Autographs You Won't Want To Miss: See the Exhibit at K-College

May 5, 2014

Curator Paul Smithson at the A.M. Todd Rare Book Room
Credit Zinta Aistars

Every term, Kalamazoo College digs up an exhibit for display at the A.M. Todd Rare Book Room. It’s located on the third floor of the Upjohn Library Commons building at the corner of Thompson and Academy streets.

The exhibit “Sincerely Yours: Noteworthy Signatures” will be up until June 5th. It's filled with letters, books, documents, and even artwork signed by famous figures in history. 

Rare Book Room Curator Paul Smithson says handling the actual documents written by these famous people makes them real to students of Kalamazoo College. 

Among the collection are photos of Alice Hargreaves--the original Alice of Alice in Wonderland. Hargreaves encouraged Lewis Carroll to publish the fantastical stories he made up for her. There is also a Carroll book signed by Hargreaves.

There's also a book of autographs from famous actors from the early 1900's. The Kalamazoo Civic Theatre used to take train trips to New York, where Kalamazoo interior decorator Eleanor Austin would get the stars' autographs at social events. There are about 18 autographs, including Lillian Gish, Helen Hayes, Marie Stapleton, and Bert Lahr.

Smithson says the oldest signatures are on the Thomas Jefferson and Ben Franklin documents, the youngest signature is probably from pop artist Jim Dine

The book room also has a copy of Sinclair Lewis' novel Our Mr. Wrenn with an inscription to Mrs. Rudolph Light of Kalamazoo. Based on the writing, it seems Lewis met Light when one of them had a flat tire on the road.