Postal History and Presidential Autographs

Postal History and Presidential Autographs
By Sam Paige

A former president of the U.S. Philatelic Classics Society and recipient of the APS John N. Luff Award, the late Creighton Hart forged his name in American philately with a monumental study of the U.S. 1847 issue and its usages. But the late Mr. Hart’s greatest love was his pursuit of the autographs of American Presidents (and their wives, too) on pieces that had a philatelic relation. Whether it was a free frank of our first President, or a bank check signed by Chester Arthur, all were items included in the Hart collection.

Creighton Hart was also an inveterate greeting card designer—who would use gems from his collectionas as focal points for Christmas cards, missives looked forward to by his many friends each holiday season.

Personally, I like the fact that such presidential autographs are still available and at prices that, though not cheap, are within the range of many of us especially philatelists looking for a nice place to put their money with an eye to appreciation. We were impressed recently with the realizations at Robert A. Siegel’s December auction where Presidential autographs brought prices that made good sense.

Take, for instance, the George Washington free franked folded letter shown here. Its realization was $4,500, and in my opinion, something well worth purchasing and holding onto for the future. Remember folks, the number of Washington free franked letters will never expand to meet future demand. That price is excellent in comparison to the item’s great rarity.

But the one I really, really like is the signature of Andrew Jackson, our seventh President, on the promissory note of Jackson’s nephew. This item bears a rare embossed revenue stamp that is pointed to by the red arrow. Its enchantment lies in its relationship to Jackson’s wife, Rachel—a woman much wrongly maligned and about whom movies have been made! It realized $700, not a princely sum, but one within the reach of many collectors.

For $550, the high bidder picked up the colorful bank check signed by William McKinley—and which was signed by him while he was President (that’s sometimes very hard to accomplish with some Presidents). The two-cent Battleship revenue stamp makes this very philatelically desirable.

On rare occasions, we have seen a philatelic exhibit of philatelically-related Presidential autographs. Most such signatures are not out of sight, monetarily, but a several are: the chief rarity being the signature of William Henry Harrison who was President for exactly one month in 1841. Also the first President to fie in office, his signature as President is very rare.