Presidential Checks

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At first glance, checks may seem to be the least personal and expressive items in the realm of manuscript-collecting. Checks, after all, are a form of currency, and currency is one of our most basic means of survival. Yet, unlike the more anonymous cash, checks are a record of a link between the person writing the check and the payee. In that sense, checks, like letters, are actually rather intimate items. Checks offer insight into how households and marriages were run. Checks, as undeniable proof of a transaction, can often tell you a truth about the author that they would much rather you didn’t know. What can checks written by the people who served as President of the United States tell us about their public and personal lives? This collection contains checks written for both historic and more mundane purposes. The check Lincoln wrote to his son Robert to prepare for his enlistment in the Civil War can be viewed in this collection. Also on view is an extremely rare printed check signed by Franklin Pierce written to buy coal to heat the White House in 1854. You can also view the only surviving check of Zachary Taylor – made out to himself. The intrinsic importance of these checks, which mark small moments during historic eras, can be explored in this rare – and surprisingly moving – collection, carefully assembled over the last 40 years.

Curated Manuscripts