John H. Glenn (1921-2016)

Much can be written and said about John Herschel Glenn, Jr. but this article will just touch the surface regarding his autograph.

First, a very short history of John Glenn. In 1944, he flew 59 combat missions in the Pacific. He was noted for his low flying straffing runs while bombing Japanese positions. His plane was hit by antiaircraft five times. Once he returned with 250 holes in his plane. During some of these flights, Ted Williams (noted baseball player) was his wing man. Glenn downed 3 enemy jet fighters during the last two months of the war.

From February to September 1953, Glenn flew 90 combat missions in Korea. Fighting in both wars, Glenn retired from the service without a scratch!

In 1959, NASA selected Glenn as one of the 7 Mercury Astronauts from a pool of 508 applicants.

On February 20, 1962, NASA launched Glenn into space aboard the Friendship 7. He became the first American to orbit the earth. During this flight he piloted the spacecraft after a malfunction in the automatic control system. Glenn orbited the earth 3 times and successfully landed after traveling for 4 hours and 55 minutes. He became an instant National Hero. Many felt he was the biggest American hero since Charles Lindbergh.

During his early days, he usually signed his name as “J.H. Glenn, Jr.”

On February 26, 1964 John Glenn took a bad fall in his bathroom. He was in the process of removing a mirrored cabinet from the wall and it fell from his hands. He ducked to avoid the cabinet from hitting his head but when his weight shifted the bath rug under his feet slipped and Glenn went down and his head hit the metal rim of his bathtub that held the shower door. Glenn blanked out for a few sec-onds and woke up in a pool of blood. It took nine months for Glenn to recuperate.

During these months, Glenn received a mountain of mail, up to 600 letters a day, from wellwishers. He answered most of them with a very interesting content form letter. In a P.S. Glenn writes: “Although the letter is facsimile, the above signature is not. It is original…”

I can confirm this as I have owned several of these letters and each signature is different.

Once again, it is interesting to note that John Glenn flew combat mission in two wars, later was launched into space only to be brought down by a slippery bath mat on a tile floor.

During this time, the midsixties, I was collecting autographs of astronauts and I started to notice the change in Glenn’s signature. Watching for next several years, I decided to write to Glenn asking why the signature changed. He began to drop the “Jr.” from his signature. His letter to me dated January 1972 states that he dropped the “Jr.” after his father died on September 8, 1966.

Several years later, in April 1983, Glenn announced his intention to seek the Democratic presidential nomination. Below is a signed campaign flyer to meet him in Iowa on November 4, 1983.

Collecting the signatures of John Glenn have been very popular for 60 years. During 1999, I went to one of his book signings in Florida. The line of collectors went out the door and stretched for two blocks. The store immediately became aware that if they allowed only one signed book per customer they did not have enough books. A store employee had to get to the back of the line with a sign stating “the line ends here.” I would bet a hundred or more people were turned away that day.

Collectors must be cautious when purchasing something signed by John Glenn. I have been able to identify at least four different Autopen signatures. See below.

In addition to using In addition to using the autopen he also has a secretary sign for him during the time he ran for president in 1984. The secretary signed Fist Day covers and inscribed photographs of John Glenn.

As usual, it is in your best interests to purchase autographs from informed dealers who are members of the ADA 1986. Unlike some other organizations, dealer members of the ADA 1986 do guarantee their items as genuine and honor their return policies.

(Stephan Koschal)