History In Ink®  Historical Autographs


1435607

Blanche K. Bruce

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Crisp signature of the first African-American

to serve a full term in the United States Senate

and to receive major party votes for national office

Blanche Kelso Bruce, 1841–1898.  United States Senator from Mississippi, 1875–1881.  Bold signature, B. K. Bruce, on a 4” x 5” piece of paper.

This is a nice, crisp signature of Bruce, the first African-American to serve a full term in the United States Senate and the first to receive votes for national office at a major partyʼs convention.  Bruce has signed in brown pen with a 2¼” signature.

Bruce was born into slavery in 1841.  His mother was a domestic slave to his father, a white Virginia planter.  Bruceʼs father emancipated him so that he could learn a trade.  Bruce taught school and attended Oberlin College in Ohio for two years before working as a steamboat porter on the Mississippi River.  In 1864, he moved to Hannibal, Missouri—which later would become famous as the home of Mark Twain—where he established a school for African-American children. 

Bruce moved to Mississippi during Reconstruction, bought a plantation, and became a wealthy landowner in the Mississippi delta.  He served in a succession of county offices before becoming the sergeant-at-arms for the Mississippi Senate in 1870.  Four years later, the Mississippi legislature elected him to the United States Senate as a Republican.  He was the second African-American to serve in the Senate, behind his fellow Mississippian Hiram Rhodes Revels, who served out an unexpired vacant term that resulted from Mississippiʼs secession at the start of the Civil War.  Bruce was the first African-American to serve a full term in the Senate.

In 1880, at the Republican National Convention in Chicago, Bruce received eight votes for vice president as the running mate of Maine Senator and presidential candidate James G. Blaine.  Bruce thus became the first African-American to receive votes for national office at major partyʼs nominating convention, although the presidential and vice presidential nominations went to James A. Garfield and Chester A. Arthur.

Since Bruce was not reelected to the Senate, President Garfield appointed him to be the Register of the Treasury in 1881, making Bruce also the first African-American to have his signature featured on American currency.  Bruce later served in a number of offices, including the District of Columbia Recorder of Deeds, the District of Columbia Board of Trustees of Public Schools, and again as the Register of the Treasury, which he held from his appointment by President William McKinley in 1897 until his death in 1898.

This vintage piece is in fine condition.  There is a note in another hand at the bottom that reads “(U.S. Senator / Miss.)” and “(Colored).”  Bruce himself was said to dislike the term “colored,” often insisting instead that “I am a Negro and proud of it.”  Nevertheless the term was commonly used when this piece was signed.  The piece is irregularly trimmed, and it has one horizontal fold, pin holes in the upper blank margin, and a bend at the upper right, none of which affects the signature. 

Unframed.

 

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$125.00

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