Autographed Covers

I'm not a big autograph hound, but I have managed to add a few to my collection over the years. Here are the covers I have, and the stories behind them.

Harry S Truman

HST cover

President Harry S Truman (1884-1972) has long been one of my favorite historical figures. In 1984, I noticed an autographed Truman cover offered in a mail sale auction conducted by The Washington Press (makers of White Ace stamp albums and Art Craft first day covers). I was in my early twenties at the time and really in no position to spend big bucks on a philatelic item. But I couldn't pass up the Truman cover, so I mailed my bid and won the lot for $221. Despite the hardship at the time, I'm still happy about my purchase.

This is a 1949 inauguration cover with a Fulton cachet. Truman signed the cover across the Win the War stamp, which further ties the stamp to the cover. Truman signed this cover sometime in the 1960s or early 1970s. I know this because the envelope used to mail the cover from Truman back to it's original owner after Truman had signed it was also included with the auction lot. The printed free franked cover does not have a postmark, but the address contains a ZIP code, and those weren't introduced until 1963.


Margaret Truman Daniel

MTD cover

Harry and Bess Truman's only child, Margaret, was born in 1924. During Truman's White House years, Margaret pursued a singing career, which led to the infamous episode when President Truman wrote a blistering letter to a newspaper critic, threatening to give him a black eye for panning one of Margaret's performances. Later in life, Margaret made a name for herself as an author, and was widely praised for her biographies of her father and her mother.

After I read her biography of her mother, I thought it would be nice to get Margaret's autograph on a cover to serve as a companion piece to my Harry Truman autographed cover. I wrote Mrs. Daniel a letter telling her how much I enjoyed the Bess biography, and enclosed the cover, asking her to sign it and return it to me in the SASE I also enclosed (franked with Truman stamps, of course). I didn't have an address for Mrs. Daniel, so I sent it to her publisher and typed "PLEASE FORWARD TO THE AUTHOR" on the front of the envelope. Nothing happened, and I assumed my request was lost or ignored. Then, after about six months after I had sent the cover, it finally reappeared in my mailbox.

Clementine Churchill

CSC cover

As the wife of Sir Winston Churchill, Clementine Churchill (1885-1977) shared the stage with one of the 20th century's most remarkable men. "Clemmie" was Winston's companion, confidant and most-trusted adviser, and when he misstepped politically it was usually because he failed to heed her advice. Their long and devoted life together began with their marriage in 1908 and lasted until Winston's death in 1965.

This Sarzin cover marks the 67th anniversary of Churchill's election as an MP for the constituency of Dundee, Scotland (not England) in 1908, the year of the Churchill marriage. Mrs. Churchill, signing formally as "Clementine Spencer-Churchill," must have signed this cover sometime after the postmark date of  May 9, 1975, shortly before her death in 1977 at age 92. I purchased this cover on eBay for a modest price. I'd like to add her husband's signature to my collection, but Churchill's autograph typically goes for four-figure sums these days.

Walter Mondale

WFM cover

Walter Mondale (b. 1928) has served as Minnesota Attorney General, United States Senator, Vice President of the United States, and U.S. Ambassador to Japan. In 1984, he was the Democratic nominee for President, losing to Ronald Reagan. After the 1984 election, Mondale joined the Minneapolis law firm where I worked, so I would see him on a regular basis. It eventually occurred to me to have him sign this cover, a 1977 inauguration cover in the short-lived Medallion cachet line. I couldn't work up the courage to ask for the autograph myself, so I gave the cover to his secretary and she had him sign it for me.

When I left that firm in 1992, I thought that would be the end of my "association" with Mr. Mondale. Not so. A few years later, he and his wife Joan joined the church I have attended since birth, so I now see him on an almost weekly basis.

Harold Stassen

HES cover

Harold Stassen (1907-2001) led a life of remarkable accomplishment. He was the "boy wonder" of Minnesota politics, elected governor at age 31. He resigned as governor in 1943 to join the Navy, becoming Chief of Staff to Admiral William Halsey. He witnessed the Japanese surrender on the deck of the USS Missouri on VJ Day. He help draft the U.N. Charter and was its last surviving signatory. He served as president of Penn State University. He participated in the March on Washington with Martin Luther King, Jr. Unfortunately, he is often remembered today for his futile presidential races of the 1960s through 1990s. Those who laugh at that legacy forget that Stassen was almost the 1948 Republican candidate for President, narrowly losing the nomination to Thomas E. Dewey. Had the Republicans nominated Stassen instead of Dewey, Harry Truman's miracle upset win in 1948 would probably have never occurred.

Because of his role in the creation of the United Nations, Stassen was a life long proponent of the world body. He wrote a book about the U.N. that was published for the U.N.'s 50th anniversary in 1995. With Stassen in the spotlight during the anniversary celebrations, I purchased a few first day covers of the United Nations 50th anniversary stamps with the thought that I would track down Mr. Stassen by mail and ask him to sign one. Making my request by mail proved unnecessary, as Stassen spoke at my church that fall. After his speech and the question-and-answer session, I approached Mr. Stassen and asked him to sign this cover. He did so with great enthusiasm, asking me "Should I date it too?" He shook my hand firmly and asked my name, making our brief encounter a pleasant and memorable one.

Warren Burger

WEB #1

Warren E. Burger (1907-1995) was the Chief Justice of the United States from 1969 to 1986. A Minnesota native, Burger began his career on the bench when President Eisenhower appointed him to the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. President Nixon named Burger Chief Justice of the United States in 1969. Notable decisions handed down by the Burger Court include Roe v. Wade (abortion rights), New York Times v. United States (the "Pentagon Papers" case), Regents of the University of California v. Bakke (affirmative action), and United States v. Nixon, the unanimous 1974 decision in the Watergate case that led to the end of the Nixon presidency.

Getting Burger's autograph was not difficult--I simply married into the family. My father-in-law is Burger's nephew (and bears a striking resemblance to him). I asked my father-in-law if he would ask Burger to sign a cover for me, which he agreed to do. I selected the Gerald Ford inauguration cover because Burger is depicted in the cachet. After receiving the cover Burger misplaced it, and he asked if I would send him another one. So I sent him a 1981 Supreme Court first day cover, which he signed and returned. Shortly thereafter the Ford cover turned up, so Burger signed that cover as well.

WEB #2

Despite being related to Burger by marriage, I never met the man. He returned to Minnesota twice for family reunions after I joined the family, but I missed both reunions.