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Herbert Hoover

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“Don’t go bumming around Europe while the coal supply is cut off & catch cold.”

Herbert Clark Hoover, 1874–1964.  31st President of the United States, 1929–1933.  Autograph letter signed, with rare form of his signature, H Hoover, two pages, 5¾” x 7¾”, on plain stationery, no date, no place.

Hoover rarely wrote holograph letters.  In 1932, complying with the request of an autograph collector for a handwritten letter, he wrote that “I do not write more than one letter per annum with my own hand.”  Another time he said that he probably had not written more than a dozen in his lifetime,  His estimate was off, but nevertheless his handwritten letters are the scarcest of any President.  The records of American Book Prices Current showed only 25 of them, including this one, sold at auction since 1975.

In this letter, Hoover writes a friend about to depart for Europe.  In full:  “My dear Friend–  /  I am sorry not to see you again before you go abroad–  /  I am always indebted to you for those kindnesses of life that makes [sic] this life worth while [sic].  /  Don’t go bumming around Europe while the coal supply is cut off & catch cold.”

This letter also bears a rare form of Hoover’s signature.  Hoover signed “H. C. Hoover” early in his career, until about 1915.  He then dropped the initials, which had been fashionable around the turn of the century, and thenceforth usually signed “Herbert Hoover.”  Occasionally we have seen items signed “Hoover” or “H. H.,” but this is the first piece that we have ever seen with the signature “H Hoover.”  There may be others, but in our experience this form of his signature is rare.

The records of American Book Prices Current suggested that Hoover wrote this letter circa 1923.  While the recipient is unnamed, we understand that Hoover wrote it to newspaper publisher Melville Elijah Stone.  If so, the letter certainly predates Hoover’s presidency.  Stone died February 15, 1929, a little more than two weeks before Hoover assumed office on March 4, 1929. 

In 1871, at age 23, Stone became the managing editor of the Chicago Republican.  He founded the Chicago Daily News in 1876 and the Chicago Morning News, later renamed the Chicago Record, in 1881.  In 1893, he became the general manager of the Associated Press, which he led through its reorganization until his retirement in 1921.  He published his autobiography, Fifty Years A Journalist, in 1921.  The Atlantic Monthly noted in a review of his book that Stone was not “merely a witness” of the advance in the efficiency and ethics of American journalism but had been “one of its leaders” and had “done as much as any single man to establish those standards of accurate reporting, lightning distribution, and impartial presentation of the news.”

When Stone died, Hoover said:

The passing of Melville Stone subtracts from American life a great citizen and a great public servant.

No one has made greater contribution to the best of American journalism than he.  No one has been a more constant or more able friend of every good purpose in American life.  Thousands have enjoyed his personal friendship and have known his helpfulness.  I deeply grieve his loss. 

Hoover has penned this letter in black fountain pen, and his writing is dark and crisp throughout.  The letter has one vertical fold, which creates the the integral leaf on the back of which Hoover wrote the second page of the letter, and one horizontal fold that touches text but not Hoover’s signature.  The paper has scattered wrinkling and soiling.  Overall the piece is in fine condition.



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