The First American Autograph Dealer Catalog

In 1887, Walter R. Benjamin established a shop on Broadway selling autographs and manuscripts, quite likely the first such retail business in the United States and surely the first major one.

In September 1887, Benjamin began publication of a mixed newsletter / catalog, which aimed to inform the collector and discuss issues in the field, as well as presenting lists of his inventory for sale.  His "catalogs," which he called The Collector, were typically illustrated with one reproduction.  And the prices were a fraction of today's sums.  He lists a George Washington letter as President for $25 and a John Hancock document as President of the Continental Congress for $8.  You might also consider purchasing his war-date letter of Alexander Hamilton for $5.

For our own library, we recently acquired his very first issues, including issue number 1.  It is a fascinating glimpse into the world of historical documents before the Spanish American War.  Browse below a list of autographs and a facsimile reproduction within an early catalog.

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