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Autograph Letter Signed by Walter Wellman, Pioneer American Aviator.
Autograph Letter Signed by Walter Wellman, Pioneer American Aviator.

Autograph Letter Signed by Walter Wellman, Pioneer American Aviator.

1893 Letter by Wellman in his role as a news journalist, here writing about the inside politics of President Grover Cleveland’s administration

In this good content letter pioneer aviator Walter Wellman writes in his position as a news journalist for the American Press Association (Associated Press, today), writing as a Washington, D.C. correspondent. He sarcastically hails American President Grover Cleveland “ the greatest of all living virgins” (and that’s not all).

Walter Wellman (1858-1934) was an aeronaut, an explorer, an American journalist and an Ohio native. As a young man, Wellman served in the American Civil War. After its conclusion he founded the Cincinnati Evening Post whereof he presumably made his fortunes.

Walter Wellman is best known for announcing his plans to take a rigid airship to the North Pole in 1905. After various setbacks, his dirigible, the America, left New Jersey in 1910. It met with failure not long after it launched and the mission was over. (The airship drifted aimlessly until the crew was rescued near Bermuda.) Wellman next tried to meet his North Pole objective with his airship Akron, but the dirigible exploded, killing its crew.

Wellman wrote in 1902 “A Tragedy of the Far North” published in The White World. In 1911, Wellman’s book The Aerial Age; A Thousand Miles by Airship over the Atlantic Ocean was published.

Here, in this letter Wellman has his hat on as a well-careered journalist. Wellman writes to a Mr. Hill explaining the inside politics of President Grover Cleveland’s administration. Wellman refers specifically to a legislative compromise involving Senator John Sherman, then former U.S. Secretary of the Treasury, author of the Sherman Anti-Trust Act and later U.S. Secretary of State.

The letter possibly concerns the repeal of the Sherman Silver Purchase Act of 1890 which had increased the amount of silver to be purchased by the federal government. Wellman describes a “passive Cleveland” and his “former suitors in Wall Street” and of how “....the passive G.C. screamed, kicked, wriggled and twisted and called for ‘help’. Mr. Gorman [Senator Arthur P. Gorman] walked away, crestfallen, kim-koed, sheepish, as a man always is under such circumstances….” Wellman laments that the compromise might have worked had it not been for the Cleveland administration’s “treachery.”

An American original; Wellman’s story of his efforts with his airship “America” and “Akron” are well worth reading about. Their events shaped perceptions of the safety and practicality of American dirigibles and rigid airships in the decades that followed. A scarce letter from this if not important, at least enthusiastic and well-capitalized, pioneer in this realm of aviation history.

Description: Autograph Letter Signed by Walter Wellman, Pioneer American Aviator.

Washington, [D.C.] c. October 30, 1893. Quarto, [2]pp. Written on the engraved letterhead of the American Press Association, with Walter Wellman’s name listed as a Washington Bureau Correspondent. Folds, tiny tears or tiny paper defects to some fold lines or margins; very good.


Price: $250.00

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