When POTUS Has to Ask for Mommy’s Help

JFK letter to mother Kruschev autograph

He may have been the most powerful man in the world, but John F. Kennedy learned that there are some things even the President of the United States can’t do. He commanded a military of nearly 3 million people who would follow his orders without question, but there was one person to whom he needed to say, “Please.” That person who could reduce POTUS to a little boy was none other than his mother. Continue reading

The Gift that Keeps on Giving

George Bernard Shaw "with renewed compliments"

As George Bernard Shaw perused the shelves of a secondhand bookstore, he came across a volume of his plays. He opened the book and found his handwriting on the flyleaf, addressed to a friend, with the words, “With the compliments of George Bernard Shaw.”

Mr. Shaw purchased the book and sent it back to the friend, with the additional words, “With renewed compliments. G.B.S.”


From the Hand of the Bard

Shakespeare's autographs

Some of the most beautiful and inspiring words in the English language have come from the hand of William Shakespeare. Over 1,700 words were added to English by his fertile and creative mind.

Interestingly enough, this master of the written word did not appear to pay much attention to his own name.

Shakespeare's autographs
Copies of the six surviving autographs of William Shakespeare.

Six of his signatures have survived to this day. All are connected with legal documents. No two specimens are spelled the same way.

The six signatures are affixed to four different documents:

  • a deposition in the Bellott v. Mountjoy case, dated May 11, 1612
  • the purchase of a house in Blackfriars, London, dated March 10, 1613
  • the mortgage of the same house, dated March 11, 1613
  • his Last Will and Testament, which contains three signatures, one on each page, dated March 25, 1616.

The signatures appear as follows:

  • Willm Shakp
  • William Shakspēr
  • Wm Shakspē
  • William Shakspere
  • Willm Shakspere
  • By me William Shakspeare

Given the rarity of surviving examples of his handwriting, it has been estimated that if a previously-undiscovered signature were to be discovered and be sold at auction, it would bring upward of $5 million. If affixed to a play written in his own hand, it could generate as much as $50 million. 

To see a story about the most valuable autograph ever purchased, check out this Commonplace post.

Presidential (Autograph) Price Controls

JFK Unsigned Letter Humor

President John F. Kennedy was one of the best known humorists to occupy the White House, and he rarely missed a chance to employ humor.

In 1961 New York Post columnist Leonard Lyons wrote to the President and informed that a JFK signature was then selling for $75, while George Washington’s was priced at $175. Lyons received the following response:

Dear Leonard:JFK unsigned letter

I appreciate your letter about the market on Kennedy signatures. It is hard to believe that the going price is so high now.
In order not to depress the market any further, I will not sign this letter.

Best Regards,




I Know Who I Am

Roy Rogers (left), Ronald Reagan (center), and Ray Milland (right)

Ronald Reagan had been successful in motion pictures and television, but he still struggled with name recognition when he was campaigning for President in 1976.

His campaign managers had him going door-to-door in Texas, seeking votes. At one house a gentleman answered the door, and Reagan told him he was running for President and would appreciate his vote. Since he had been such a big movie star and had just finished two terms as Governor of California, he was a little surprised when he asked him what he did for a living. He told him he had been an actor. Reagan was even more surprised when the guy asked him what his name was. The future President thought, “Maybe if I give him a little hint, that will help,” so he told him that his initials were “R.R.” With that, the gentleman’s face lit up, and he ran back in the house, yelling, “Ma, Ma, come out here quick! Roy Rogers is outside!”  (source)

A couple of years later Reagan was walking along a street with long-time aide Michael Deaver. A gentleman approached Reagan and said, “I know you! You’re Ray Milland! Can I have your autograph?” Deaver watched as Reagan took the offered pen and paper and signed, “Ray Milland”.

Astonished, Deaver asked his boss, “Why didn’t you tell him who you were?” Reagan smiled and said, “I know who I am. He wanted to meet Ray Milland.” (source)

The Value of Genius


One of the most famous pictures of Albert Einstein resulted when he stuck his tongue out for photographers at the celebration of his 72nd birthday. Einstein signed a few copies, and if you have one, you have a rare treasure. In 2009 David Waxman paid $74,324 for one of the signed photos.