Great Canadian Heritage Treasure

Many people like to feel a connection with the past, especially to famous people who played important roles in history.

That is why people like signed items - whether in clothing, equipment, photos, furniture, or personal items like letters.

Autographs offer the simplest, but also the most personal, form of connectedness to great historical figures.

The most basic autograph is often a torn or cut signature from a letter, like that of British Boer War General William Gatacre.

One would have liked the whole letter but - as is all too common - someone misguidedly cut away the unimportant part... Collectors do not do that anymore.

Signatures like this are still useful to compare to others to see if they are genuine. And after all, the general actually signed it.

Autograph, General William Gatacre - 1900
Orig. autograph - Size - 5 x 10 cm
Found - Blackpool, UK
Great Canadian Heritage Treasure

One kind of autograph collector actively solicits signatures from the famous by writing to them and asking for an autograph to add to their collection. This was common during the Boer War with generals receiving many such requests. And many complied sending little notes like this one to the autograph hound.

General William Gatacre was a famous Boer War general from the early part of the war who orchestrated one of the three horrific defeats the British suffered in the opening months of the war, causing the world to believe the British - the most powerful military force in the world - was about to be defeated by a bunch of Boer farmer insurgents.

At Stormberg on Dec. 9, 1899, his night assault, on Boers on a hilltop, fell apart through poor communications, resulting in major battlefield confusion. Troops got lost, others were fired on by their own guns, some retreated, leaving others behind. Gatacre finally withdrew in disarray, losing some 600 men - out of 3,000 - as prisoners of the Boers who had no losses at all.

Signed Letter, General Gatacre, 1900
Orig. letter - Size - 12 x 17 cm
Found - Omaha, NB
Gatacre was dismissed by Lord Roberts and his career was finished, but he gamely offered Miss Smith his autograph ten months later.

Autographs 3 - In Autograph Books

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Great Canadian Heritage Treasure Left is a fabulous collection of signatures of famous personalities in Victorian and Edwardian Canada, on a page taken out of some notables' autograph book. These were all probably signed in England, possibly in 1897 during the Jubilee celebrations. (Judging by Hughes signing Canada)

Sam Hughes below, mentioned above, when he was Canada's Minister of Militia, is number two on the page. He was notorious in the Boer War for his independent streak that got him fired as intelligence officer for British General Warren of Spion Kop infamy, during the Karroo Campaign when he was brash enough to write the press the mistakes Warren had made at the Battle of Faber's Put.

Now after the Boer War he's championing a fabulous Canadian weapon for the Militia... the Ross rifle...

Under him is Frederick Borden below Canada's Minister of Militia all during Sir Wilfrid Laurier's 15 years in office, 1896-1911.

His son was the most famous Canadian casualty of the Boer War.

Borden and Hughes were small town boys determined to make their big mark - check their signatures - in comparison to plain old Wilfrid - Prime Minister of Canada - who signed underneath them.

Go to Harold Borden

Boer War Autographs, 1897
Orig. page from autograph book - Size - 13 x 20 cm
Found - Gardiner, MD
Great Canadian Heritage Treasure

A sample page from simply the finest autograph book in existence, featuring as it does:

- a leading Boer War general and Lord

- two Victoria Cross winners

- a leading Victorian surgeon & Knight

all on one page...

Go to Emily Hay's Autograph Book

The book contains many pages of autographs, poems, and sketches, of leading Boer War men and women from the battle front during the Boer War.

Collected by nursing sister Emily Hay.

The last word in the finest of autograph books collected from leading actors in the midst of the greatest war of the era.

Nursing Sister Emily Hay's Boer War Autograph Book - 1900
Orig. autograph book - Size - 9 x 13 cm
Found - Hastings, UK
Great Canadian Heritage Treasure

A fabulous autograph book that was kept by Basil Lubbock, the most famous and prolific chronicler of the Age of Sail, during World War I, when he and his wife Dot were posted to India.

It is full of autographs of generals and top colonial British civil servants there, as well as lots of photos of them all and some watercolours painted by Basil.

Discovered when being sold as an anonymous book of photos and scribbles at a small Ontario auction.


Go to Basil's Autographs

Photo & Autograph Album, 1914-1915
Dot & Basil Lubbock, Oct. 4, 1914, Hamble, UK
Orig. album - Size - 9.25 x 11 x 2"
Found - St. Catharines, ON
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