This autograph business is getting to be a little bit tedious. It is all one-sided. I want to get even some how, on some one. If I can’t come back at the autograph fiend himself, perhaps I might make some other fellow creature unhappy. That would take my mind off the woes that are inflicted by the man who is making a collection of the autographs of “prominent men,” and who sends a printed circular formally demanding your autograph, as the tax collector would demand your tax.
John Comstock, the President of the First National Bank, of Hudson, the other day suggested an idea. I gave him an autograph copy of my last great work, and he said: “Now, I’m a man of business. You gave me your autograph, I give you mine in return. That’s what we call business.” He then signed a brand new $5 national bank note, the cashier did ditto, and the two autographs were turned over to me.
Now, how would it do to make a collection of the signatures of the presidents and cashiers of national banks of the United States in the above manner? An album containing the autographs of these bank officials would not only be a handsome heirloom to fork over to posterity, but it would possess intrinsic value. In pursuance of this idea, I have been considering the advisability of issuing the following letter:
To the Presidents and Cashiers of the National Banks of the United States.
Gentlemen–I am now engaged in making a collection of the autographs of the presidents and cashiers of national banks throughout the Union, and to make the collection uniform, I have decided to ask for autographs written at the foot of the national currency bank note of the denomination of $5. I am not sectarian in my religious views, and I only suggest this denomination for the sake of uniformity throughout the album.
Card collections, cat albums and so forth, may please others, but I prefer to make a collection that shall show future ages who it was that built up our finances, and furnished the sinews of war. Some may look upon this move as a mercenary one, but with me it is a passion. It is not simply a freak, it is a desire of my heart.
In return I would be glad to give my own autograph, either by itself or attached to some little gem of thought which might occur to my mind at the time.
I have always taken a great interest in the currency of the country. So far as possible I have made it a study. I have watched its growth, and noted with some regret its natural reserve. I may say that, considering meagre opportunities and isolated advantages afforded me, no one is more familiar with the habits of our national currency than I am. Yet, at times my laboratory has not been so abundantly supplied with specimens as I could have wished. This has been my chief drawback.
I began a collection of railroad passes some time ago, intending to file them away and pass the collection down through the dim vista of coming years, but in a rash moment I took a trip of several thousand miles, and those passes were taken up.
I desire, in conclusion, gentlemen, to call your attention to the fact that I have always been your friend and champion. I have never robbed the bank of a personal friend, and if I held your autographs I should deem you my personal friends, and feel in honor bound to discourage any movement looking toward an unjust appropriation of the funds of your bank. The autographs of yourselves in my possession, and my own in your hands, would be regarded as a tacit agreement on my part never to rob your bank. I would even be willing to enter into a contract with you not to break into your vaults, if you insist upon it. I would thus be compelled to confine myself to the stage coaches and railroad trains in a great measure, but I am getting now so I like to spend my evenings at home, anyhow, and if I do well this year, I shall sell my burglars’ tools and give myself up to the authorities.
You will understand, gentlemen, the delicate nature of this request, I trust, and not misconstrue my motives. My intentions are perfectly honorable, and my idea in doing this is, I may say, to supply a long felt want.
Hoping that what I have said will meet with your approval and hearty cooperation, and that our very friendly business relations, as they have existed in the past, may continue through the years to come, and that your bank may wallow in success till the cows come home, or words to that effect, I beg leave to subscribe myself, yours in favor of one country, one flag and one bank account.