Sunday, October 14, 2007

1966 Bill Clinton Artifact Reveals the Good 'Ole Boy

An autograph auction house in the U.S. is offering an interesting artifact this weekend. It's a postcard Bill sent to his grandmother Edith Cassidy, his "Mammaw". At the time he was attending an elite school in D.C. At 7 p.m. Pacific time bidding had already reached $1,044. The curious thing is that he would mail such an insensitive image from Washington during the height of the Civil Rights movement.

The Catalog Description says:

Early ALS signed “Bill,” on the correspondence side of a 6.75 x 3.5 picture postcard, no date [postmarked February 2, 1966]. Clinton, then a college student at Georgetown, writes to his grandmother,Edith Cassidy, whom he addresses as “Mammaw.” In full: “Thought I would send you one of your cards just to prove I am using them! My tests are over and I’m just starting the second term. Hope you are well and happy, Say hello to Buddy & Ollie—See you at Easter.” Clinton has addressed the postcard, “Mrs. Edith Cassidy, Hope Nursing Home, Main Street, Hope, Arkansas,” adding his return address, “Wm. J. Clinton, Box 289, GUDG, 20007.” The postcard bears a ballpoint notation under the address, “Feb. 3, 1966,” possibly in Cassidy’s hand. Apart from the early date, the most notable feature of the postcard is clearly the image: a grossly stereotypical caricature of a young African-American boy wearing an idiotic grin as he “shines” a watermelon. A throwback to the outrageously broad portrayals of African-Americans of a century earlier, Clinton’s choice of postcard is startling on a number of levels: not only was he writing in the midst of the most active civil-rights movement in American history, but he himself would go on to earn a reputation as one of the greatest champions of racial minorities among modern American presidents. The postcard is housed in a handsome custom clamshell box together with a copy of Clinton’s correspondence and two portraits. In fine condition, with a small brush to first letter of signature, a bit of mild toning, and a light vertical crease through address panel. A most remarkable and revealing item from a president whose legacy only continues to evolve!

Of course Bill has had forty years to shine his apple. This 1998 image is the one he always intended for himself.

UPDATE - At 2:50pm PST Oct. 18 - bidding was at $5,724.

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