one sentence postscript. The letter is routine in content but a nice example of new Cabinet secretaries helping one another with patronage.

Johnson served as Attorney General under Zachary Taylor. He played an important role in keeping Maryland from succeeding and later as a Senator became a leading opponent of slavery. As a prominent attorney, considered a Constitutional authority, he was involved in several important legal disputes, including the Dred Scott case. James Smith would eventually be appointed Provost Marshal of Maryland [#5603]

Atty Genl's Office
17 March '49
My Dear Sir:

I take great pleasure in making known to you Mr. James Smith of Md. Mr. S. is a member of the bar, of excellent character & standing. He wishes employment under the Sec. and if you can further this, I shall esteem it a personal favor.

Yours Truly,
Reverdy Johnson

Honorable (Mr or Sec.) Ewing.

I send you this letter he has given me from [a] gentleman worthy of confidence RJ .

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Explorer and author

George Keenan - explorer and author. LS, front and back of a single 5 x 7.5 sheet, October 16, 1890 from The Parker House in Boston, to Ira Stockbridge regarding an upcoming lecture and proposed titles or themes for his address in Portland Maine. He offered "Mountains & Mountains of the Caucasus", "Vagabond Life in Eastern Europe" (Illustrated), or "Russian Political Exiles" (illustrated). [#5640]

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Lowell, James Russell poet and author of The Bigelow papers. Autograph quotation signed dated and signed. Lowell pens the last stanza from his poem Fancy’s Casuistry

These obstinate self questionings spare,
Leave what to do & what to dare
To the inspiring moment's care,
Nor ask for payment
Of fame or gold, but just to wear
Unspotted raiment.

J. R. Lowell
27th Oct, 1854

Published accounts of the poem have a different first line: “Such questionings are idle air:” so Lowell may have actually forgotten part of his own work or substituted a line with something he thought better fit a partial quotation from a longer work.

along wit an original cabinet photo.

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Original poem to FDR's mother on her 80th Birthday

Composer and musician. An original poem honoring Sara D. Roosevelt’s (FDR’s mother) 80th birthday with an inscribed dedication by Madison to Mrs. Roosevelt, along with a signed cover letter from Madison to Mrs. Roosevelt. Madison was a prolific songwriter in the first half of the 20th Century. Although somewhat overlooked today he had a rather unusual body of work putting poems written by presidents and their family to music. Interesting and different for the FDR collector. [#4537]

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Morse laments the beginning of the Telegraph Case

Morse, Samuel F. B. – ALS, January 1851 to Rev. Raymond Seely concerning his patent over the telegraph and electromagnetics. In part: “I am compelled to have my mind wholly absorbed in the self defence in the interminable litigation that has been forced upon me, from having in a sad hour for my own peace, given way to the delusion that a Patent was a protection and guarantee of justice.” The dispute led to the landmark Supreme Court ruling known as The Telegraph Case.
Scottish inventor Alexander Bain had developed an early form of a fax machine which, using electrical impulses was able to copy images and then transmit them over wire. This was an invention that used some basic transmission principles from the telegraph and enhanced them by copying images rather than Samuel Morse’s dot-dash method to convey messages. Henry O’Reilly took Bain’s invention to create a competing model to Morse’s telegraph. Morse’s legal challenge to O’Reilly began as the injunction mentioned in this letter and ended over two years later in the Supreme Court’s landmark patent case O’Reilly v. Morse, more commonly known as the Telegraph Case. The Supreme Court upheld Morse’s claim of inventing the telegraph but denied his claim of a patent on a scientific concept or idea, in this case the properties of electrical impulses. Rev. Raymond H. Seely was a prominent Congregational minister in Massachusetts who at a much later celebration with Morse in Paris recalled being in the room with Morse when the first message was sent.

Pokeepsie, Jany 18, 1851
My dear Sir,
Your kind favor of the 15th reached me yesterday for which receive my thanks. I need not say how much gratified I should be could I comply with your polite invitation to meet Prof. Mitchell at your house, since I hold him in the highest respect. But, alas, my dear Sir, I am compelled to have my mind wholly absorbed in the self defense in the interminable litigation that has been forced upon me, from having in a sad hour for my own peace, given way to the delusion that a Patent was a protection and guarantee of justice.
I should be much gratified to compare notes with Prof. Mitchell on some points. Bain’s machine infringes in several points upon mine, and it is for this infringement that a motion for injunction will be heard in April at Phil.---
Although it is entirely out of my favor to be with, accept my thanks for your politeness, and my best respects to Prof. Mitchell.
In haste but truly yr. friend & servt.
Saml F. B. Morse.

Rev. R. H. Seely

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Potter Palmer, Chicago businessman and founder of the famed Palmer House Hotel. Signed album page with what almost looks like cancellation marks around the signature. On the other side is an autograph from Blanche Bruce: “B.K. Bruce Miss”. Bruce was a former slave who went on to become the first African-American to serve a full term in the United States Senate. The format of an autograph album page and his adding “Mississippi” suggests this was signed while a Senator. There is a portion of a small newspaper article pasted down to the page. Bruce is not an easy signature to find and most seem to be on documents rather than anything from the Senate. [#4746]

Signed by 5 Presidents
Presidents signed photo
George W. Bush as President

Color photo of the North Portico of the White House matted and signed by 5 Presidents with an autopen of Ronald Reagan. Gerald Ford and Richard Nixon both added their Presidential numbers and George H. Bush dated it, as President. George H. W. Bush and Jimmy Carter added large felt tip signatures. There is room for additional signatures. Some bumps at edges but makes for a dramatic display piece.

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reports on his campaign work for 1856 Democrat Ticket

Johnson, Richard M.– Vice President under Van Buren. A single page ALS, Senate Chamber, Oct 9, 1837 as vice president. Serving in his constitutional role as President of the Senate, Johnson explains the impotency of his office. He thanks someone for a petition to the Senate and then requests the person to help him get it before the very body he presides over. “I request the favor of you to get some members to present the memorial as I can make no motion to print or to refer.” Johnson letters may not be aggressively sought after but neither are they easily found. This is a fun example explaining how powerless the vice president is as president of the Senate. [#5407]

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NY Lt. Governor under John Jay- founder of Rensselaer

Stephen Van Rensselaer -New York Politician, Lt. Governor under John Jay, War of 1812 General, founder of Rensselaer College- now Rensselaer Polytech. An undated handwritten signed letter "S. V. Rensselaer" to two judges recommended Peter Goes as a Justice of the Peace. The letter has right margin chipping and some tears at the folds which should be reinforced. [#5648]