History In Ink®  Historical Autographs


Chester A. Arthur

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Beautiful signed Executive Mansion vignette card

Chester Alan Arthur, 18291886.  21st President of the United States, 18811885.  3⅝” x 4½” Executive Mansion vignette boldly signed, Chester A. Arthur.

President Arthur introduced this style of engraved Executive Mansion vignette card that he used as an alternative to typical Executive Mansion cards for signing autographs for select collectors.  He has signed this one with his typical bold, flamboyant signature.  The signature is 3⅞” long.

Arthur’s autograph material is the scarcest of the post-Civil War Presidents.  Arthur was a machine politician in New York, not particularly known outside of New York before he was nominated for the Vice Presidency in 1880; he served less than a full term as President; he was not nominated for President for another term in 1884; and he died only 20 months after he left the presidency.  There was little reason for people to have kept his letters before he became President, and he wrote comparatively few as President or as a former President.     

Arthur showed, however, just how the presidency can turn a politician into a statesman.  He took office a partisan, patronage politician, but as President he supported the Pendleton Civil Service Act that outlawed salary kickbacks from public employees, prevented their termination for political reasons, and established a bipartisan Civil Service Commission to administer competitive examinations for federal jobs.  Arthur’s biographer, Thomas Reeves, wrote that Arthur underwent a “genuine transformation from a spoils-hungry, no-holds barred Conkling henchman into a restrained, dignified Chief Executive.”

Arthur, a Republican political leader, helped to secure the nomination of Ulysses S. Grant in 1868.  President Grant subsequently appointed Arthur, a lawyer and former New York Quartermaster General during the Civil War, to be the Collector of Customs in the New York Custom House.  Arthur oversaw the movement of goods into New York, collected duties and fines, and regulated businesses.  One of his major responsibilities was to give Republican supporters patronage jobs. Employees, in turn, had to donate part of their income to the party.

In 1878, President Rutherford B. Hayes fired Arthur, claiming that Arthur, whose ties to New York’s corrupt political machine were well known, had used tax money to reward political supporters.  The charges were never proven, though, and that set the stage for the 1880 Republican convention.  With the convention deadlocked between Grant and Maine Senator James G. Blaine, the delegates compromised and nominated Ohio Senator James A. Garfield on the 36th ballot. To mollify the Stalwart faction of the party, the convention nominated Arthur for Vice President.

On July 2, 1881, a disappointed office seeker shot President Garfield, who died on September 19.  Arthur became President.

Arthur grew in the office.  In addition to supporting the Pendleton Civil Service Act, he ordered the Attorney General to prosecute a series of Post Office Department fraud cases involving many of Arthur’s friends and associates, appointed a commission to examine the issue of high tariffs, promoted tariff reform, and modernized the Navy.  But Arthur paid a high political price.  His position on patronagethe spoils systemalienated his supporters and left the Republican Party in disarray.  Arthur was virtually a President without a party.

Because of ill health, Arthur did not actively seek the Republican nomination in 1884.  The party nominated Blaine, whom Arthur immediately endorsed.  Blaine lost the election to Grover Cleveland, and Arthur returned to New York City.  He practiced law until he died of a massive cerebral hemorrhage on November 18, 1886.

Arthur’s flamboyant signature makes for an excellent display, and this card is particularly nice for that.  Arthur has boldly signed it in brown ink in his distinctive hand.  The card has a hint of soiling, but overall it is bright and attractive.  For the sake of fastidious disclosure, there are a couple of tiny reddish spots to the left of the engraved image that seem to match the color of mounting remnants on the back, but they are not over the mounting remnants, which have not bled through the card.  Those tiny spots do not distract from the overall beauty of this card, which is in fine to very fine condition. 

This card is accompanied by a letter of authenticity issued by PSA/DNA.  We put no stock in the opinions of third-party authenticators, but, as with every item we sell, this card also comes with our own no-time-limit, money-back guarantee of authenticity.

Unframed.  Please ask us about custom framing this piece.

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