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Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain) Handwritten, Signed Letter

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Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain) Handwritten, Signed Letter

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Universally acclaimed as America’s most laudable humorist of a previous century, Samuel Clemens authored this handwritten letter in the early 1880s. Most certainly, the mythical Mark Twain penned many missives during his life – most of which are now lost to attrition over the years. This one, however, remains, and it delivers content of meaningful import. In full, its text reads,
“Dear Mrs. Gehrhardt –
“Will you please ask your husband to write his name half a dozen times on each of the enclosed half-sheets and return them to me in the envelope, which I herewith intend to send if I don’t forget it.
“I wish to procure a letter of credit upon European banks, and he will understand that these signatures are to go to the banks to be used in verifying the signature appended to his letter of credit.
“I go to Boston tomorrow to remain till Friday, else I would look in to see how the preparations for flight [i.e. journey] are progressing, for I shall need a few days notice in order to secure good berths on the French steamer.
“I address myself to you because I have been acquainted with you longer than I have with your husband – so it comes handier.
“Yours truly, [signed] S. L. Clemens”

The “Mrs. Gerhardt”, to whom this letter was directed, was the wife of Karl Gerhardt who aspired to become a professional sculptor. And indeed, he did mature to a moderate level of renown in the medium. Ultimately, Karl Gerhardt finished many works that have gained regional fame. Among these are statues of Nathan Hale and General Israel Putnam, as well as countless Civil War memorials (especially for Gettysburg heroes). Most notable in his work, however, were the busts of Clemens and Ulysses Grant.

This letter dates to the hatching relationship between Clemens and Gerhardt – a time when Tom Sawyer was among his credits, but Huckleberry Finn yet unpublished. Sam Clemens, the beloved icon of our literary heritage, was nonetheless an opportunist of sorts. While he spoke with a measure of contempt for the “Gilded Age”, he was always alert to making a buck for his own pocket.

As it happened, Gerhardt’s young wife, Harriet, prevailed upon the now famous Samuel Clemens that he consider the promising artistic talent of her husband. So impressed Clemens was that he “invested” in Karl Gerhardt’s future by funding his refinement in Paris’ esteemed Ecole des Beaux Arts. Not really an act of pure philanthropy, Samuel Clemens saw in Gerhardt a potential windfall in commercializing this talent-in-the-rough.

This letter, then, is an element in that Samuel Clemens business venture. The medium is a two-page note (7″ x 9″, that unfolds for full display from a single vantage point). With no tears or blemishes, it’s in Excellent condition with normal compacting folds. The penmanship is graceful and completely legible throughout – in all, the text and the signature are “9-10”.

However undated, we may infer that he wrote the letter in 1881 because the chronology of Karl Gerhardt’s life is a matter of public record. As a postscript, the artist successfully plied the career of his calling (though primarily by specific commissions, not in commercial reproductions), and Sam Clemens’ anticipation of new wealth went unrequited.

PSA-DNA Auction House Letter

1881,Letter,Signed,Statue  Ulysses Grant

Auction End: 08-Dec-05  Post Views: 4244

Price; $0.00 – $0.00




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