I began collecting autographs at the ripe old age of 6.  My father would take me to Wrigley Field – home of the (then) hapless Chicago Cubs.  He would settle into his grandstand seat with a hot dog and a beer and I would gallop down the concrete steps to troll for autographs from the likes of Hank Sauer (see post of August 2, 2011).   Then things got serious. 

After buying and reselling the entire archives of the Chicago Rock Island Railroad (a 10 story building with 100,000 square feet of history) (see June 18, 2017), I began buying and selling autograph material.  For nearly 40 years, I published catalogs and listings of manuscript material.  And rare books.  Back in the day, when auction bids had no minimums, I might bid on a hundred items — and win five or ten.  At five to ten bucks each.  Then I’d arbitrage them.  Quickly. . . . 

Personally, I collect original handwritten letters and documents of Justices of the United States Supreme Court.   And have one of three collections in private hands.  

One of the great resources for collectors of history in its handwritten form is The Manuscript Society — .  I became President in 2002 – in Dublin and Belfast, NI.  I was invited to speak at Stormont – the NI Parliament (and sat in Ian Paisley’s seat).  The Manuscript Society is definitely worth the price of admission ($85.00 a year).  If you have an interest in history, manuscripts, genealogy or antiquarian curiosities, check it out.  You will not be disappointed.      

The Doyle Family

Do you know someone with the last name “Doyle”?  They may think they’re Irish.  But. . . .

In my post of December 16, 2011, I spoke of the Viking era (790 A.D. – 1066 A.D.).  And I mentioned that the Vikings who raided – and remained behind in — Ireland (usually because they had met a young lady) – were given the name “Doyle” which is from the Celtic Ó Dubhghaill, which means “son of the dark (or evil) foreigner.”  This is the name that indigenous Celts called Danish Vikings who started settling in Ireland and Scotland beginning in the 9th Century. 

Researchers in Ireland have distinguished two separate groups among the Viking raiders in Ireland.  The Lochlainn were the Norwegians who were described as “fair.”  The Danair were Danes who were described as “dark” because they wore chain-mail armor.  Beginning in 830 A.D., the Norwegians began sporadic raiding of the British Isles.  In 852 A.D., the Danish Vikings took control of Dublin and founded the Danish Kingdom of Dublin which continued for 300 years until the coming of the Anglo-Normans.  As might be expected over the course of occupation, the Vikings were absorbed into the social, religious and political life of Ireland.  They adopted the language and customs.  And they intermarried.  And it was those Danish Vikings who remained behind when their brethren left who were given the name “Ó Dubhghaill” or “Dubh-Ghaill.”  Or “Doyle” for those who want the translation.  The names McDowall, McDowell, McDuggal, Dowell, and McDougal all have a relationship to the Dubh-Ghaill – Doyle – family.  So you know someone named “Doyle”. . . . ? 


Bobby Jones

Robert Tyre “Bobby” Jones (1902-1971) was one of the greatest golfers of all time.  During the 1920’s, Jones won 13 major championships  including golf’s coveted “Grand Slam.”  Jones was also an attorney (which still gives me some faint hope that I con combine my day job with my favorite sport). 

During the crucial opening round of the 1925 U.S. Open, Jones was addressing his ball, getting ready to hit.  Suddenly, he stepped back and called a penalty/stroke on himself because he had seen his ball move.  In golf, if you address the ball and it moves, it counts as a stroke.  No one but Jones had seen the ball move, but he still insisted on taking the added stroke.  Jones went on to lose the tournament — by one stroke.  When he was praised for his honesty, Jones responded testily “you might as well praise someone for not robbing a bank.” 

Integrity has its own rewards which can be quite personal (since our reputations live long beyond our days).  I find vignettes like this inspiring since they demonstrate the character that we can all (even politicians) aspire to.   And achieve.  

The “Lady be Good”

[A repeat from September 15, 2016]  I’m not talking about the 1924 Broadway show that featured music and lyrics by George and Ira Gershwin. I’m talking about a B-24D Liberator that vanished after a bombing run over Naples during World War II. That fateful day was April 4, 1943.

When I was a kid, my parents subscribed to LIFE Magazine – the weekly news journal that was published from 1883 to 1972.  I couldn’t wait to get my hands on LIFE when it walked in the door.  Simple kid that I was – I loved the pictures.  And the armchair adventure.  And I remember with clarity a day in 1960 when I learned that a mysterious B-24 Liberator that had been spotted a year before deep in the Sahara had been identified as the Lady Be Good.

The Lady Be Good on that early April day – was staffed by a newbie crew of nine – just one week off the boat.  Their first mission was a big one.  A night bombing run over Naples harbor.  The Lady Be Good took off with 25 other bombers from Soluch Field in Libya.  Near Benghazi.  Most of the bombers returned to base within a few hours — because of high winds.  But the noble Lady pressed on.  And ended up dumping her bombs in the Med.  And the Lady with its nine souls – began the return trip – alone.  In the black of night, the plane overflew the base and continued on.  Deep into the Libyan Desert.   The pilot believed the desert below was the ocean.  So they continued.  Until they ran out of fuel.  And the crew bailed out. . . . . .

In February 1960, the U.S. Army visited the plane and conducted a formal search for the remains of the crew.  Eight of the nine were found.  And in August 1994 the remnants of the plane were removed from the site.  Only one member of the crew – S/Sgt. Vernon L. Moore of New Boston, Ohio – was never found.  His body still rests – where it fell – 73 years ago. . . . .  

Anna Pavlova

Anna Pavlova was born on January 31, 1881, in St. Petersburg, Russia. She was born prematurely and was subject to various illness during her short life. Anna’s passion for ballet was ignited when her mother took her to a performance of “The Sleeping Beauty” at the Imperial Maryinsky Theater. When she was nine, her mother took Anna to audition for the Imperial Ballet School. At first rejected, she was accepted at the age of ten — and her career took off. . . . .

Anna became a principal artist of the Imperial Russian Ballet.  She is most recognized for her creation of the role of “The Dying Swan.”  She toured the world with her unique – amazing – grace and style.  But on one gray day – while traveling from Paris to The Hague, Anna became ill – and was diagnosed with pneumonia.  A few days later – on January 23, 1931 – she died of pleurisy.  She was to have performed a few days later.  Yet the show went on. . . . 

In accord with old ballet tradition, the show proceeded — with a single spotlight that played across the stage in the spaces that Anna would have graced.  Those who attended could visualize the great Anna Pavlova – dancing with the soft strains of the music.  And when the performance ended, the audience offered a standing ovation. 

Anna’s last words were reported to have been “Get my ‘Swan’ costume ready.”   One of her great quotes “No one can arrive from being talented alone.  Work transforms talent into genius.”  That’s a bit like Thomas Edison’s suggestion that “genius is 99% perspiration and 1% inspiration.”  Not bad counsel . . . .   

Music Videos

[A fun repeat from January 5, 2014]  I play guitar.  And I love the Blues (see post of April 20, 2012).  I also do okay with drums –learned from my old friend Paul S. of the “Shadows of Knight” (I went to high school with the original Shadows).  I’ll occasionally sit at the computer and play along with music videos or downloads.  And sing.  You could sell seats for that. . . . 

Do you ever log on to music videos? Some of the best I’ve seen – old and new – with millions of “listens” – are the following.  Oh come ON.  Check it out.  At least, click on the link to Little Richard.  And  
Spencer Davis – “Gimme some Lovin'” –  (1966 – really good stuff)

“Rock Me Baby” – (the original was taken down – now see BB King)  

Little Richard  – “Good Golly Miss Molly” –  (You will smile)

Jerry Lee Lewis – “Great Balls of Fire” –  (for a 3 piece group – an amazing presentation)

Billy Lee Riley – “My Gal is Red Hot” –      Corny but. . . . .

Kenny Chesney – “She Thinks my Tractor’s Sexy” – (there are several iterations of the video.  This is a good one.  Great for boot scootin’)

Michael Jackson – “Thriller” – (best music video of the ’80’s.  I miss MJ’s creativity)

Lady Gaga (Yeah – Lady Gaga) – “Poker Face” –  (Whoa!  Nearly 700 million hits!)

I tell Donna I should get my old group back together (“Scott and the Bookends” – two girls and me – a/k/a the “Corydon Trio’).  But Donna responds “Don’t quit the day job, Elvis.”  (Sigh)  Wait a minute. . . . maybe Lady Gaga needs a backup guitarist. . . . .

A Lost Dog

I’ve collected historical autographs and manuscripts since I was a kid.  I acquired the entire 100,000 square feet of archives of the Chicago Rock Island Railroad when the “line” went out of business (see May 15, 2014).  And for perhaps 30 years, I published catalogs and listings of autograph material.  In 2002, I became President of The Manuscript Society – – in Belfast, Northern Ireland (see November 13, 2011).  I have seen and sold my share of wonderful manuscripts, letters and documents.   

There’s one item I’ve kept.  For a long time.   It’s not that “special” nor is it valuable.  It’s a cursive scribbling on a 4-1/2″ x 7-1/2″ blue-tinged sheet of paper from a little boy to people in the town of Lyman, Maine:  “Lost – In this village a small spoted (sic) dog.  With red ears and a red string around the neck.   Whoever will return or give information of the same shall be suitably rewarded.”  It is signed “Nathaniel Hill, Lyman.”  The letter is dated “January 19th 1854.”     

I look at this letter and wonder — did Nathaniel got his little dog back?  I sure hope he did . . . . .