Special Collections Division

Finding Aid to the Autograph Collection, 1776-2009
(bulk: 1900-1990)

Processed by Natasha M. Pereira; processing completed May 2010.

Descriptive Summary

Title: Autograph Collection
Dates: 1776-2009 (bulk: 1900-1990)
Extent: 4 linear feet (3 filing cabinet drawers and 1 flat box)
Abstract: The Autograph Collection consists of over 1,000 signatures of musicians, librarians, authors, politicians, artists, and others present on photographs, letters, postcards, and other documents.
Provenance: Many of the autographs were acquired as gifts, while many were acquired through correspondence with library staff.  For most autographs, source information is provided in its accompanying folder.
Preferred Citation: This collection should be cited as: Autograph Collection, Special Collections Division, Newark Public Library.
Collection Call Number: RG 3

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Restrictions on Access

Access Restrictions

Available by appointment only.

Photocopying of materials is limited and no materials may be photocopied without permission from library staff.

Use Restrictions

Researchers wishing to publish, reproduce, or reprint materials from this collection must obtain permission.

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Processing Note

Each accompanying folder includes contextual information about the autograph.  Each folder was photocopied in order to preserve this information when the collection was re-housed.  Materials inside, including the autographs themselves, were placed in new, acid-free folders, along with the photocopied information.  The goal was to keep only documents in the collection folders; a few larger materials, such as books or notebooks were removed to the Rare Books Collection.  Some large artist autograph files contained much accompanying information and were removed to the Artist Information File Collection.  Further contextual information included with some autographs was moved to the Information File at the beginning of the collection, under the Subject Name, in order to keep the Autograph Collection as condensed as possible.  Translations and transcriptions of foreign language or illegible letters and notes are also included in many files.  Some acquisition information from autograph sellers is included in some files.  A new oversize collection was created; oversize items were placed in a flat box labeled Oversize Autograph File.  Several items were also de-framed and the autographed material, as well as any contextual information, was kept in the file.  Excessive materials, such as copies and generic information, were discarded.  Photographs and fragile materials were placed in Mylar covers for better preservation.

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Historical Note

The earliest Newark Public Library exhibit from the Autograph Collection dates to December 1916.  Major original donations include a collection of letters from musicians, given by A. W. Brigham, an organist from East Orange, NJ, in July 1916.  Over seventy letters signed by Timothy Cole were donated to the collection by George H. Whittle, in November 1911. Over thirty miscellaneous autographs were donated by J. Ackerman Coles in October 1922.  A majority of the collection are twentieth century materials saved by library staff from correspondences with artists, authors, politicians, other librarians, and others.  Older autographs, from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries were generally given by donors.  A small number of autographs were purchased for the collection, from authorized autograph dealers.

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Scope and Content

The Autograph Collection consists of a compilation of signatures on letters, postcards, photographs, concert/theater programs, etc., the earliest of which is a commission signed by John Hancock on February 1, 1776.  The collection began in the early twentieth century when hundreds of signed letters and documents by individuals were donated to the Newark Public Library.  Since then, hundreds more have been saved and added by library staff from donations, purchases or work-related correspondence.  Much of the collection came from this saved correspondence, dating largely from 1900 to 1990.  Much of this correspondence was between library staff and authors, writers or musicians, for acquisitions or information from the former Art and Music Department of the Newark Public Library. 

Notable autographs include letters, notes or photographs from U.S. presidents, such as John Adams and John F. Kennedy; other politicians, such as Winston Churchill; artists, such as Norman Rockwell and Andy Warhol; famous authors, such as Thomas Paine and Langston Hughes; royalty, such as King George III; musicians, such as Nat King Cole and Aaron Copland; and even businessmen, such as John D. Rockefeller.  Each autograph folder contains information about the author, date, place, recipient, subject and source of the autograph.  In addition, there are over 200 clipped autographs or signed letters affixed onto note cards. It is an open collection and is periodically added to.

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Access Points

The entries below represent persons, organizations, topics, forms, and occupations documented in this collection.

Subject Names:

Bacher, Otto H. – (Otto Henry) – 1856-1909
Bell, Enid – 1904-
Borglum, Gutzon – 1867-1941
Burroughs, Bryson – 1869-1934
Carsman, John – 1944-
Carter, Clarence Holbrook – 1904-2000
Cerf, Bennett – 1898-1971
Church, Frederick S. (Frederick Stuart) –1842-1924
Citron, Minna – 1896-
Clee, Lester Harrison – 1888-1962
Cole, Timothy – 1852-1931
Dana, John Cotton – 1856-1929
Day, Worden – 1916-1986
Frelinghuysen, Theodore – 1787-1862
Jones, James Edward – 1937-
King, Francis Scott – 1850-1913
Kingsley, Elbridge – 1842-1918
Masson, Thomas L.
Miller, Joaquin – 1837-1913
Millet, Francis Davis – 1846-1912
Morris, Robert – 1734-1806
Oakley, Thornton – 1881-1953
Ogden, Rollo – 1856-1937
Poore, Henry Rankin – 1859-1940
Roosevelt, Theodore – 1858-1919
Ruzicka, Rudolph – 1883-1978
Stone, Wilbur Macey
Tunney, Gene – 1897-1978
Untermeyer, Louis – 1885-1977
Volk, Douglas – 1856-1935
Ward, Lynd – 1905-1985
Williams, George Alfred – 1875-1932

Subject Topics:

Music—United States
Popular music
United States—History—Civil War, 1861-1865
Libraries—United States—History
Library science
Newark Public Library—History
New Jersey—History
Literature—19th century—History
Literature—20th century—History

Document Types:

Business letters
Letters (correspondence)
Picture postcards
Sheet music
Theatre programs

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Autograph Magazine. http://autographmagazine.com.
Benjamin, Mary A. Autographs: a Key to Collecting, New York: R.R. Bowker Co., 1946.
Cappon, Lester J.  Walter R. Benjamin and the Autograph Trade at the Turn of the     Century
Massachusetts Historical Society.  Proceedings of the Massachusetts Historical Society, Third Series, Vol. 78, (1966), pp. 20-37, 1966.   
The Manuscript Society.  http://www.manuscript.org
Professional Autograph Dealers Association. http://www.padaweb.org
Sullivan, George. The Complete Book of Autograph Collecting,New York: Dodd, Mead, 1971.

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Separated Materials

Transferred to “Artist Information File”

Carter, Mary
Citron, Minna
Matisse, Maria-Gaetana (Tana)
Page, Thomas Nelson

Transferred to Rare Books Collection

Darrow, Clarence Seward

Transferred to Richard C. Jenkinson Collection Information Files

Bullen, Henry Lewis.
Cobden-Sanderson, Thomas James
De Vinne, Theodore Low
Dwiggins, William A.
Fenton, Daniel
Finberg, H.P.R.
Firmin-Didot, Maurice
Guthrie, James
Hunter, Dard
Rogers, Bruce
Rollins, Carl Purington
Updike, Daniel Berkeley

Transferred to William J. Dane Fine Prints Collection

Bell, Enid (drawings transferred, autograph kept in collection)

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