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Charles Curtis

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In a rare handwritten letter,

the future Vice President cordially sends his holograph and signature

Charles Curtis, 1860–1936.  31st Vice President of the United States, 1929–1933; United States Senator and Representative from Kansas.  Autograph Letter Signed, Charles Curtis, one page, 6” x 7½”, on stationery of the Committee on Foreign Affairs, House of Representatives U.S., Washington, D.C., January 22, 1895.

This appears to be a rare item.  Our research has not found any other handwritten letters by Curtis that have been sold at auction, although we found several typed letters.  In this one, Curtis sends a courteous reply to a student who sought a handwritten letter from him.  He writes, in full:  “Replying to your letter of January 15th I gladly send you a few lines with my signature.”

Curtis, then a United States Representative from Kansas, replied to a penmanship student at the State Normal School in Emporia, Kansas, now Emporia State University, for a holograph sentiment, reminiscence, or word of advice to be included in albums devoted to the handwriting of prominent people.  The penmanship professor compiled the responses to his students’ letters into several albums, which we acquired.  This piece therefore has never been offered on the autograph market before.

Interestingly, Curtis has penned this letter on stationery of a committee of which he evidently was not a member.  The list of members of the Committee on Foreign Affairs printed at the left side of the letterhead does not include Curtis’s name.  Our research discloses that as a member of the House of Representatives, Curtis served on the prestigious and powerful Ways and Means Committee and on the Commitee on Indian Affairs and Public Lands.

The Republican Curtis served in the House of Representatives 1893–1907 before the Kansas legislature chose him for the United States Senate in the days before the direct election of Senators.  He served one term in the Senate, 1907–1913, before the Kansas legislature became Democratic and did not reelect him.  Once the Constitution was amended to provide for direct election of Senators, Curtis ran for and won the other Kansas Senate seat in 1915, a position that he held until he resigned to accept the vice presidency in 1929.  He held leadership positions in the Senate.

Initially opposed to Herbert Hoover’s candidacy, the staunchly conservative Republican Party regular Curtis nevertheless accepted the vice presidential nomination with Hoover in 1928.  Hoover and Curtis defeated Democrats Alfred E. Smith and Joseph T. Robinson by a landslide electoral vote of 444–87.  Four years later, in the depths of the Great Depression, Hoover and Curtis carried only six states and lost in a landslide to Democrat Franklin D. Roosevelt and John Nance Garner.

Curtis was the first Native American and the only native Kansan to hold the nation’s second highest office.  

This letter is in fine condition.  Curtis has written and signed it in black fountain pen.  There is some brushing to three of the letters in Curtis’s signature and to a couple of other letters in the text.  The letter has crossing folds, neither of which affects the signature, and there area couple of small stains, mounting remnants on the back, and a small collector’s pencil notation in a blank area in the lower left corner.


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