Extremely Early 1881 Clarence Darrow Handwritten Letter with Legal Content

Sold For: $5,036

Auction Year: 2012 spring

Lot: 1425

Item Year: 1881

Category: Historical/Political

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Two-page handwritten letter (on each side of a single sheet of paper), dated May 2, 1881, signed by famed attorney Clarence Seward Darrow (1857-1938). This letter, written on Darrow's professional stationery, dates from just his second year as a practicing attorney in Andover, Ohio. While we cannot say for certain, this may be the earliest Darrow legal correspondence extant, as we have never seen another example dating prior to 1900. This extraordinary letter was penned by Darrow at the very start of his legal career, when he was practicing law in a tiny second-floor office (that was also his home) in Andover, Ohio, which was just a short distance from his hometown of Kinsman, Ohio. Darrow opened his Andover office in 1880, the same year in which he married, and practiced law there for three years before moving to Ashtabula, Ohio, in 1883. The ornate letterhead reads "C. S. Darrow/Attorney And Counselor At Law/Andover, O." Written in black fountain pen, in penmanship that is sometimes difficult to decipher, Darrow writes to a "Mr. Hyde" and asks for a continuance in a case on account of his having to stay home and take care of his sick wife. In part: "Dear Sir, I wrote to you at New Lyme this morning but I see by petitioner's dispatch that you are at Jeff. My wife was taken very sick and I did not dare leave her as I should be with her today...I will be obliged to get a few days continuance of the case. Will trust you see that no advantage is taken of Heath in my absence..." The letter is signed "C. S. Darrow," which is followed by the postscript "I see you are before the Grand Jury. C. S. D." Both Darrow's signature and initials after the postscript are boldly scripted, grading "10." The text displays minor brushing to the ink; otherwise grading "9" overall. The letter is accompanied by its original mailing envelope, which also bears Darrow's preprinted name, title, and address in the upper left. The envelope is addressed in Darrow's hand and reads "Nelson G. Hyde Atty./Case Sheriff/Jefferson, Ohio." Interestingly, this letter was accidentally discovered by our consignor on EBay, where it was offered in a large philatelic collection of covers. Obviously, the original seller was paying more attention to the stamps rather than the envelopes and their contents. Our consignor spied this envelope among the many pictured in the photo lot and purchased the collection strictly for this piece. When he received the collection he was doubly rewarded when he discovered that the Darrow envelope still contained its original letter. Clarence Darrow remains one of the most well-known attorneys in American history for his central role in some of the most famous court cases on record, including the trial of Leopold and Loeb in 1924 (dubbed the "Trial of the Century" at the time), and the "Scopes Monkey Trial" in 1925, in which he defended the teaching of the theory of evolution in Tennessee schools. The Scopes case was later played out on both stage and screen in the play Inherit the Wind . The letter (7.5 x 9.75 inches) displays one horizontal and two vertical mailing folds; otherwise in Near Mint condition. The envelope (6 x 3.5 inches) is in Very Good to Excellent condition. LOA from James Spence/JSA. Reserve $300. Estimate $500/$1,000. SOLD FOR $5,036

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