1871 Alexander Cartwright "Letter Book"

Sold For: $588

Auction Year: 2010 spring

Lot: 976

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Original Alexander Cartwright two-page handwritten and signed "letter book" document, dated April 9, 1874. After helping formulate the modern rules of baseball in 1845, Alexander Cartwright left New York City and headed West to strike it rich in the California Gold Rush. Failing to hit "pay dirt," he traveled on to Honolulu, Hawaii, where his fortunes quickly improved. Within two years he opened his own firm as a whaling and commission merchant. The business soon expanded to include matters of banking, handling of trust estates, insurance, and real estate. Cartwright's good standing in the community also led to his friendship with the royal family of Hawaii, which resulted in Cartwright becoming the family's business manager. His firm, Cartwright and Company Ltd., which survives to this day, continued to manage the family's estate even after his death. Because of his numerous business and legal dealings, Cartwright was often in need of copies of his many documents. Living in an era devoid of copy machines and other modern conveniences, this could be achieved in one of three manners. The first would be to write each document twice. The second would be to hire someone to transcribe each document. The third, and the one that he adopted, was to cover each newly written business document (while the ink was still wet) with a very thin piece of onionskin paper. In just a short time the porous onionskin paper would absorb the ink and leave him with a copy of the original. The offered letter is exactly that: an original "letter book" copy. These are often sold simply as Cartwright handwritten letters, but, as noted, that is not technically correct. These letter-book documents have great merit to autograph collectors but should sell for a discount to the original from which the letter-book copy is made. While Cartwright's handwriting is sometimes difficult to decipher, based on what is easily read we know that it concerns an issue regarding the lease and use of land owned by Queen Emma of Hawaii. This document originates from the famed Barry Halper Collection. Halper long ago purchased Cartwright's entire library of letter-book documents directly from the Cartwright family. Each of the two pages (8 x 10.5 inches) of the document displays a few minor flaws associated with its age and fragile nature, and is in Excellent condition overall. LOA from James Spence/JSA. Reserve $100. Estimate $200/$300. SOLD FOR $588


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