In December of 1898, twelve-year-old George E. Elwell, Jr., received this letter from Admiral George Dewey. Elwell, who had been inspired by the Admiral’s victory at the Battle of Manila Bay, had written to the Admiral earlier in the year asking for a souvenir from the war, a common practice of the day. This letter from our collection here at the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum and Library is Admiral Dewey’s response to the young boy’s request, and it served as the inspiration for Mr. Elwell’s life-long hobby. Soon afterward, and over the course of more than half a century, Mr. Elwell began to assemble an impressive collection of over 100 letters or documents, each containing the signature of a well-known figure from American and European history.
In 1958, the “Elwell Autograph Collection” was donated to the Caldwell Consistory (Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania) which in turn was donated to the newly established Scottish Rite Masonic Museum and Library in April of 1974. Among the Elwell Collection’s many highlights is an appointment letter signed by King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain (1489), a document signed by Queen Elizabeth I (1559), an Oath of Office signed by the Council of the Massachusetts Bay Colony (1650), the passport of a ship’s captain signed by Louis XIV of France (1701), three documents signed by George Washington (1783, 1789, and 1792), a payroll order signed by Major General Alexander Hamilton (1781), a letter signed by Queen Victoria (1843), a thank-you note signed by Winston Churchill (1945), and a letter signed by United States Senator John F. Kennedy (1959).
Correspondence File from George E. Elwell, Jr. and Caldwell Consistory, Folder USM 009 [no date], Archive Control Files, Scottish Rite Masonic Museum and Library.
Letter from Admiral George Dewey to Twelve-Year-Old George E. Elwell, Jr., December 9, 1898. Gift of Caldwell Consistory, Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania. Collection of the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum and Library, USM 009.