Presidential Doodles Up for Sale in Historic Manuscript Auction

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Even presidents have to doodle sometimes, and you can now get your hands on absentminded markings by the likes of John F. Kennedy as part of an upcoming auction that's rich with presidential ephemera.

Dallas-based Heritage Auctions has a plethora of historic American documents and photos for sale from the collection of Malcolm Forbes, the late publisher of Forbes magazine. Up for auction are numerous handwritten letters from presidents throughout history, including a note from James Garfield (who didn’t sign all that many letters as president, since he was assassinated just five months into his tenure) and a letter in which John Adams gives one of Alexander Hamilton’s publications a harsh review.

In the Oval Office, even quick doodles are worth saving, so you can also buy a small pencil sketch on legal paper by JFK that references the Berlin Wall for some $1100 or more. When or where it was drawn is unknown, but it features a sailboat (the president was an avid sailor) and possibly a wall with a ladder leaned against it. He wrote various phrases inside boxes like "Haiti," “this morning,” and “armored / personnel carriers.” He wrote down “Berlin” three separate times.

But Kennedy wasn’t as talented an artist as Douglas MacArthur, the five-star general who commanded the Pacific forces during World War II (and was removed from command during the Korean War). In a drawing on official stationery he sent to someone named Babe Fairchild while serving as a military advisor to the Philippines in the 1930s, he drew a shapely lady with a smattering of messages in Spanish and French, headlined “Bellisima Trigueňa!!” or “Beautiful Brunette!!” 

In addition to the doodles, the auction will include handwritten speeches, drafts of historic statements, and signed photographs from the likes of Franklin Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, and Harry Truman. On the non-presidential front, there are signed letters from Ernest Hemingway, Mark Twain, and Stonewall Jackson, among other notable historic artifacts. The auction will be held on October 19, so get your wallets ready.

All images courtesy Heritage Auctions unless otherwise stated.

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