The Ultimate Abraham Lincoln Cut Signature with Direct Provenance from His Son - Robert T. Lincoln!

Sold For: $5,333

Auction Year: 2012 spring

Lot: 1413

Item Year: 1880

Category: Historical/Political

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This cut signature of Abraham Lincoln, sixteenth President of the United States, enjoys the extraordinary provenance of having originated directly from his son Robert T. Lincoln, who used the cut as a comparison to another “A. Lincoln” signature that he was asked to authenticate. The offered cut, taken from a bank check, is beautifully signed “A. Lincoln” in black ink and has been matted and framed together with a Mathew Brady CDV of Lincoln, an 1849 one-dollar bill issued by the State Bank of Illinois bearing the signature of the cashier "A Lincoln" (a namesake), and a portion of a vintage 1897 newspaper article that references both the offered cut and one-dollar bill. Accompanying the framed display are three signed letters from Robert Lincoln (two handwritten, the other in a secretary’s hand) to an early autograph collector in 1880 (all written on “Ishalm & Lincoln, Counselors” letterhead) which place the relationship of the offered items in their proper historical perspective.

In each of his letters Lincoln writes to Henry C. Hines, Esq., an autograph collector who was seeking help in authenticating the signature of Robert’s father, Abraham Lincoln, on an 1849 one-dollar bill issued by the State Bank of Illinois. The signature “A. Lincoln,” as cashier of the bank, appears in black ink along the base of the bill. Hines first wrote to Robert Lincoln on August 26, 1880, and on September 1st, he received his first reply. In part: “I do not remember that I ever heard that my father was at any time an officer of the old 'State Bank of Illinois. . . . If you care to take the trouble of sending the bill to me, I could doubtless tell whether the signature is his.” Hines complied with the request and sent the bill for examination, which prompted Lincoln’s second letter on September 10th. In part: "The signature in question very much resembles my father's writing; the letter 'L' seems to be characteristic. I send you a signature for comparison- I am curious about the matter & have written to an old friend of his to ask if he has any recollection on the subject. . . . P. S. I return the bill.” What is most interesting is that Robert Lincoln found the signature on the bill to “resemble my father’s writing,” as even a cursory examination of it and the authentic Lincoln signature he provided show that the signatures were clearly written in a different hand. Nevertheless, his third letter to Hines, on October 4th, clearly laid the matter to rest by means of empirical evidence. In part: "I have received a letter from an old friend of my father, Major Stuart of Springfield. . . . [who] writes to me that my father never was cashier of the State bank, nor had any connection with it; that is his own recollection and confirmed by Mr. Ridgley, an old banker now living in Springfield, and who was the cashier of the bank. Major Stuart says the signature beyond all question is fictitious. The matter is curious and I do not know how to explain it.” Actually, the signature was probably not “fictitious,” but simply the case of a signature of another person named “A. Lincoln” being confused with that of President Lincoln (a common problem for Lincoln, just as it is for other famous historical figures with common names, such as John Adams).

Luckily, for Hines, his inquiry not only led to a definitive answer regarding the authenticity of his signature, but also allowed him to acquire, free of charge, an authentic Lincoln signature directly from Lincoln's son, Robert Lincoln! As noted earlier, displayed together in the frame with both the authentic Lincoln signature and the one-dollar bill is a portion of a vintage 1897 newspaper clipping chronicling the story of Hines’ one dollar bill and his correspondence with Robert Lincoln. Incredibly, the story does not end there. All of the material offered here resurfaces in 1948 in the pages of the June issue of the The Collector – A Magazine for Autograph and Historical Collectors , which was in essence a sales catalog published by Walter Benjamin Autographs. Once again, the entire story is retold, with Walter Benjamin Autographs offering all of the material for sale at a price of $65. As noted on the accompanying original Walter Benjamin receipt for the items, this collection of material was purchased by Mr. H. E. Luhrs of the Lincoln Library in Shippensburg, Pennsylvania. Luhrs, who was a legendary collector of manuscripts, particularly those of Lincoln, helped found the Shippensburg Public Library, the Lincoln Fellowship of Pennsylvania, and the Shippensburg Historical Society. All of the material offered here was originally sold, along with a vast number of additional items from Luhr’s personal collection, at public auction in 2007, where it sold for $4,481. The small Lincoln cut (1.75 x .5 inches) is in Excellent condition and has been affixed to a cardboard backing. The one-dollar bill (7 x 3 inches) appears to be trimmed and is affixed to the mount (Vg), while the Brady CDV (visible dimensions of 2 x 3.25 inches) displays a horizontal crease (Vg). Total framed dimensions of 14.75 x 10.5 inches. The accompanying three Robert Lincoln letters and the Walter Benjamin documents (including the 1948 Walter Benjamin sales catalog and original mailing envelope for the material) are in Excellent condition overall, with the exception of the October 4th Robert Lincoln letter (tape repair on the reverse to tears along all of the fold lines). LOA from James Spence/JSA. Reserve $1,000. Estimate $3,000+. SOLD FOR $5,333

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