Rare Book Monthly

Book Catalogue Reviews - April - 2011 Issue

Signed American Documents from Joe Rubinfine

Rubinfine167

Signed Americana from Joe Rubinfine.

Joe Rubinfine has issued a new collection of American Historical Documents - List 167. These autographs and signed documents mainly come from political and military leaders, though you will find an author (Twain) and a poet (Whitman) in here. There are also a few early books on autograph collecting. Items range from the era of the Revolutionary War to the beginning of the 21st century. Most are quite old. Most are American as in the United State of, but a few are Mexican in their origin. This is one of those catalogues that will appeal to everyone with a fascination for American history. Here are a few samples.

 

Among the most collectible of American signed presidential documents is anything by President William Henry Harrison. It is not that he was a great president. He wasn't. He was noted for dying only 30 days after he took office. He wasn't around long enough to sign many documents as President, so they are extremely rare. Here is something that might be even rarer. Item 59 is a letter signed by John Tyler as Vice-President. Tyler was Harrison's Vice-President, meaning he, too, served only 30 days in that office before being elevated to the presidency. However, Tyler returned home to Virginia after the inauguration. Vice-presidents had few responsibilities in those days. It is unlikely he signed many documents during the period of his vice-presidency. This letter is a recommendation for one R.N. Crittenden, "a member of a highly respectable family in the state of Virginia…amiable in his deportment, and attentive to his business." The recipient of this recommendation is unknown. The letter is dated March 10, 1841. Priced at $3,750.

 

Were you ever reluctant to contribute to a worthy cause because you knew doing so would result in a flood of solicitations for other causes? This is nothing new. On March 17, 1941, Frances Folsom Cleveland Preston sent $5 to John D'Arcy of the International Children's Relief Association. However, she requests, "I ask you not to use my name… I find that each yielding to such a tempting request but brings me more necessary refusals to help worthy causes." President Cleveland's widow adds, "I am doing what I can for needy Britain in other ways…" The letter does show the former First Lady's sympathies in the days before America entered the war, when President Franklin Roosevelt wanted to aid Britain but many Americans were sympathetic to Germany. Frances Folsom married the President while he was in the White House, the only time a president has been married in office, back in 1886. President Cleveland died in 1908, but the much younger Mrs. Cleveland, who later remarried, lived until 1947. Item 15. $450.

 

Speaking of President Cleveland, his rise to the top of the political ladder was unexpected and meteoric. In the 1870s, his only public office was a brief term as a county sheriff. Otherwise, he practiced law. There was much in the way of political machines and corruption in New York State at the time, so in 1881, he decided to run for Mayor of Buffalo. Cleveland became popular, not so much for his great leadership skills, but because he was an honest man in a cesspool of sharks. He was elected and took office in January of 1882, and by July, people were already calling on him to run for Governor. In this July 25, 1882, letter, Cleveland writes. "It looks as though quite a boom had started in favor of my candidacy for Governor." Cleveland goes on to say he is quite comfortable where he is, but, being an honest man, he does not feign disinterest in the higher job, as so many politicians do today. He adds, "…if this nomination should come in a proper shape, you may be sure I would accept." By the end of the year, the obscure former Sheriff would be Governor of New York, and two years later, President of the United States. Item 16. $850.

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