America’s History in Autographs:<br>The Latest from Steven Raab
In the 1890s young Guglielmo Marconi began experimenting with radio waves. He quickly saw the potential for wireless communication. However, its potential was believed limited as the assumption was that the waves would travel straight, meaning communication distances would be limited by the curvature of the earth. When this was determined not to be the case, Marconi set out to demonstrate the long-range capabilities. He set up a sending station in England and traveled to Newfoundland, where he hoped to show that wireless transmissions could be heard across the ocean. On December 12, 1901, with an aerial wire attached to a kite, Marconi picked up a faint signal broadcast from England. It was the start of what we now know as radio. On December 20, Marconi wrote a brief thank you note to the government of Newfoundland for its help in this momentous experiment, and that thank you note is offered as item 39. $18,900.
General John Porter Hatch, who had served under Sherman, was given what he must have felt was a thankless task of commanding the Charleston District of South Carolina after the Civil War. “I am here filling the most unpleasant position in the Army,” he writes. Of the unreconstructed southerners he says “A bitter people they are, whipped but surly.” As for the federal government, he says support has been slow to arrive and that “all manner of charges are constantly brought against me.” For some, war is Hell. For Hatch, peace was. Item 48. $595.
The oldest and likely most significant document in this collection is the original amnesty of Zamora. In 1476, the young royal couple Ferdinand and Isabella were in the process of uniting the various kingdoms of what would become today’s Spain, but they had to deal with a rival who was supported by Portugal. Their forces were successful, but their enemies remained holed up in the fortress at Zamora. To resolve the conflict, the royal couple agreed to offer the remaining fighters an amnesty if they would switch sides. Unlike the fighters in the Alamo, the defenders of Zamora agreed and the conflict was brought to an end. Ferdinand and Isabella were able to consolidate their power, which would lead to the equipping of Columbus and his discovery of the New World, but to the Spanish Inquisition as well. Item 57 is the amnesty. Signed by Ferdinand and Isabella. $43,900.
That last one was too serious, so we’ll close with a lighter item, and what could be lighter than something from the inimitable Spiro T. Agnew? Agnew was the sharp-tongued vice-president who made his boss, Richard Nixon, look ethical. On October 10, 1973, he became the first and only vice-president forced to resign as he faced charges based on accepting bribes. Barely a month before leaving office, he sent off a letter to the editor of the Pottstown (Pennsylvania) Mercury thanking him for a front-page editorial supporting Agnew’s defense against the charges (he would later plead no contest). Hopefully that editor had the good sense to plead insanity. Item 64. $595.
Among the others whose autographs may be found in this catalogue are John Quincy Adams, Charles Darwin, Thomas Edison, Albert Einstein, Gerald Ford, Dwight Eisenhower, Robert Goddard, Ulysses Grant, John Hancock, Caroline (Mrs. Benjamin) Harrison, Benjamin Harrison, Herbert Hoover, Thomas Jefferson, Rutherford Hayes, Martin Luther King, Andrew Johnson, William McKinley, Sir Thomas More, James K. Polk, Rochambeau, Norman Rockwell, Babe Ruth, William Howard Taft, Harry Truman, Queen Victoria, George Washington, and Woodrow Wilson.
Steven S. Raab Autographs may be found online at www.RaabAutographs.com or reached by phone at 800-977-8333.