Explorer autographs, signatures, signed documents, and signed letters of the early explorers virtually do not exist before Daniel Boone. Documents signed by him, always land transaction document are extremely rare. He was virtually illiterate except for signing his name, and in retirement began to sell land that he had obtained in his early settling of Kentucky. Meriwether Lewis of the Lewis and Clark expedition is extremely rare in signed documents because of his short life span. However, his partner in the expedition, William Clark, lived a long life and, because of his military positions, signed many documents and is relatively available for today’s collectors. Also because of their military careers, Zebulon M. Pike and John C. Frémont, other American Western explorers, signed many documents and are fairly easy to collect.
The pioneer African explorer, David Livingstone, was very well-known during his lifetime, and his autograph signatures and signed letters, very clearly written, have often been saved by past generations, though they are now relatively difficult to find. The man sent to find Livingstone, Henry M. Stanley, had a long career as a journalist, signed many letters, and can generally be found in autograph signatures and signed letters.
The Arctic and Antarctic explorers were the major figures of their day – household names – and their autograph signatures and signed letters were sought after and treasured. Robert E. Peary, the first to reach the North Pole, can be found in autograph material, though he is not common and the demand not great. The British Antarctic explorer Robert Falcon Scott, who died after reaching the South Pole, freely gave his autograph signature to admirers and wrote many signed letters seeking support for his expeditions. As a national hero, after dying on his return from the Pole, his letters were saved and treasured, but can be found, though with some difficulty. Ernest H. Shackleton who, unlike Robert F. Scott, knew when to stop, is in the greatest demand among collectors. Recent books and films about Shackleton’s extraordinary adventures after his ship was wrecked in the Antarctic have made him the symbol of an explorer who knew how to survive. Shackleton was very cooperative in giving his autograph signature to admirers, who could easily meet him at his numerous lectures given to raise money for his expeditions. He also wrote letters seeking support for his expeditions, though these signed letters have now become quite scarce on the market. Admiral Richard E. Byrd, the American polar explorer who was the first to fly over both the South and North Poles, and who extensively explored Antarctica, also gave many autograph signatures to admirers and also wrote many letters for fund-raising purposes.
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