Book Collector: Election Aftermath

Featured in Autograph January 2009

If you are waxing nostalgic for what seemed like the longest election season in history, don’t rest now—the race for 2012 has no doubt already begun, not to mention other state and local races for this year. For the political diehards out there, now is your chance to get that jumpstart on the next round of candidates and their signed books.

Although I am the first to advise collectors to send books to potential candidates before they run, because that’s the best time to get them autographed, I have a confession to make—I didn’t follow my own advice in a few cases last year. Namely, I didn’t send books to Republican primary candidates Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee. Had they made it all the way, I would have been out of luck. I have since made up for this.

But fear not, if you are so over politics at the moment, I’ve added a touch of international flare and rock ’n‘ roll for you as well.

Mitt Romney

Autograph---Turnaround-by-Mitt-RomneyOne of the wealthiest men to ever run for president, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney made headlines early on in his career as a successful businessman, and later for his role as president and CEO of the Salt Lake Organizing Committee for the 2002 Salt Lake Winter Olympic Games. His Olympic tenure also served as the topic of his first book, Turnaround, which was published in 2004. I bought a used copy on during the 2008 presidential race but didn’t send it to Romney’s campaign office, fearing it would be lost and realizing that the last thing he had time for was answering through-the-mail autograph requests.

Following Romney’s withdrawal from the race, I then sent him a bookplate, which he kindly inscribed and returned. As Romney weighs his political future for 2012, I know I’m covered.

Mike Huckabee

Autograph---Do-the-Right-Thing-by-Mike-HuckabeeFormer Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee proved to be one of the most charming and humorous candidates on the 2008 presidential primary trail, as well as the most prolific. During the past several years, Huckabee’s self-penned library has grown to include Character Makes a Difference, Quit Digging Your Grave with a Knife and Fork, From Hope to Higher Ground, Kids Who Kill, Living Beyond Your Lifetime, and his newest book, Do the Right Thing.

After he dropped out of the 2008 presidential race, I wrote to him and asked him if he would send me several inscribed bookplates for his many books. He generously obliged, sending me six bookplates—the sign of a true Southern gentleman!

Cherie Blair

Autograph---Cherie-BlairThe United Kingdom’s equivalent of a first lady, in the late 1990s, Cherie Booth Blair rose to international attention when her husband, Tony Blair, became the U.K.’s new prime minister. Young and outspoken, Cherie was targeted by the British press and public for her unconventional ways.

After having published her autobiography, Speaking for Myself, in the U.K. to much fanfare and a multi-million dollar advance, Cherie debuted the highly anticipated tome in the U.S. last November. In her book, the former prime minister’s wife provides a fascinating expose of her amazing life as well as her encounters with some of the world’s most notable figures, including Presidents Clinton and Bush, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth and Princess Diana, among many others.

While her husband was in office, I wrote to Cherie for a signed picture. She dutifully responded. Recently, I sent her autobiography off to her to be signed. I have no doubt it will be signed, sealed and returned to me as she has proven herself to be a friend to an international bevy of fans and collectors over the years.

Ronnie Wood

Autograph---heart---Ronnie-by-Ronnie-WoodFor the past 30 years, Ronnie Wood has been a member of The Rolling Stones. Last year, Wood released his red-hot memoir, Ronnie, to critical acclaim and to the delight of music fans everywhere. This rare and often jaw-dropping glimpse inside one of the most famous and infamous bands of all time became an instant bestseller.

During a rare and very limited publicity tour in support of the book, a friend scored me two signed copies of Ronnie, one in which Wood added a heart and one in which he drew what appears to be a caricature. In addition to his enormous musical talent, Wood is also an accomplished artist, which makes the doodles he added to my books all the more valuable and treasured.

Bookshelf: Kenneth Graham Collection

Featured in Autograph January 2009

HolmesThe Grolier Club has again shown its consistency in publishing handsome, reasonably-priced publications worthwhile to book and autograph collectors alike. This time it’s an exhibition catalog that collectors and wannabe-collectors of literary autographs will wish to explore.

“Wayfarers All”: Selections from the Kenneth Grahame Collection of David J. Holmes introduces an author whose most famous book, the 1908 Wind in the Willows, has far eclipsed his few others and even his own name. Grahame was born in Scotland in 1859 and died in England in 1932, and today how work is quite neglected among literate Americans.

David Holmes—soft-spoken, articulate, with a wealth of knowledge—is the only dealer in this country I can think of gutsy enough to specialize in fine literary autographs, primarily 18th through 20th century English and American. Luckily his own collecting passion fell on Grahame, and who better to understand this reticent and introspective writer. In a perceptive “Collector’s Statement,” Holmes notes:

“I do not remember the exact moment when I decided to collect Kenneth Grahame. Perhaps I was collecting him before I knew it. As an admirer of his prose, I had purchased Grahame’s letters for my shop’s inventory, and they sparked my interest. They hinted at a mentality that seemed to be, curiously, both restrained and poetic, of the world and yet not of the world….”

“Wayfarers All” presents descriptions of 63 items from Holmes’ collection, exhibited at the Grolier Club’s beautiful building on East 60th Street between March 19 and May 23. Of these 63 pieces, 24 are illustrated–mostly autographs and original artwork, plus a few books. While most of the exhibit represents primo Grahame material, Holmes fleshes this portrait out nicely by including some illustrators, authors, publishers and others closely associated with Grahame.

The chapter on Grahame’s first book, for instance, the 1893 Pagan Papers, features a fine Grahame postcard regarding the proof sheets for this book, the British limited edition of the book, a printed announcement for it and a letter from Grahame’s publisher William Ernest Henley. The chapter on his second book, The Golden Age (1895), contains two copies of the first English edition (one with a 1926 TLS from Grahame discussing it, the other with a presentation inscription from Grahame), an ALS from Grahame to the U.S. publisher discussing this book, the first English edition with Maxfield Parrish illustrations inscribed by the publisher to the poet A.C. Swinburne, the first edition with Ernest H. Shepard (of Winnie the Pooh fame) illustrations limited and signed by Grahame and Shepard, and a lovely Parrish ALS discussing the original Golden Age artwork.

And so it goes. Subsequent chapters, each featuring a modest number of choice and relevant items, cover every Grahame book (including A.A. Milne’s Toad of Toad Hall, a dramatization of The Wind in the Willows, and a chapter on books which Grahame edited or contributed to). Of course The Wind in the Willows, Grahame’s blockbuster, gets star treatment, triple in length and number of illustrations as the other chapters. There’s a letter from Constance Smedley, English feminist and writer, who prodded Grahame into writing his masterpiece, and a signed postcard photograph of Theodore Roosevelt, who urged Charles Scribner into taking Grahame’s manuscript seriously; a first U.S. edition, “One of a very small known number of inscribed copies”; a first English edition, inscribed by Grahame to his older sister; an ALS from the English publisher A.M.S. Methuen congratulating Grahame on the book; a lengthy ALS from Grahame thanking a reviewer of the book, and on and on. If you’re a Wind in the Willows fan, or simply appreciate nice literary material, it will take your breath away.

Not to sound like every infomercial, but—that’s not all! Then comes a truly killer assortment of original artwork by Shepard, Paul Bransom, Arthur Rackham.

Illustrations throughout are clear and sharp, though rarely printed at 100 percent actual size due to the book’s trim size. As a collection of Grahame exemplars for authentication and research purposes, this exhibition catalog cannot be beat and serious collectors should want it for that reason alone. David Holmes and the Grolier Club provide a real service to the autograph collecting community in sharing their appreciation and expertise of this rather neglected author.

For many years now I’ve had a lovely modern slipcased edition of The Wind in the Willows gracing my library. It’s in pristine condition—the cover’s never been cracked. Like so many, it was on my books-to-be-read-when-time-permits-(but rarely does)-list, those classic titles every educated person is expected to have read. Thanks to David Holmes first-rate collection and his ability to impart enthusiasm for Grahame, I’ll be pulling that volume off the shelf tonight.

African-American Political Figures

Featured in Autograph January 2009

Tom Bradley

Tom Bradley

Collecting African-American political figures has been one of my passions since I began collecting about 50 years ago. The scarcity of African-Americans elected to public office in America is almost criminal. Since post Civil War Reconstruction, fewer than 130 have been elected to Congress, and only five to the Senate. For collectors, this means a focused genre of autographs. A signature from any of the early African-American congressmen sell for several hundred dollars.

Hiram Revels and Blanche Bruce of Mississippi were two senators who served during Reconstruction. Revels was the first African-American to serve in the Senate and U.S. Congress, but his seat lasted only one year from 1870-71. Bruce was the first to serve a full term from 1875-1881. A former slave, Bruce returned to Mississippi after the war and became wealthy as a planter. After his time in the Senate, he became Register of the Treasury and the first African-American whose signature was depicted on currency.

The House of Representatives saw 21 Southern African-Americans serve during Reconstruction. Of them, Robert Smalls stands out from the rest and is considered a Civil War hero. Smalls stole the Confederate ship, The Planter, and ended the war as the first black captain of a U.S. vessel. Afterserving in Congress in the 1870s and ’80s, Smalls was U.S. Collector of Customs at Beaufort, S.C., from 1889-1911, an important public advocate for black voting and lived in the house of his former owner. Men such as Bruce and Smalls are more common autographs, but still expensive, as I have sold congressional letters for more than $500.

Post Reconstruction Congress

Thurgood Marshall

Thurgood Marshall

African-Americans lost their right to vote at the end of the 19th century. After the 1876 presidential election,  Democrat Samuel Tilden won the popular vote, but Republican Rutherford Hayes was given the presidency by a congressional commission, with the understanding Reconstruction would end. The fate of African-Americans was left to the same people who had held them in slavery and within several decades, African-Americans lost the majority of their rights, were subjected to violence by groups like the KKK and laws were enacted that took away their rights to vote. For a period from 1900-1930, almost no African-Americans served in a major office.

Ralph Bunche

Ralph Bunche

The next elected officials were from the North, due to the “Great Migration” of millions of African-Americans to the North, searching for jobs and escaping racism and violence. Several migrations occurred between 1910-1970, with people going to the big Northern industrial cities, then smaller cities and states like California. Republican Oscar de Priest was the first African-American elected to Congress in the 20th century, serving from 1929-1935 . Another African-American Republican wasn’t elected until Ed Brooke from Massachusetts went to the Senate in 1967 for two terms. Brooke was well known, accomplished a great deal and is an excellent signer.

Adam Clayton Powell

Adam Clayton Powell

Nearly all African-Americans elected to Congress after Oscar de Priest were Democrats. One of the most animated was Adam Clayton Powell Jr., a charismatic preacher from Harlem who was elected to the House of Representatives in 1945 and served until 1971. Although he helped pass civil rights issues, Powell is better known as a rogue who gained power and lived as he pleased, using committee funds for personal use. His signature sells starting at $50.

Other well known African-Americans from Congress include Shirley Chisholm, the first African-American woman in Congress and the first African-American to run for president; John Conyers, who served 43 years and is chairman of the House Judiciary Committee; and Yvonne Burke, the second woman in Congress and the first to have a child while in office. Ron Dellums and Parren Mitchell brought strong progressive agendas; Barbara Jordan had articulate brilliance; Andy Young, later U.N. Ambassador, and John Lewis were both heroes of the civil rights movement; and men like Charlie Rangel, Kweisi Mfume, Bill Gray and others stand out.

Ralph Metcalfe

Ralph Metcalfe

A particularly desirable autograph belongs to Illinois Representative Ralph Metcalfe, who served from 1971-78. Metcalfe has the additional title of medal winner from the 1932 and 1936 Olympics and is a member of the United States Track and Field Hall of Fame. His signature starts at $50.

After Ed Brooke, an African-American senator wasn’t elected until 1993 with Illinois Senator Carol Mosley Braun, who’s also the first African-American woman in the Senate. Braun made a short-lived run as a Democratic candidate in the 2004 presidential election. In 2005, Illinois Senator Barack Obama became the fifth African-American senator, and three years later made history when he was elected the 44th president.

State and City

Robert Weaver

Robert Weaver

Contributing to the growing number of African-Americans in politics, there have been a total of five black governors. P.B.S. Pinchback served as governor of Louisiana for 35 days, but it was Douglas Wilder who was the first elected governor when he won the 1990 Virginia race. He briefly ran for president in 1992 and went on to be the first directly elected mayor of the former Confederate capitol of Richmond. Deval Patrick was elected Governor of Massachusetts in 2006, the only other elected governor. New York has David Paterson, who came to office after being elected lieutenant governor and succeeding Eliot Spitzer.

On the city level, African-Americans have had their greatest success since Richard G. Hatcher became mayor of Gary, Ind., in January 1968 and Carl Stokes, mayor of Cleveland, who’s considered the first black mayor of a major American city. Tom Bradley, a longtime Los Angeles cop, became the first black mayor of Los Angeles and barely lost a race for governor, creating the so-called “Bradley effect,” heard throughout the 2008 campaign. David Dinkens is the only African-American elected mayor of New York City, and cities like Atlanta and Detroit have had a history of African-American mayors, like Detroit’s Coleman Young. All have a great reputation as autograph signers and most remain at very reasonable prices.

Notable Figures

John Conyers

John Conyers

Several individuals hold a special place in African-American political history who helped pave the way for those that followed. Thurgood Marshall, the brilliant lawyer for the NAACP in Brown v. Board of Education, was a great influence in government before becoming the first black Supreme Court justice. He commands one of the higher prices for modern blacks with a signature selling for $100 or more.

William Hastie and Robert Weaver both played important roles in the administrations of Roosevelt and Truman. Hastie was an advisor on racial affairs, the first black on the federal bench and a contender for the Supreme Court. Robert Weaver was an expert in housing affairs and a leader of the “Black Cabinet” from the 1940s. When the new Department of Housing and Urban Development was established, Weaver became the first secretary and the first African-American to serve in a Cabinet post. He was later followed by Patricia Roberts Harris, the first black woman in the Cabinet. Two other Cabinet officers, Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice, hold a special place in African-American politics. More than anyone, Powell could have possibly been the first black president, and Rice was rumored as a possible vice presidential candidate. These individuals fall into a higher price range of autographs, with Marshall around $100 or more for a signature, and the others all start at $50, depending on the item. Almost all have been excellent signers, although while in office, several extensively used Autopens.

Al Sharpton

Al Sharpton

Besides elected or appointed officials, there are other important political leaders. Julian Bond, a longtime civil rights leader was elected to the Georgia Legislature in 1966, but was thrown out for his opposition to the Vietnam War, an act overturned by the Supreme Court. After more than 20 years in the Georgia Legislature, he is currently chairman of the NAACP. Jesse Jackson, a minister and Martin Luther King aide who ran for president, has held a strong and controversial place in U.S. history. Al Sharpton is also seen in a similar light. He ran for president in 2004 and was one of the most articulate candidates. Jackson has used a secretary to sign autographs at various times, and Sharpton is hard to obtain, although neither bring huge amounts of money.

William Hastie

William Hastie

At a time when our country has made a tremendous shift by electing the first African-American president, now is an excellent time to start collecting these pioneers. Many are still alive and sign easily, and a number of the deceased leaders are still at prices that make them affordable. It’s an important aspect of U.S. history and a way to learn of fascinating individuals.

Edward R. Murrow

Featured in Autograph January 2009

Signed photo, courtesy R&R Enterprises.

When the Tonight Show host Jay Leno was asked why he collected cars, Leno philosophically replied that he was not collecting cars, but rather he was “collecting stories.” This belief is especially true for collectors of historical documents. We collect stories illustrated by autographs; the connection between a tangible piece of writing and the role it played in the world.

This year would be the 101 birthday of Edward R. Murrow. Murrow’s story is spellbinding. He was a trailblazer who set the standard for early radio and television news. His trajectory could not have been predicted as radio and television had not been invented at the time of his birth. But a fateful chain of events would lead Murrow to the pinnacle of these new professions.

Today’s world has been shaped by television news. Yet the early personalities of broadcast news have not received recognition equal to their contributions. One guess to explain this oversight is that we are exposed to re-runs of classic movies and vintage television shows, but we never see replays of pioneering television broadcasts. It’s far easier to remember Lucille Ball and John Wayne than it is to recall the likes of John Cameron Swayze or Douglas Edwards.

Murrow’s imprint was recently portrayed in George Clooney’s 2005 Academy Award-nominated film Good Night, and  Good Luck. The film spotlighted Murrow’s courageousness in his fight against the infamous Senator Joseph McCarthy. Murrow believed in the sanctity of journalistic truth, and his quest against the antics of McCarthy led to the senator’s decline in popularity.

Early Awareness

Egbert Roscoe Murrow was born on April 25, 1908 in Greensboro, N.C., and was raised with a strong Quaker upbringing. When he was 6, his family moved to the state of Washington, and Murrow later graduated from Washington State University in 1930 with a degree in speech. College was where he changed his name to his teenage nickname, “Ed.” After inspiring the National Student Federation of America with his 1929 speech on getting people interested in the events of the world, Murrow was elected president of NSFA.

In New York, as an assistant director of the Institute of International Education, Murrow helped coordinate student exchanges to the United States when Europe slowly took a turn toward turmoil. Through this experience Murrow honed his negotiation skills. And, his list of new friends and contacts soared as he traveled the United States and abroad.

Across the Airwaves

Signed photo, courtesy R&R Enterprises.

In 1935, the neophyte CBS Radio needed to fill its schedule with more programming and established a monthly program called University of the Air. Murrow worked as a booking agent for the program, getting guests like Albert Einstein through his cultivated list of contacts.

In a move to London two years later, Murrow served as CBS’s European Bureau, organizing cultural programs for the network. But the onslaught of World War II changed both Murrow’s role and life forever, inevitably influencing present day television news.

War has an uncanny way of compelling improvisation. When the Nazis marched into Vienna, Austria, in 1938, CBS sent Murrow to report, even though journalism was not his background. In his deep and distinctive voice, Murrow reported on events. His colleague, Richard C. Hottelet, described voice as having a “Churchillian cast.” Murrow had the natural instincts of a journalist, the curious mind that allowed him to probe with intelligent questions and the sensitivity to report on the misery suffered by the average person.

Murrow returned to London and soon gained fame as CBS’s correspondent there. His broadcasts became renowned for his introductory sentence, “This is London.” He reported from rooftops with air raid sirens in the background, rather than from the safety of bomb shelters. His reports were blunt and unreserved as he described the horrors of war.

As war spread, the demand for informing the public grew. Murrow was responsible for hiring a staff of accomplished newsmen, who later came to be known as “Murrow’s Boys.” This esteemed group of journalists included Eric Sevareid, Howard K. Smith, Charles Collingwood and Richard C. Hottelet—the last surviving member. I spoke with Hottelet, now 91 years old and living in Connecticut, who described Murrow as “A man of unyielding integrity who was driven by a sense of responsibility to provide information that he thought the public should have.”

Hottelet continued, “This was the solid core of what he did. And the people who worked for Murrow followed his example. It was not instruction in journalism that Murrow taught us, but ethics in the profession.”

The intensely private Murrow had reluctantly become a famous man. He went on to host the radio program Hear It Now, a news magazine-style program that reported current events. With the advent of television, the program morphed into See It Now. Murrow firmly believed that television should be used as a tool for the public good. He feared the new medium would become trivialized by banal entertainment. He also feared the influence of advertisers who might try to assert undue editorial influence.

The chain-smoking Murrow was a founding father of the celebrity interview format. As the mid-1950s host of Person to Person, Murrow interviewed a range of celebrities from Fidel Castro to Marlon Brando and Harry S. Truman. The program was atypical of Murrow’s usual serious nature. Some referred to the program as “Murrow light.”

In 1961 President John F. Kennedy appointed Murrow as director of the United States Information Agency. The USIA, which existed from 1953 to 1999, had the goal of influencing foreign audiences from the viewpoint of the United States. Murrow remained in this position until declining health forced him to resign. Murrow, a three-pack-a-day cigarette smoker, succumbed to lung cancer at age 57 on April 27, 1965.

Papers, Handwriting and Autographs

TLS showing Murrow’s signature with an extended w, courtesy Stuart Lutz.

Upon his death, the bulk of Murrow’s journalism-related papers were donated to Tufts University in Medford, Mass., by Murrow’s widow, Janet, and his son, Charles Casey. Murrow’s personal papers were donated to Janet’s alma mater at Mt. Holyoke College. There exists a small amount of Murrow’s papers with the National Archives, due to his service at the USIA, as well as some with CBS.

Susanne Belovari, the archivist for reference and collections at Tufts, told me that other than field notes, there is very little holographic material in the collection. From Murrow’s aesthetically-challenged handwriting, it seems Murrow was self-conscious about his penmanship and preferred the typewriter over his own scrawl.

Casey, Murrow’s only son who now resides in Vermont, informed me that after the donations, there are very little personal papers remaining—handwritten letters of his father’s are rare. In fact, when I asked Casey if he had any handwritten notes that he could share with me, he didn’t have any. According to Casey, what notes he did have from his father were typed and signed, “Dad.”

Casey believes that the typed letters that do exist were signed by Murrow himself. He did not know of any secretary who signed for his father. Murrow had no particular preference of a writing instrument either. He used whatever was conveniently available.

A TLS signed "Ed" with a paraph, courtesy R&R Enterprises.

A TLS signed "Ed" with a paraph, courtesy R&R Enterprises.

On the radio Murrow was a well-known, but invisible “voice.” Television demolished his anonymity. Casey recalls one incident walking with his father in New York City when a particular fellow grabbed his father and would not let go. The Murrow’s were stuck in the middle of a busy New York City intersection as the traffic light changed. He further recalls his father receiving many requests for his signatures from the mid-1950s until the end of his life. Murrow, according to Casey, would try to avoid such encounters, but still always complied. Murrow found the attention given to him “ridiculous,” but would tolerate it.

Murrow’s handwriting deteriorated even further as he aged, and so did his signature. Earlier Murrow signatures tend to have rounded M’s, which later acquired a sometime labored-squared look. I asked Casey about this particular change and he confirmed that he had noticed this change in his father’s signature as well. And the w at the end of his name often ends with a line extending out from the end of the w—he did not have an abrupt stop.

Many of his letters are signed “Ed.” Murrow signed with a highly stylized E. The E is often a squared block-style on the perimeter with a rounded E within it. The small d sometimes appears as though the upstroke was signed as a straight line downward, with a cupped loop on the bottom when he signed in a slower fashion. In the faster-appearing signed letters, he includes a paraph under “Ed.”

Autograph Value

Considering Murrow’s influence on broadcast history, his material can be had at moderate prices. Three ALS’s, regarding the impending war in Europe, were sold by Swann for $800 in March 2001. The price of his TLS’s will vary based on content. Letters relating to World War II, Joseph McCarthy or a scarce handwritten letter are considered of higher value. Signed photos of Murrow are common and can usually be had for a price of $200 and up. Signatures are not rare either, and can be purchased for under $100. With the variances in his signature, due to age and his lack of secretaries used to sign for him, Murrow’s autograph is a seemingly safe one to collect.

In early 2008, Tufts University held an exhibit of Murrow letters and memorabilia in honor of his 100th birthday. The Digital Collections and Archives at Tufts will soon post the exhibit online.

Murrow was a par-setting journalist who should not be forgotten. In the book, The Powers That Be, David Halberstam wrote that Murrow was “one of those rare legendary figures who was as good as his myth.”

Sidebar: Murrow’s Boys

A sub-genre collection to consider is the group of journalists Murrow hired, known as “Murrow’s Boys.” This group of pioneer broadcaster represents not only World War II history, but the transformation period from radio to television news. All can be obtained inexpensively and each have a great story to tell. Along with the last living member, Richard C. hottelet, other members of “Murrow’s Boys” included William L. Shirer, Eric Sevareid, Tom Grandin, Larry LeSueur, Charles Collingwood, Howard K. Smith, Winston Burdett, Bill Downs, Cecil Brown, and the first female broadcaster for CBS Radio Network, Mary Marvin Breckinridge.