Unusual and Intriguing Items from Thomas Cullen
Not all participants in the Civil War were heroic or noble. Item 33 is a collection of 23 letters received by John Minard of Shippen, Pennsylvania, including 16 from his brother Seneca. Seneca enlisted with Pennsylvania volunteers in 1861, but in 1863 deserted to Canada. His letters can be ugly. Writing from Canada he says, "I think it far better to be here than to go to war to free a buck n....." Cullen describes an 1866 letter from Maine as "quite obscene" while sparing us the specifics. Seneca later tried to convince his brother to join him sharecropping in Iowa. $550.
For early collectors of flight, item 1 is My Big Three Flights by Andre Beaumont. "Beaumont" was actually a penname for Jean Conneau, who concealed his identity as his superiors in the French Navy had a low opinion of flying. This 1912 book tells of his victories in major races the previous year. $100.
Item 19 is a grant of 160 acres in Arkansas to Thomas Quillen for his military service. President James Monroe signed it. $550. Item 20 offers another presidential signature, this on a directive to place the U.S. seal on a treaty with Portugal. The signer is the inimitable President Millard Fillmore. $1,200. Why is Fillmore's signature more valuable than Monroe's? Was he a better president? This must be a more important document.
Here is an inexpensive collection with an autograph that was almost as significant as Fillmore's. It consists of over ten items from Major Z.K. Pangborn, founder of the Jersey City Evening Journal. Pangborn used his position as editor of that paper to support abolition and the political career of Abraham Lincoln, positions not always shared by his competitors. The collection includes letters from Postmaster General and famed New Jersey department store tycoon John Wanamaker, and two autographed letters from Vice-President Garrett Hobart. Therein lies the almost Fillmore connection. Fillmore ascended to the presidency when President Zachary Taylor died in office. Hobart's president, William McKinley, also died in office. However, that was during his second term. Hobart did not make it to the second term, dying of heart failure in 1899, a year before he would have been reelected. The result is that Teddy Roosevelt became the next president instead of Hobart. Were it not for that unfortunate turn of events (for Hobart, anyway), you would not be able to buy a collection containing two of Hobart's signatures for just $75. Item 103.
Item 26 is a fascinating look at the circus circa 1845. The title is, A Brief Biographical Sketch of I.A. Amburgh, and an Illustrated and Descriptive History of the Animals Contained in the Mammoth Menagerie and Great Moral Exhibition, Combining More in Number and Greater Variety Than All Other Shows In the United States Combined. Van Amburgh introduced the first circus cat act to America in 1833. He would put his arm in the mouths of the big cats, and even allow his audience to do the same. How did he manage this incredibly risky act without getting sued for every penny he owned? Cullen explains, "The act consisted of hitting the big cats senseless with a crow bar and then putting his arm in their mouths and inviting the audience to participate." And he called this a "Moral Exhibition?" $600.