Lincoln’s Signatures Uncovered at Dartmouth Library

FAMOUS AUTOGRAPH-The sheet of Lincoln signatures found at the Rauner Special Collection at Dartmouth College Library

By Carla Charter

HANOVER, N.H.- The Rauner Special Collections Library at Dartmouth College Library has seven linear miles of manuscripts and materials as well as college archives, a manuscript collection and 140,000 rare books. Many priceless items are stored there. Among the items housed there and recently rediscovered was a signature of Abraham Lincoln.  In fact, not only one signature but a whole sheet of signatures

The rediscovery happened when Morgan Swan, Special Collections Education and Outreach Librarian at the library, began researching information on Lincoln artifacts the library might hold, for administrative members of the School of Engineering. It was then that he came across the sheet of Lincoln signatures. “The signatures have been in the collection since 1955. The signatures had been catalogued, so someone at some point had touched them and put them there, although no one had seen them before. I just happened upon them.  My reaction was delight and astonishment I had no idea we had anything like that. Sometimes we will have a random letter but it is a strange thing to find so many signatures right there on the same page,” Swan said.   The signatures were a gift in 1955 from Perc. S. Brown, he continued, who as far as Swan knows was not an alumnus. Brown also contributed a bust, a portrait, two oil paintings and a letter from Charles Dickens with his signature on it.

The autographs are written consecutively on a sheet of stationary from the “Executive Mansion” in Washington, D.C. and dated Dec, 20, 1861. At the top of the page is written the statement “I certify that the signatures written below are genuine.  John Hay.”  John Milton Hay served as one of Lincoln’s private secretaries and personal assistants for the entirety of Lincoln’s presidency.

As for the Lincoln signatures, Swan said, “I don’t think it was used for a formal document.  It is dated from December 20, 1861. You don’t see something like this come along that often. To have so many signatures in one place over and over. It was pretty early in the tenure of Lincoln’s presidency. He signed each one. People at that time would write and ask for autographs, they would collect as many signatures as they could. John Hay probably got a lot of requests for autographs.”

The Lincoln signatures are not the only presidential items at the library. Other items in the special collections include a lock of George Washington’s hair and several pieces of correspondence Washington wrote during the Revolutionary War.  Swan explained the collection also has patents belonging to Samuel Morey the actual inventor of the steam boat who lived from 1762 to 1843.  “He was always filing patents. We have a series of his original patents with presidential signatures ranging from President Washington to President Jackson. “

More information on the Rauner Special Collections library at Dartmouth Library can be found at www.dartmouth.edu/~library/rauner/

Anyone who may have more information on Perc S. Brown can contact Swan at Morgan.R.Swan@dartmouth.edu