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Mahlon Pitney

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From the personal collection of Supreme Court Justice Tom C. Clark

Rare handwritten note in which Justice Pitney asks the marshal to seat guests in the courtroom

Mahlon Pitney, 1858–1924.  Associate Justice, United States Supreme Court, 1912–1922.  Rare Autograph Note Signed, M. P., on Justice Pitneyʼs personal 1” x 2⅞”calling card.

This is a rare handwritten note by Justice Pitney.  Overall, Pitney is one of the most difficult Supreme Court Justices to acquire autographically.  His holograph items are rare.  We sold a handwritten letter by Pitney several years ago, and our research has uncovered only one other sold at auction over more than 40 years. 

Pitney has penned this short note on the back of his personal calling card.  He writes, in full:  “Will the Marshal kindly place Mr. Richards & Miss Richards in reserved seats.”  On the front of the card, beneath the printed name Mr. Justice Pitney, he has written “(over.).”

Pitney, a New Jersey native, graduated from Princeton University along with Woodrow Wilson in 1879.  He studied law under his father, was admitted to the bar in 1882, and practiced law in Dover, New Jersey, and later in Morristown, New Jersey. 

Pitney was elected to Congress in 1894 and served two terms, resigning in 1899 after being elected to the New Jersey state Senate.  He was elected president of the Senate the next year.

In 1901, Pitney was appointed to the New Jersey Supreme Court, ending his aspiration to be governor.  Seven years later he was appointed Chancellor, the head of both the law and equity branches of  the court.  In 1912, President William Howard Taft appointed Pitney as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States.  He was the last of Taft’s appointments to the Court.  Taft later became critical of Pitney when Taft himself became Chief Justice, leading the Court on which Pitney still sat.

Pitney retired from the Supreme Court on December 31, 1922, after serving ten years. He died almost two years later, at age 66, on December 9, 1924.

Because of the rarity of this piece, collectors of Supreme Court material should not pass it by.

Provenance:  This item comes from the personal collection of Justice Tom C. Clark, who served on the Supreme Court from 1949 until 1967. Justice Clark collected the autographs of other Supreme Court Justices dating back into the 19th Century.  We are privileged to offer a number of items from the collection. 

Unframed.

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$235.00

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