Williams, Thomas S.
Autograph Letter Signed, Hartford, Connecticut, March 17, 1842 to Lewis J. Cist, Cincinnati, Ohio

quarto, 2 pages, plus stamp-less address leaf, in very good, clean and legible condition.

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      Congressman Thomas Williams, having received Cist’s letter, needed some time to “examine my files of letters and see whether I could with propriety send you any from persons whom you designated. I find very few indeed, none of the Signers of the Declaration of Independence or Constitution of the US except those of Col. Williams who was a very old man when he wrote me and whose letters are so connected with domestic subjects as to render it improper in my opinion for me to place them in a public position. I have however found a few letters from Gentlemen who have occupied high stations and whose characters are doubtless known to you Mess. Goodrich, Daggett, Sumner Goddard & Gould, the first of whom have been Lt. Gov. and sat together with the two next Senator in the US Senate and all the others have been Judges of our Supreme Court. Mr. Goddard and Timothy Pitkin have also been members of the House of Reps. The two last, however, with Judge Daggett are still living which made me hesitate somewhat about sending their letters but their content were of that character I thought that there could be no objection – you will I trust advert to that circumstance in any use you may make of them. I hope to find a letter from the first Governor Trumbull who was our … during the War of the Revolution …”

           Cincinnati poet and composer Lewis J. Cist, grandson of a Russian immigrant who became a wealthy Philadelphia printer and publisher, was not the first great American autograph collector, but the collection he “energetically” assembled by writing letters to famous men, was one of the finest of the mid-19th century – and probably the largest. When it was dispersed at auction in New York in 1886, a year after Cist’s death, the catalogue of 909 printed pages listed 11,890 lots, notably a will signed by Button Gwinett, the rarest of the Signers of the Declaration of Independence and a copy of the Star-Spangled Banner, handwritten for Cist by Francis Scott Key.

Cist’s correspondents, besides Key, included Andrew Jackson, Edgar Allen Poe, but also included many lesser figures – like Thomas Scott Williams, US Congressman, Mayor of Hartford, and Chief Justice of the Connecticut Supreme Court, who was married to the daughter of Oliver Ellsworth, a drafter of the US Constitution and the third Chief Justice of the US Supreme Court.