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George Kennan

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Bold dated sentiment and signature of the noted Russian explorer

George Kennan, 1845–1924.  American explorer and journalist.  Autographed Sentiment Signed, Sincerely Yours / George Kennan, one page, 5” x 8”, with integral leaf attached, [no place], and dated in Kennan’s hand April 8, 1895. 

Kennan was noted for his travels in the Kamchatka and Caucasus regions of the Russian Empire.  He went to work for the Russian American Telegraph Company in 1864 to survey a route for a proposed overland telegraph line through Siberia and across the Bering Strait.  After two years in Kamchatka, he returned to St. Petersburg, where he became a well-known lecturer and author.  His book, Tent Life in Siberia, provided information about many of the native people of Sibera, including the Koraks, Kamchatdal, Chookchees, Yookaghirs, Chooances, Yakoots, and Gakouts, that are important yet today.  In 1870, he became the first American to explore the highlands of Dagestan, a remote Muslim region of herders, silversmiths, carpet weavers, and other craftsmen in the northern Caucasus region.

He returned to Russia in 1885 and soon became an outspoken critic of the Russian aristocracy.  He opposed the Tsarist government, was expelled from Russia, and spent the next 20 years promoting the cause of a Russian revolution.  He became the most prominent member of the Society of Friends of Russian Freedom, whose members also included Mark Twain and Julia Ward Howe.  He helped to found Free Russia, the first English language anti-Tsarist journal.  Kennan nevertheless vehemently opposed the October Revolution because he believed that the resulting Soviet government lacked the “knowledge, experience, or education to deal successfully with the tremendous problems that have come up for solutions since the overthrow of the Tsar,” and he criticized President Woodrow Wilson for being too timid in intervening against Bolshevism.

Kennan obtained a position with the Associated Press in Washington, D.C., in 1878.  As a war correspondent, he traveled to many areas of world conflict and covered events such as the Spanish-American War, the assassination of President William McKinley, the Russo-Japanese War, World War I, and the Russian Revolution.

This item comes from a large collection of letters, notes, and signatures assembled by a professor of penmanship at the State Normal School at Emporia, Kansas, now Emporia State University, who had his students write to request a handwritten letter expressing a reminiscence, a favorite sentiment, or a word of advice to be included in albums devoted to prominent men and women.  Kennan sent only this short, dated sentiment.

Kennan’s autograph is in fine condition.  There are some stained areas below, but not touching, the signature.  The integral leaf has mounting traces and an archivally repaired tear and slight paper loss at the top from where the piece was removed from the album.  The defects do not affect the front sheet that Kennan has signed.




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