Lincoln Family Saw Great Success, But Also Seemed Cursed

Robert Todd Lincoln Carte de Visite
This Robert Todd Lincoln carte de visite dates to 1861, when he was 18 years old.

By Jim O’Neal

Many historians cling to the belief that Robert Todd Lincoln was the most successful of all presidential children, including those who also became president. He was one of the best businessmen of his generation, a powerful and celebrated figure in society and a public servant. He was a cabinet member in two different administrations and a superb diplomat in another.

He was also present at many famous events.

As a late entrant into the Civil War, he was a member of Major General U.S. Grant’s personal staff and was there when Robert E. Lee surrendered at the McLean House near Appomattox. He actually witnessed the formal signing. Three months later, he was at his father’s side when he died and then accompanied his mother back to the White House. She was too bereaved to attend the funeral or to accompany the body back to Springfield.

Robert performed both of these tasks with poise and dignity. Later, he would be close by when both presidents James A. Garfield and William McKinley were assassinated.

But the Lincoln family almost seemed cursed. Mary Todd Lincoln grew more erratic and confused. In the spring of 1875, distraught and humiliated by her behavior, Robert Lincoln decided to have his mother committed to an insane asylum. He had her followed by Pinkerton agency detectives to record her activities, enlisted six of Chicago’s finest doctors to testify (none of whom examined her), hired her an attorney, and then conspired with the prosecutor to ensure a consistent story for the court.

Mary Todd Lincoln
After her husband’s assassination, Mary Todd Lincoln returned to Illinois, where she lived with her sons.

On May 9, 1875, Mary Lincoln was taken to a public courtroom where she was confronted by this cabal. Her attorney cross-examined no witnesses and called none of his own, including Mary Lincoln. The final witness was Robert Lincoln, who provided the coup de grace. “I have no doubt my mother is insane. She has been a source of great anxiety to me.”

The only example of Mary Lincoln’s sanity occurred when she devised a clever scheme to get a release from the Bellevue asylum in Batavia, Ill., where she had been confined. She then made it to her sister’s house in Springfield and then on to Europe, fearful that Robert would strike again.

Mary Todd Lincoln spent her final years in anonymity and loneliness in the trendy resort village of Pau, France, near the Spanish border. Referring to Robert, her only remaining son, as a “wicked monster,” she insisted in her letters that even his father had always disliked him. Dismissed by the public as “crazy,” she subsisted for many years as an exile in a foreign country, relying on her presidential widow’s pension and fluent French.

Finally, in 1882, Mrs. Abraham Lincoln returned home to Springfield, but even her death was not an easy affair. At the end, she was covered with boils, almost completely paralyzed and blind. She died on July 16, 1882, after a severe stroke. She was 63 years old.

An autopsy revealed a cerebral disease she had for years and her entire estate was inherited by her surviving son, the “wicked monster” Robert Todd Lincoln.

Historians have a wide array of criteria to judge greatness. Obviously, family harmony is not one of them.

Jim O'NielIntelligent Collector blogger JIM O’NEAL is an avid collector and history buff. He is President and CEO of Frito-Lay International [retired] and earlier served as Chairman and CEO of PepsiCo Restaurants International [KFC Pizza Hut and Taco Bell].

It’s a Long Journey From Sensible Footwear to Curly Wigs for Men

Samuel Pepys. Memoirs of Samuel Pepys
English naval administrator Samuel Pepys (1633-1703) initially scoffed at the idea of wigs for men – but ultimately came around.

By Jim O’Neal

In September 1991, two German hikers were on a glacier in the Italian Alps when they spotted a body protruding from the ice. It was an unusual discovery since glaciers tend to grind up everything in their path. But this body was protected from contact and oxygen (saponification) and the flesh transmuted into a waxy substance called adipocere, similar to soap.

Radiocarbon dating confirmed the body (a male) was 5,000 years old and in this degree of preservation, anthropologists literally had a time-traveler body to study, along with his possessions. His “shoes” were of interest since they were less slippery on ice, less likely to cause blisters and more protective against cold than modern footwear.

At some later time, humans became more concerned about fashion than function. Many times they chose style or pricey alternatives over utility. That is even more true today as we strive to exaggerate our status in curious ways.

Some of the more amusing examples include the magnificent collar ruffs known as piccadills in the 16th century. As they grew larger and larger, they made eating more impossible and necessitated the fashioning of special long-handled spoons so diners could get food to their lips.

When buttons arrived in 1650, people could not get enough of them as they were arrayed in decorative profusion on the backs, collars and sleeves of coats. Relics of this are the pointless buttons on jacket sleeves near the cuff. (While in London, I had bespoke suits made on Savile Row and the tailor was adamant that four buttons and button holes on each sleeve was de rigueur.)

But perhaps the most egregious example was the 150 years of men wearing wigs. Old faithful Samuel Pepys duly recorded his initial apprehension, but then was proud of being in the vanguard of men’s fashion, despite worrying about the plague if human hair was used. In addition to being hot, scratchy and uncomfortable, wigs required weekly maintenance. They were sent to have their buckles (French bouclés, meaning curls) reshaped on heated rollers and possibly baked in an oven (fluxing).

This evolved into a daily snowfall of white powder, primarily from simple flour, and then into colors, followed by scenting and even multi-colors.

When the wheat harvest failed in France in the 1770s, there were riots when starving people learned that flour was being diverted to wigs instead of baked into bread. “Let them eat …?”

And then suddenly wigs went out of style faster than belted polyester suits in the 1970s. Wigmakers petitioned George III to make wig-wearing by men mandatory. The king refused, so it must have been on one of the days he was not “mad” in the literal sense.

Women continued to wear even more extravagant wigs and added elaborate artificial moles (mouches). I predict that someday, high-heeled shoes will join the corset, but it will not be before the craze for collector purses, stored in air-conditioned cubicles, subsides or Jimmy Choo starts discounting to match Amazon.

Jim O'NielIntelligent Collector blogger JIM O’NEAL is an avid collector and history buff. He is President and CEO of Frito-Lay International [retired] and earlier served as Chairman and CEO of PepsiCo Restaurants International [KFC Pizza Hut and Taco Bell].

Robert Morris the Financier who was Almost Alexander Hamilton

Handsome and Original Robert Morris Black-Back 1880 Ten
This Fr. 288 $10 1880 Silver Certificate, PCGS Choice New 63PPQ, featuring Robert Morris realized $19,975 at a January 2014 auction.

By Jim O’Neal

During the Revolutionary War, one of the more frustrating issues facing General George Washington and his officers was the inconsistent supply of guns, ammunition and basics like shoes, coats, uniforms and food. Then, of course, there was the issue of money to pay the troops.

The Continental Congress struggled to perform the basic functions of a “treasury,” but without the power to tax, they had to rely on loans from foreign governments and domestic support (less than 50 percent of the people were in favor of war). Their FICO scores were low and the paper money printed was “Not worth a Continental!”

By 1781, the United States was in a fiscal crisis. The national debt was $25 million, public credit markets had collapsed and the British were firmly in control of the sea and coastline. Congress decided to act by abandoning their ineffectual committees in favor of an executive structure.

Robert Morris was unanimously elected Superintendent of Finance.

Morris was truly one of the Founding Fathers and was one of two men (Roger Sherman) to have signed the Declaration of Independence, Articles of Confederation, and the U.S. Constitution. Next to George Washington, he was considered the “most powerful man in America” and used his personal fortune to shore up the country’s finances.

Later, caught in the Panic of 1796-97, Morris was cast into debtors’ prison after he speculated on millions of acres of land and could not pay taxes or interest on his leveraged loans. The financial wizard of the Revolution was cast into debtors’ prison for three years until Congress passed a special bankruptcy law in 1800, primarily to free him.

The Department of Treasury was established by an Act of Congress in 1789. When George Washington decided to add a Treasury Secretary to his cabinet, his first choice was Robert Morris. However, Morris convinced him to pick Alexander Hamilton, despite his polarizing personality.

It is interesting to speculate whether biographer Ron Chernow and composer Lin-Manuel Miranda would be the spectacular toasts of Broadway with a character named “Morris.”

P.S. The bust of Robert Morris is featured prominently on the $10 Silver Certificate and the ultra-rare $1,000 Legal Tender note of 1863. There are only two or three in existence and the only one I’ve seen was in the Frank Levitan Collection auction in 1998. I suspect it would bring several million dollars in today’s market. It is a beautiful design.

Jim O'NielIntelligent Collector blogger JIM O’NEAL is an avid collector and history buff. He is President and CEO of Frito-Lay International [retired] and earlier served as Chairman and CEO of PepsiCo Restaurants International [KFC Pizza Hut and Taco Bell].

Hearst Built a Communications Empire that Included Newspapers, Magazines, Radio Stations

The Yellow Kid #1-9 Complete Run CGC-Graded Group
A rare nine-issue, complete run of Richard Outcault’s The Yellow Kid humor magazine, 1897, sold for $20,315 at an August 2015 Heritage auction.

By Jim O’Neal

The first multi-page newspaper published in the British North American colonies was Publick Occurrences Both Forreign and Domestick, printed on Sept. 25, 1690 in Boston. After a single issue, it was suppressed because it was unlicensed and criticized public policy. The British tried to find and destroy every copy, but one is believed to be in the British Library.

Two centuries later, the newspaper industry was thriving. The 1880 census recorded 11,314 different papers and soon, the first circulations of a million copies were recorded. One of them was the New York Journal, which William Randolph Hearst purchased to have a presence in this important market. His first newspaper was The San Francisco Examiner, courtesy of his wealthy father.

William Randolph Hearst (1863-1951) became a powerful figure as he built a communications empire that included newspapers, magazines, radio stations and motion picture syndicates. He influenced both domestic and foreign policy and believed he had pressured the United States to free the Cuban people from Spanish colonization via the Spanish-American War. At one point, he owned eight newspapers in five of the largest cities, with a combined circulation of 3 million. Ultimately, this would grow to 28 newspapers.

In New York City, he enticed cartoonist Richard Outcault to join the New York Journal and this triggered a war with Joseph Pulitzer and his New York World. Outcault’s The Yellow Kid comic fueled a daily war of words as both newspapers featured bold headlines, fake stories and salacious comments about prominent individuals. Perhaps if the strip had been printed using purple ink, we may have adopted “purple journalism” as the pejorative for sleazy stories.

Hearst’s political career included two stints in the House of Representatives and failed bids for both senator and governor of New York. No doubt a run for the White House would have followed if he had been successful.

William Randolph Political Button
Hearst was elected to Congress in 1902 and 1904.

WRH also had an insatiable appetite to acquire. It extended to art objects, mansions and women. He owned at least eight houses, each stocked with priceless antiques and works of art. There were also warehouses filled with acquisitions from Europe. His favorite was Hearst Castle in San Simeon, just north of Santa Barbara, where he hosted parties with Hollywood stars and other important people. It is now an official U.S. National Historic Landmark.

Orson Welles’ movie Citizen Kane is a thinly veiled parody/drama of Hearst, his castle and other aspects of his life. Hearst had so much power he was able to drive it into a box-office failure and relative obscurity for over 20 years. However, by 1998, the American Film Institute ranked it No. 1 on the list of greatest movies … ever.

Hearst Castle is now a popular tourist attraction and open for paid tours all year. George Bernard Shaw once commented, “San Simeon was the place God would have built … if he had the money.”

Jim O'NielIntelligent Collector blogger JIM O’NEAL is an avid collector and history buff. He is President and CEO of Frito-Lay International [retired] and earlier served as Chairman and CEO of PepsiCo Restaurants International [KFC Pizza Hut and Taco Bell].

Today’s Political Schisms Would Not Surprise George Washington

George Washington Jeremiah Paul Historical Painting
A painting by Jeremiah Paul Jr. (d. 1820) depicting George Washington taking leave of his family as he assumes command of U.S. forces during the “quasi-war” with France in 1798, realized $47,500 at a May 2015 Heritage auction.

By Jim O’Neal

George Washington was a staunch opponent of political parties due to the corrosive effect he (strongly) believed they would have on all levels of government.

As president, Washington worked hard to maintain a non-partisan political agenda, despite significant differences that existed right in his cabinet.

His 1796 farewell address was replete with advice to the country, and by extension, to future leaders. One prominent warning was to avoid the formation of political factions that would pose a danger to the effectiveness of government (think gridlock in Washington, D.C.). A second peril was entanglements with foreign governments, since they inevitably lead to war. The examples here start with the War of 1812, two World Wars, Korea, Vietnam and end with the Russian threats to NATO, the China Sea and the remarkably complex situation in the Middle East and North Korea.

After Washington’s retirement, John Adams and Alexander Hamilton ignored his sage advice and wasted little time confronting the Democratic-Republicans, headed by Thomas Jefferson and James Madison. Adams became the first (and last) Federalist president. He was easily defeated in 1800, after one term, by Jefferson and Aaron Burr. Adams finished a dismal third and the Federalists gradually faded into irrelevance.

The Democratic-Republicans put together a nice run of three Virginia presidents – Jefferson, Madison and James Monroe – however, the party lacked a strong center and split four ways. Next was an alliance between John Quincy Adams and Henry Clay of the National Republican Party, which only won a single election in 1824 that required the House to settle. When Andrew Jackson defeated Clay in 1832, the party was absorbed into the Whigs … a diverse group of anti-Jackson politicos.

Then the Whig Party fell apart in the 1850s over the issue of the expansion of slavery in the new territories. In fact, after the 1854 election, the largest party in the House of Representatives was the Opposition Party, with 100 members, followed by 83 Democrats and 51 American Party members (the Know Nothings).

These parties never seem to last long (thankfully).

Next it was the New Republican Party’s turn (the Party of Lincoln) until another major kerfuffle occurred in 1912 when Teddy Roosevelt and President William Howard Taft managed to divide the Republican Party enough to let Democrat Woodrow Wilson win the White House … until he had a stroke and his wife took over.

A century later, we appear to be in another political schism, with a socialist, Senator Bernie Sanders, on the Democrat Party side and on the other, Donald “The Wall” Trump, who claims to have part of the Republican Party supporting him. It is not clear which part.

Only one thing seems certain. Thanks to President Washington, we were warned!

P.S. As history teaches … this too shall pass.

Jim O'NielIntelligent Collector blogger JIM O’NEAL is an avid collector and history buff. He is President and CEO of Frito-Lay International [retired] and earlier served as Chairman and CEO of PepsiCo Restaurants International [KFC Pizza Hut and Taco Bell].

We Should Let Geniuses Do What Geniuses Do

Thomas Alva Edison Photograph Signed
This signed photograph of Thomas Alva Edison, taken sometime around 1910, realized nearly $3,900 at an April 2013 Heritage auction.

By Jim O’Neal

Thomas Alva Edison was awarded about 1,100 patents in the United States and more than double that worldwide.

They are generally grouped into categories that include electric power, telegraphy/telephony, recorded sounds, batteries, cement and motion pictures. His practice of keeping meticulous records to protect his intellectual property became the “gold standard” for future scientists, engineers and inventors in general.

Naturally, he made a lot of money, which proved useful when some of his ideas turned out to be expensive commercial failures. At times, he appeared to lack practical sense or perhaps he lacked the “Steve Jobs gene” when it involved customer preference. Another more plausible explanation is that he simply did not care, period.

One of the more interesting examples is his refusal to adopt the concept of movie theaters (people might sneak in without paying), so he held out for hand-crank, peep-show boxes. In 1908, he confidently predicted that airplanes had no viable future (the Wright brothers disagreed).

Then he became mesmerized by the possibilities for concrete and formed the Edison Portland Cement Company and built a huge factory. By 1907, Edison was the fifth-largest cement producer in the world and had four dozen patents to make a better cement, some of which was used to build Yankee Stadium.

But his abiding passion was to fill the world with cement houses.

The concept was to pour concrete into giant molds to form walls and floors, followed by baths, sinks, cabinets, toilets and even picture frames. A four-man team could build a new house every two days for $1,200 (one-third the cost of traditional structures).

The concept was scheduled to be showcased at a cement industry convention in 1912 in New York. However, when the show opened, the Edison exhibit was empty and Thomas Edison never discussed the issue publicly. There was also no word on the fate of the cement piano that was scheduled to be exhibited.

He was now interested in modernizing war and casually predicted he would be able to induce comas in enemy troops through the use of “electrically charged atomizers.” It is not clear how this idea was abandoned. He also worked on a plan to build giant electromagnets to catch enemy bullets in flight and then “return to sender.” It was another mysterious project that was abandoned.

One last example was a heavy investment in an automated general store where customers would insert coins into slots and then bags of coal, onions, nails or potatoes would come sliding down the chute. The system never worked. It never came close to working.

If you believe in reincarnation, then there is a good chance Thomas Edison is back. This time his name is Jeff Bezos, who had a nutty idea about selling books over the internet and now owns a major print newspaper and is in a race to conquer outer space, since NASA has scaled back. Elon Musk has managed to find time to enter the rocket business, too, while he tinkers with electric cars and batteries.

Our country seems to be blessed when it comes to producing geniuses. Let’s hope the government doesn’t put up too many regulations or red tape as we go hurtling into the future.

Jim O'NielIntelligent Collector blogger JIM O’NEAL is an avid collector and history buff. He is President and CEO of Frito-Lay International [retired] and earlier served as Chairman and CEO of PepsiCo Restaurants International [KFC Pizza Hut and Taco Bell].

Comics Legend Stan Lee Shrugs Off George Lucas Comparisons

The Avengers #1 (Marvel, 1963) CGC NM+ 9.6 Off-white to white pages
The Avengers was created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby in 1963. A copy of the first issue, graded CGC NM+ 9.6, realized $215,100 at a November 2015 auction.

By Hector Cantú

It’s been a busy year for legendary Marvel Comics editor and creator Stan Lee. He’s executive produced two of the year’s biggest movies – Captain America: Civil War and Deadpool. In the wings for theatrical release are X-Men: Apocalypse (May 27) and Doctor Strange (Nov. 4). Then there are the multiple TV projects, including Daredevil and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

Lee, partnering with colleagues such as Jack Kirby, Bill Everett and Don Heck, co-created or helped conceptualize most of the Marvel Comics heroes and villains that have jumped from comic-book pages to the big and small screens (Captain America was created by Joe Simon and Kirby; Deadpool by Rob Liefeld and Fabian Nicieza; and Doctor Strange by Steve Ditko).

The Intelligent Collector interviewed Lee eight years ago, before both Marvel Studios and Lucasfilm were acquired by Walt Disney Studios. Even back then, we saw the similarities between the character-rich universes conceived by Lee and George Lucas and asked Stan about it.

“Damn!” Lee said when told that among the top 15 movies at the time, Lucas’ movies had grossed just a bit more than movies based on Marvel Comics characters. “He’s always beating me! I don’t like being in second place!”

Here is an excerpt from that 2008 interview:

Q: Do you consider yourself one of the most successful creators in Hollywood?

A: Of course not! Lucas does movies. I only wrote a lot of comic book stories, which other people have made into great movies. I had nothing to do with the movies and yet I seem to get so much credit for them. I feel like a phony!

Q: But Lucas created Luke Skywalker, you created Peter Parker. He created Darth Vader, you created Doctor Doom. Lucas wrote the stories, you wrote the stories.

Intelligent Collector No. 5 Stan Lee
Stan Lee was the cover story for the Fall 2008 edition of The Intelligent Collector.

A: … I think I was very instrumental in making these characters famous and successful as comic book characters. In the comic book field, I did very well and I am happy to accept all the credit that might be heaped upon me. But the movies that have made all this money you’re talking about, while they were based on things that I wrote, they were written and directed and acted by other people. I had nothing to do with that. So I would be an idiot to compare myself to a George Lucas. I think I’m cuter! [laughs]

Q: People would still argue you’re on the same level. You created characters. You created stories. The movies are based on those characters and those stories. The similarities are there.

A: Look, I’m not going to fight it. I’m very flattered to be put in the same class. The only difference is, of course, I created probably more things.

P.S. It appears Stan is no longer in second place. Since this interview appeared, Marvel movies have surpassed Star Wars movies on the Top 10 ranking of worldwide grosses, according to Box Office Mojo.

HECTOR CANTÚ is editor of The Intelligent Collector magazine.

Intraparty Feuding Over Presidential Politics Not New

William McKinley Perhaps the Most Sought After of All Color Political Lithography from Golden Era
This 1900 William McKinley reelection poster realized $17,925 at a May 2010 auction.

By Jim O’Neal

“Now look! That damn cowboy is president!” – Mark Hanna (1901)

Major William McKinley was the last veteran of the Civil War to be nominated for president by any party. With the backing of Ohio businessman and U.S. Senator Mark Hanna, McKinley won the 1896 presidential election and was inaugurated on March 4, 1897. This was the last presidential inauguration of the 19th century and the first to be recorded on film.

His vice president, Garret Hobart, died in 1899 at age 55 from heart disease. He would become the last man to serve in that office in the 19th century and the last vice president to die while in office. The vice presidency was then vacant until the next election.

As the incumbent, McKinley was the strong favorite in 1900, but a major dispute erupted over the choice for VP. There was a lot of support for Theodore Roosevelt after his high-profile exploits in the Spanish-American War, however, “King Maker” Hanna was very much opposed. He viewed TR as a maverick who would be hard to control and made his opinion well known:

“Matter! Matter! Why, everybody’s gone crazy. What is the matter with all of you? Here’s this convention going headlong for Roosevelt for vice president! Any of you realize that there’s only one life between that madman and the presidency? … What harm can he do as governor of New York compared to the damage he will do as president if McKinley should die?”

There was also a major dispute over the party platform, and the new Silver Republican Party decided to back Democrat William Jennings Bryan when the main Republican Party supported the gold standard. Silver Republicans included the senators from Utah, Idaho, Colorado, South Dakota, Montana and Nevada.

Of course, McKinley did win the election and after he was assassinated in 1901, that “damn cowboy” did become president. By then, Hanna’s health was failing and he and the new president reached an accommodation. TR would stop calling him “old man” and Hanna would stop calling Roosevelt “Teddy” (he disliked that name). The Silver Republican Party faded away and the 20th century was waiting impatiently.

Jim O'NielIntelligent Collector blogger JIM O’NEAL is an avid collector and history buff. He is President and CEO of Frito-Lay International [retired] and earlier served as Chairman and CEO of PepsiCo Restaurants International [KFC Pizza Hut and Taco Bell].

Bell’s Invention Had Rocky Start, But Has Conquered Nearly 7 Billion People

Alexander Graham Bell Autograph Letter Signed
A letter from Alexander Graham Bell, on Volta Laboratory letterhead, sent to Joseph Stanley-Brown, private secretary to President James Garfield, and dated Aug. 2, 1881, sold for nearly $6,000 at an April 2014 Heritage auction.

By Jim O’Neal

In 1861, a German schoolmaster named Johann Philipp Reis built a device he called a telephone. Apparently, many Germans tend to credit him with the invention instead of Alexander Graham Bell.

The one thing that Reis’ device didn’t do was work. It only produced a series of clicks like a telegraph might. After his death, it was discovered that when the device got dusty or dirty, the contact points were able to transmit speech with remarkably clear fidelity. Reis had kept his equipment impeccably shiny and clean in the finest Teutonic tradition.

Three other men, including American Elisha Gray, were close to perfecting their versions of a telephone when Bell made his famous “Mr. Watson—Come here—I want to see you” breakthrough in 1876. Gray actually filed a patent caveat (a sort of holding claim) on the exact same day Bell filed for his patent. Alas, it was a few hours too late and Bell prevailed.

Bell displayed his invention at the 1876 Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia, but it did not attract much attention. Most people considered it a novelty with no real understanding of its purpose.

Bell tried to explain what it did by writing: “The telephone may be briefly described as an electrical contrivance for reproducing in different places the tones and articulation of a speaker’s voice so that conversation can be carried on by word of mouth between persons in different rooms, in different streets or in different towns. … The great advantage it possesses over every other form of electrical apparatus is that it requires no skill to operate the instrument.”

Say what?

It is not clear how much this helped, but some expect cellphone subscriptions to soon exceed 7 billion – or more than the total population of Earth.

Reach out and touch someone.

P.S. An interesting obscure fact is that Thomas A. Watson had about 40 patents himself and one was for the bell that rang with a call. For the first seven years, people had to pick up the phone occasionally to see if anyone was on the line.

Jim O'NielIntelligent Collector blogger JIM O’NEAL is an avid collector and history buff. He is President and CEO of Frito-Lay International [retired] and earlier served as Chairman and CEO of PepsiCo Restaurants International [KFC Pizza Hut and Taco Bell].

Jackson, Calhoun Divided in Office, United on Currency

Illustrious and Vibrant $1000 Montgomery Note-The Newman-Colonel Green Collection Note
The Confederate States T1 $1000 Montgomery Issue note, showing John C. Calhoun on left and Andrew Jackson on right, is an iconic rarity in the American paper money canon. This example realized $76,375 at an October 2015 Heritage auction.

By Jim O’Neal

“Posterity will condemn me more because I was persuaded not to hang John C. Calhoun as a traitor than for any other act in my life.” – Andrew Jackson in his final days before death

Such was the relationship of President Jackson and his Vice President John Caldwell Calhoun. Calhoun had also served as vice president in the previous administration of John Quincy Adams (1825-1829) and then won reelection in 1828 as he wisely switched to the more popular Jackson.

He thus became the second vice president to serve under two presidents, following in the footsteps of George Clinton (Thomas Jefferson and James Madison).

However, a series of disagreements between Jackson and Calhoun totally destroyed their tenuous relationship and Calhoun resigned in late 1832 before completing his term. This was a first for the vice presidency that would not be repeated until much later when Spiro Agnew was forced out over criminal actions.

One small irony is that Jackson/Calhoun are the only president/vice president to be featured together on currency printed in the United States. In 1861, the Confederate States of America issued a series of $1,000 bank notes with portraits of the two men featured prominently.

And there they shall remain together for a long time.

Jim O'NielIntelligent Collector blogger JIM O’NEAL is an avid collector and history buff. He is President and CEO of Frito-Lay International [retired] and earlier served as Chairman and CEO of PepsiCo Restaurants International [KFC Pizza Hut and Taco Bell].