Yeah, we’ve had plenty of things come through the Book fair with the signatures of Chicago and Illinois celebrities on ‘em. In fact, I think we’ve had representatives of just about everything Chicago is famous for.
The literary world is well represented, of course: Andrew Greeley, Ben Hecht, Bill Kurtis, Bill Granger, Sara Paretsky, Christie Hefner, Eugene Kennedy, Nelson Algren, Mike Royko, and many others (Didn’t know Minnie was from Chicago, did you?). And scads of politicians: Burton Natarus, Ed Burke, Carter Harrison Jr., George Ryan…. In fact, we once had a book inscribed by Royko to Natarus, which the library decided to keep, what with the historic nature of THAT conjunction. And once, only once, Richard J. Daley. (Sold it to a member of the county government, as it happens.)
We haven’t done so well in Chicago sports, probably because nobody gives those souvenirs away: a Bear or two, a White Sock…we did get Leo Durocher, though his Cubs period is not exactly the high point of his biography. Even worse, we have never had a single gangster autograph (that I know about, though there was the estate of a lawyer once whose collection made me a bit uneasy.)
Architects, though: we’ve had architects: Bertrand Goldberg, Eliel Saarinen, Morrell Shoemaker, George Danforth. And we’re pretty good on autographs of Chicago scholars: Hannah Gray, Paul F. Gehl, Theodore W. Schulz, and Robert W. Karrow. Books have come in signed by businessmen like Phillip Klutznick, Leo G. Burnett, Fairfax Cone, Joy Morton, and Philip D. Block III. Ramsey Lewis has to pretty much cover the Chicago music scene solo (though we almost had Daniel Barenboim and we did have Vivian Solti.) And in classes by themselves, we can boast great Chicago chef Louis Szathmary, and an 8x10 glossy signed by Kukla, Fran, AND Ollie.
Now, of course, there are more and better autographs upstairs, from Abraham Lincoln to Al Capone. (No, not a letter from Abraham Lincoln to Al Capone; haven’t you had your morning coffee yet?) The Newberry, though, does not collect autographs per se: these are just items in larger research collections. We at the Book Fair are the ones who go in for single autographs: YOURS, for example. (No, I was NOT going to say “on a check”. I was going to say “on two or three checks”. Make no small plans.)