54 [Custer, George B.] Book signed in pencil on
upper part of copyright page: “Gen GA Custer
Fort Lincoln Dakota.” The book is Harte, Francis
Bret. The Luck of the Roaring Camp and Other
Sketches. Boston: Fields, Osgood & Co., 1870.
The signature and writing is clear and distinct;
the book itself shows worn cloth, with rear
board separated. There is a wood box display
case with a locking glass top that accompanies
the purchase if desired.
This is only the second book to surface with
Custer’s autograph signature, (the other is his
Bible, first sold at Butterfield’s in 1995 and
resold last year at auction). This book is descended from the estate of Clara Morris, a New York actress, whom Custer greatly admired. Incredibly, Clara Morris wrote her reminiscence of this copy of her book in Frank Leslie’s Popular Monthly (Vol. 52, 1901, pp. 415-416). Apparently after Custer’s massacre, she had been accustomed to using this copy to help prompt her to cry on stage when needed, since the memory of Custer so affected her. “The other day when I had been writing of the source of stage tears, I took that battered old copy of the ‘Luck of the RoaringCamp,’ which used to be called my tear-bottle, and before returning it to it’s shelf, I absently fluttered some pages over…[here she describes a short list of directions for a journey West, written at the back of the book, now no longer present] What on earth is it all about? I asked myself. I turned the leaf to find the beginning, and lo! As the tears rushed into my eyes, I found myself ambushed and powerless before memories, grave and gay, as they sprang from
the honored name there, stretching it’s penciled length across the page, of Gen. George A.
Custer [perhaps another artistic liberty – actually ‘Gen. G A Custer’]. He had written it
himself as he sat upon the dressing shelf.” Apparently Custer had some time to kill while
she prepared herself for the stage, or perhaps he was reading to her – in any event, he could not restrain correcting Harte’s prose at the top of page 3, where Harte had written “was indebted to his company” Custer has lined through the word ‘to’ and replaced it with ‘for’ written above it. Clara Morris was an actress who achieved great success in the 1870s. After her death this book passed to her biographers, Mr. and Mrs. George MacAdams, and it subsequently sold at a postal auction gallery where it was purchased by the deceased consigner in 1974. A great association copy.