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.      

Don’t You Like Our Looks?

Some years ago, Donna and I were in Galway with some friends. We decided to go exploring with another couple.  We reconnoitered the town and saw a pub called the “Quays” (pronounced “Keys”).  It was night.  Raining.  The place was off the beaten path.  Donna and I and our friend Ivo and his wife walked in. The pub was dark and filled with smoke.  Big men.  Heavy.  Bellied up to the bar.  Beards.  Black leather jackets.  Noise.   Many of the occupants turned to give us the eye.  Have you ever been somewhere and gotten that feeling you just don’t belong there?  Once inside, we looked around and we all got that feeling.   

As we moved toward the door, a loud voice from a corner booth holding about 8 people caught our attention “what’s the matter?  Don’t ya like our looks?”  Ivo and I looked at each other and I – respectfully – pointed out that the place was “very crowded” and there was no room for us to sit.  The chap who’d called us out started to move – “sit here.  We’ll make room for ya.”   And people began moving.  Shifting.  All watching us.  I looked at my friend.  He raised his eyebrows like “let’s see where this goes.”  And we moved into the group – squishing ourselves into corner seats. 

They were curious about where we were from (Chicago/Edgartown, MA), why we were there (a meeting) and where all we were going (we detailed).  They bought us drinks.  More drinks.  And refused our offer of reciprocity.  After an hour or so, Morris – the chap who’d called out to us – invited us to join him and some of the others at another pub.  The Tribesman.  Where he was playing a horsehide drum in an Irish band.   At that point, how could we say no?   We walked a few blocks.  The Tribesman was packed.  Morris shooed people away as he pushed his way to the small alcove stage with us in tow.  He set two small stools right in front of the band.  Donna and I sat.  Listened.  Enchanted.  Then we traded seats with our friends who’d been standing in the back.  It turned out to be one of the most memorable evenings I’ve had.  It could’ve all turned out verrry differently if we’d said “gosh thanks anyway.”   And left.