Richard Nixon is the US president I admire the most, I think. He had a grasp of strategic thinking that few have matched. My admiration is often a source of amusement (and embarrassment) to my American friends, though, because that grasp of strategy failed him spectacularly during the Watergate affair, resulting in his resignation and disgrace.
But from my father, I sought, and was granted, special permission to watch his resignation speech, live, at 2AM London time in August 1974. I was a pretty committed 10 year-old! I also strongly suspect that without Nixon, none of us might be here today: the Cold War could have got very hot and very nasty on numerous occasions, until Nixon’s policy of détente made us all a lot safer.
Anyway, my fascination with the man lead me, several years ago now, to look to obtain his autograph (as one does with heroes). But they were (and are) not cheap, and ToH would not permit money-siphoning to take place on such a grand scale, despite my entreaties that a great man warrants grand money-wastage! Cheaper ones can be found if you look long enough, though-but I wasn’t that diligent back then, so everything seemed awfully pricey.
And then I happened to stumble across an auction on Ebay, for a letter allegedly signed by Nixon whilst he was serving as Vice President -so back in 1960. The asking price was about US$89, and no international shipping.
Well, at that price, it couldn’t be genuine, could it?! But the lady selling it said it had been sent to her father for some reason, he had died recently, she had no use for it and therefore wasn’t asking the world for it either. However, she couldn’t substantiate it more than that and knew nothing about its authenticity. But she would ship it to me in Australia if I paid some token sum or other (maybe an extra US$25).
And that is how I came to acquire my Nixon autograph for the piffling price of about US$115. It eventually arrived safely in the post -and this was my first chance to actually look and touch what I’d paid for. Well: I wasn’t disappointed. It certainly looked genuine (the signature is strong and definitely from a fountain pen). It also felt genuine: the paper is definitely old, the typewriting is definitely from a real typewriter.
Looks can be deceptive, of course! Nevertheless, the thing was framed and put in a place of honour on my study wall, where it has remained to this day.
But was it genuine??! It would bug me occasionally.
So early this week, I finally decided to do something about it: I sent the scanned copy of it you can see at the top of this piece to the Nixon Presidential Library, in Yorba Linda, California. I asked them if they had any records proving that, as the letter claimed, Nixon had been in Akron, Ohio on October 1st 1960 -and whether they could tell me anything about the addressee, Mr. Giampetro.
Their website is not the best! They don’t appear to know how to get https certificates to work, either! So I wasn’t hugely hopeful… but efficiency lurks in other corners of the library, it would seem, because this evening, not two days after I emailed, I received a very nice email from their archivist, one Dorissa Martinez, saying (and I quote):
According to our Pre-Presidential Materials (Laguna Niguel) Appearances (Series 207) finding aid, Vice President Nixon attended a rally at Memorial Hall in Akron, Ohio on October 1, 1960.
After searching through the Pre-Presidential Materials (Laguna Niguel) General Correspondence (Series 320) collection and Campaign 1960: PPS 57: Election. 1960. Post Election Correspondence, Acknowledgments, and Thank You’s, box 5, folder Thank you Letters Completed – Nationwide, I was unable to locate materials relating to Frank Giampetro.
I’m not sure I made entire sense of either sentence! But the general gist of it is that if you poke around the Pre-Presidential Materials long enough, you can indeed find evidence that Nixon was in Akron, Ohio on the date the letter claims he was. It doesn’t prove my letter is genuine… but it goes a long way to reassuring me on the point anyway.
It’s a shame there weren’t records that Frank Giampetro was, for example, a Republican Party hired driver, routinely used to transport any bigwigs that came by Ohio… so that part of the mystery remains. I’d certainly like to find out more about him (but the letter stays with me, come what may!)
Anyhow: I don’t think it would have mattered to me either way, but it’s nice to have my own little bit of near-confirmed Nixon-alia in front of me as I type. Let’s just hope greatness rubs off and shady dealings don’t!