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Grover Cleveland

Choice, uncommon early legal document filled out and signed by Cleveland, then barely 21 years old

Stephen Grover Cleveland, 18371908.  Governor of New York, 18831884; 22nd President of the United States, 18851889; 24th President of the United States, 18931897.  Uncommon, very fine condition early legal document filled out by Cleveland and signed, Grover Cleveland, April 24, 1858.

This is the second earliest Cleveland document that we have ever seen.  Cleveland, barely 21 years old, working in a law office, but not yet a lawyer himself, prepared this document by filling in the blanks on the front.  In it, William Williams, the receiver for The Reciprocity Bank in Buffalo, New York, assigned one of the bank's assets, a mortgage on real estate in Erie County, New York, to a third party.  Cleveland then signed the document at the bottom as witness to the receiver's signature.

On the back of the document, the Commissioner of Deeds took Cleveland's oath and thus certified his participation:

On this 24th day of April 1858 personally appeared before me the within named Grover Cleveland subscribing witness to the within instrument, to me personally known who being by me duly sworn did depose and say that he resided at said City of Buffalo; that he knew William Williams the individual described in and who executed the said conveyance; that he was present and saw the said William Williams sign seal and deliver the same as and for his act and deed; and that the said William Williams acknowledged the execution thereof, whereupon the said Grover Cleveland became the subscribing witness thereto.

Cleveland quit school to work and support the family when his father died in 1853.  Two years later, he moved to Buffalo, where he lived and worked with his uncle and clerked for a law firm, where he studied law.  He was admitted to the bar in 1859, the year after he filled out this assignment document.  By 1861, Cleveland was himself the Commissioner of Deeds for Buffalo.

Cleveland was known for his uncompromising attitude toward the public trust.  As a reformer, he eschewed political expediency in order to do what he thought was right.  The public responded to his integrity by launching him on a meteoric rise:  Within a space of three years, he was elected mayor of Buffalo, Governor of New York, and, in 1884, President of the United States.

This document illustrates how much Cleveland's handwriting changed over the years.  By the time he became President, his handwriting was more angular and often virtually illegible.

Cleveland's early documents are very uncommon.  Our search found only one earlier document.  The records of American Book Prices Current show none of this vintage sold at auction over a period of 42 years and only four dated in the early 1860s.  This document, which is virtually pristine, and which Cleveland completed in his own hand as well as signed, is very desirable.  The writing is bold, and the red paper and wax seal is intact.




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