“There are few intelligent people who have not some interest in distinguished autographs.”
And thus Charles Lummis—traveler, historian, photographer, ethnographer, crusader for civil rights of Native Americans, editor, flamboyant personality and City Librarian from 1905-1910—institutionalized the novelty of autograph collecting, both as interesting artifact and historical record. Lummis had staff mail a blank page with “Los Angeles Public Library Autographs” imprinted at the top and asked notables of the day to “improve the page.” Under Lummis’ tenure nearly 750 autographs were collected. They contain original watercolors, sketches, written music, poems and moving sentiments.
The collection continued to grow after Lummis moved on, and in 2018 we held an Autograph Day when City Library John F. Szabo invited patrons to contribute their own unique mark or expression to the city’s archives. The Autograph Collection, now totaling over 1,700 pieces, is brought to life in a special book and exhibit, The Autograph Book of L.A.