From trash to treasure: a TLS from Harry S. Truman. Courtesy of Ed Bomsey.

Have you ever wondered how a person gets hooked on collecting? Maybe it is the first autograph you got from a sports figure. Maybe it was a chance opportunity on the subway, at an airport or in a restaurant. Once you are bitten you are often hooked. Manuscript Society member Ed Bomsey tells his story.

“OK, technically my “first autograph” was Fernando Lamas’s. I got it at Yankee Stadium when I was a boy and he was appearing on Broadway in a forgettable show. But I got my first real autograph quite by accident, saving it from a trash can and subsequent incineration.

In my senior year in college (at what was then New York University’s University College of Arts & Science), I was elected vice president of the student governing board. The board had an office in an administration building, and our first order of business was to pitch out the files of the previous admin­istration to make room for the reams of correspondence we were sure would fill the file cabinet.

In pitching the files, one by one, I noticed on the floor a 1962 typed letter signed by Harry S. Truman regarding an invitation to come to the Bronx and address the college. I grabbed the letter and told my colleagues that, unless anyone objected, I was going to keep this letter for myself. How could we throw away a letter from President Truman? No one cared a whit, so I took it home.

Fifty-four years later, I still have it among my prized “goodies” in my own personal presidential autograph collection. It’s not my only Truman autograph, it has no real content to it, and its value is perhaps a couple of hundred dollars, but it was my first autograph of any consequence. I will never part with it— don’t even ask!”

Ed Bomsey is past president of the Manuscript Society and proprietor of Edward N. Bomsey Autographs Inc., Annandale, Virginia.

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