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Harlan Fiske Stone

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Stone, likely as Chief Justice, signs his autograph

with the note “Yours for Victory,” a very unusual comment for a Justice

Harlan Fiske Stone, 1872–1946.  Associate Justice, United States Supreme Court, 1925–1941; Chief Justice of the United States, 1941–1946.  Bold signature and sentiment, Yours for Victory / Harlan F. Stone.

In an obvious nod to American participation in World War II, Stone has written “Yours for Victory” and signed beneath the sentiment.  Since Stone became Chief Justice on July 3, 1941, five months before Japan attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, and the United States enter the war the next day, Stone almost certainly has signed this as Chief Justice.

This is a very unusual item for a Justice.  Patriotism aside, Supreme Court Justices usually assiduously avoid statements and actions that might give the appearance of partisanship with respect to issues that might later come before the Court.  Stone indeed wrote the Court’s opinion in Ex parte Quirin, 317 U.S. 1 (1942), which upheld the President’s power to try Nazi saboteurs captured on American soil before military tribunals rather than in the civil courts.  One might reasonably argue that Stone’s comment here, patriotic as it was, nevertheless indicated a prejudice against Nazi Germans such that Stone should have recused in that case, although when it appeared that Stone’s son, a military lawyer, had assisted in the defense of the accused in an unrelated proceeding, both sides nevertheless urged Stone to participate in the case. 

The scarcity of comments like this by Supreme Court Justices makes this a desirable piece.  Stone has written—very legibly for Stone, too—and signed in black fountain pen on lined paper that has been irregularly trimmed and tipped to a 2½” x 4½” card.  The card, which obviously was part of an autograph collection, has a note on paper tipped to the back referring in another hand to Spain’s General Francisco Franco.  The piece is in fine condition.


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