An extraordinary group of signatures, a very uncommon Harding ALS as President, and the only letter of his while on this famous caravan that we have ever seen. Moreover a search of public sale records going back 40 years reveals none
Starting around 1914 a group consisting of Henry Ford, John Burroughs, Thomas Edison, and Harvey Firestone, partook in what would become yearly caravan camping trips across the United States. The tours included trips to the Everglades, the Great Smokies, and road trips from Pennsylvania to Tennessee to Maryland. By 1918, the group...
Starting around 1914 a group consisting of Henry Ford, John Burroughs, Thomas Edison, and Harvey Firestone, partook in what would become yearly caravan camping trips across the United States. The tours included trips to the Everglades, the Great Smokies, and road trips from Pennsylvania to Tennessee to Maryland. By 1918, the group grew to include Harvey Firestone, Jr., and the men became known as “The Vagabonds”. These Vagabonds enjoyed retreating from the fast-paced world to explore nature and the pre-industrial countryside–or just to relax under a tree.
In 1921, President Harding was invited to join the group and agreed. The 1921 trip thus included the President and some of the nation’s greatest inventors and businessmen, and became an iconic symbol of the era.
The Vagabonds’ wives were eager to join the party, and the journey included them and some of their children as well. Burroughs, who had died before the trip, was not there. This 1921 excursion was an elaborate tenting tour of Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Maryland. The number coming along peaked at 16, including seven wives, one bishop, one President of the United States, his secretary and several secret service men, tailed by chauffeurs, cooks, assistant cooks and assorted attendants. Harvey Firestone was apparently determined to establish a new level of excellence as a host. He enlisted the catering assistance of his Aunt Nannie and the Ladies Aid Society of Columbiana, Ohio. These helpful women cleaned and dressed 100 chickens and baked a grandiose collection of cakes and cookies for the camping party. As usual, the campground was well lighted, thanks to a portable power plant, but this year there was a new refinement: an electric player piano.
Autograph letter signed, on National Press Club stationary, on the caravan, July 21, 1921, to Firestone’s Aunt Nannie, thanking her for catering the trip and praising her cooking skills. “Fifteen healthful and discriminatory people have been singing your praises at the camp breakfast table, and the things said of you and your baking were so pleasing that some thoughtful person thought you ought to know about it. We do not all know about you, but we do know about your art in baking. Any pen would halt in seeking to do justice to cookies, oatmeal, cakes and doughnuts. With a touch (no light one) of superlative good jam they were food fit to make Epicure sorry he did not live at this day. The holes in the doughnuts were not preferable to others, except they were smaller, but the surrounding was surprisingly good. All paid willing and enthusiastic tribute. More, it was voted as any real and worth while art to take. The fundamentals of baking and combine them with creations which made us rejoice in the present day and by grateful for our inheritances. We all send your gratitude and praise, attended by much cordial good wishes.” The letter has also been signed by Thomas Edison and his wife Mina, Henry Ford and his wife Clara, Ford’s son Edsel and his wife Eleanor, Harvey Firestone Jr,, his wife Elizabeth, his mother Idabelle, and brother Russell, Harding’s secretary George B. Christian, and pastor William F. Anderson, Methodist Bishop of Cincinnati, and his wife Lulah. It is backed by a Japanese-style light paper.
This is an extraordinary group of signatures with Harding, Edison, Ford and Firestone. It is also not only a very uncommon Harding ALS as President, but is the only letter of his while on this famous caravan that we have ever seen. Moreover a search of public sale records going back 40 years reveals none.
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