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Julia Ward Howe

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Signature of the writer of

the Battle Hymn of the Republic

Julia Ward Howe, 1819–1910.  American abolitionist, social activist, and poet.  Signature, Julia Ward Howe, and date, July 1910, on a 3⅛" x 2⅛" card.

Howe wrote The Battle Hymn of the Republic, which became the Unionʼs battle song during the Civil War, to the tune of a military camp song, John Brownʼs Body.  Members of the Massachusetts militiaʼs Second Infantry Battalion had concocted John Brownʼs Body to tease one of their fellow soldiers, who shared the same name as the Northern abolitionist who was hanged for attempting to seize the federal arsenal at Harperʼs Ferry, Virginia, now West Virginia, in 1859.  In November 1861, Howe and her husband, Samuel Gridley Howe, who were active in the abolition movement and strong supports of he Union, visited Washington, D.C., and met with President Abraham Lincoln.  Howe heard the song sung on November 18 during a public review of troops outside of Washington, where her friend and fellow abolitionist James Freeman Clarke suggested that she compose new words for the song.  She did, composing the lyrics as she laid in bed near daylight at the Willard Hotel.  She later recalled:

I went to bed that night as usual, and slept, according to my wont, quite soundly.  I awoke in the gray of the morning twilight; and as I lay waiting for the dawn, the long lines of the desired poem began to twine themselves in my mind. Having thought out all the stanzas, I said to myself, 'I must get up and write these verses down, lest I fall asleep again and forget them.'  So, with a sudden effort, I sprang out of bed, and found in the dimness an old stump of a pen which I remembered to have used the day before.  I scrawled the verses almost without looking at the paper.

Howe submitted the song to the Atlantic Monthly, which published it on its front page in February 1862. 

Howe has signed this card in black fountain pen.  There are mounting remnants on three corners and a faint paper clip stain at the left, affecting one letter of the date.  Overall the piece is in fine condition. 

This card comes with a 5" x 7" bookweight lithograph portrait of Howe in old age and an engraved brass identification plate for using in framing the signature.



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