General History

Listings shown are sorted alphabetically.

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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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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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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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Businessman, helped found the American Telegraph Company and finance the first Trans-Atlantic cable. ALS, 1 page, 1872, to Edwards Pierrepont, Grant’s future Attorney General. Fields accepts a dinner invitation. Nice example of a very distinct signature. (See Grant listing for Pierrepont’s commission as A.G.) [#2945]

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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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Will Hayes Postmaster General and head of the Motion Picture Producers. Interesting LS on Motion Picture Producers stationary 3/13/25 regarding “The Formula” he developed to keep movies wholesome and avoid government censorship.

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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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

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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John Philip Sousa – bandleader, twice signed cabinet photo. An intriguing cabinet photo in uniform signed twice. It is boldly signed on the image "John Philip Sousa" and then a second time vertically on the side mount is inscribed, signed and dated in 1910. The first signature appears to be from an earlier period, almost certainly about the time of the image. The image is a familiar one and these occasionally appear with similarly placed signatures. It is likely he signed a supply of these for easy response to later requests. The second was written years later when he may have been asked to inscribe it to a new owner, possibly as a gift or because the later owner may have met him. Regardless of the circumstances it is an unusual item allowing a single piece comparison of signatures spread approximately 10-20 years apart. There is some toning to mounting and a wear/rounding to the corners.

Spencer, Herbert

Herbert Spencer social philosopher and author on social evolution. ALS, 4 pages from London to John Fiske in 1876. Spencer discusses reports of Fiske's research on Aryran people's which are reflected in Fiske's books Outline of Cosmic Philosophy and The Destiny of Men. A very desirable association between two leading thinkers and authors on evolution and the implications on social behavior.