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  Apollo 7 crew, Ted Kennedy signed cover

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Author Topic:   Apollo 7 crew, Ted Kennedy signed cover
New Member

Posts: 8
From: Somerset, England
Registered: Aug 2016

posted 12-02-2018 09:31 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for MendipmaNic   Click Here to Email MendipmaNic     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
This is an Apollo 7 crew and Ted Kennedy signed cover that I listed for sale on eBay:

Shortly after listing, I received a message (from a member of this forum as it turns out), questioning the authenticity of the signatures, in particular, that of Schirra. I don't want to sell potentially fake material, so I decided to remove the item from sale, at least until this concern has been satisfactorily addressed.

I am hoping that by posting this topic, it will generate an interesting and open debate to help me determine the authenticity (or otherwise) of the signatures. The cS Forum member who expressed his concern, agreed that this was a good way forward.

When I bought the cover (on eBay), it came with no supporting provenance but I did some research which gave me a reasonable degree of confidence that the signatures were genuine. I've tried to explain this below:

The signatures appear to have been applied to a sticky back sheet with a peelable mission insignia. I think some, if not all were signed before the sheet was "cut" and applied to the cover envelope. This is because there is no trace of the Kennedy signature extending onto the envelope and the right-hand edge is shaped around the top signatures.

The top edge has several small triangular projections suggesting this could have been a sheet containing multiple mission insignias, or other peelable items and was machine cut to provide a natural tear line. (Is anyone familiar with these type of sheets?)

There is also a short straight ridge impressed into the sheet from below, just above the Schirra signature. This looks like it was there when it was signed. The ridge is not visible on the back of the envelope.

There is a fine pencil line running at a tangent to the edge of the insignia below the Eisele signature. "EISELE", pencilled in capitals, is just visible on this line at the bottom of the envelope. The "o" in "Donn" is normally quite flamboyant, but unusually, almost appears to be missing. I think it may be squeezed into the upright of the "n". The example below shows what I mean, although nowhere near as squashed:

Otherwise, the signature looks to me to be an excellent example.

I asked myself, if the signatures were not genuine, why would they be applied to a "cut" rather than directly to the envelope? Why not just peel off the mission insignia and stick that to the envelope? Much tidier, and it could have been placed more strategically.

A couple of the signatures, overwrite the insignia, but the brown coloured portion has a sheen and a waxy feel to it. The "g" is not visible on this brown area and I have a theory that this ink may have remained wet for longer and got rubbed off, possibly resulting in the smudge over the "d" of the Ted Kennedy signature.

The "h" in the Cunningham signature seems to be achieving the impossible. It overwrites the Kennedy signature on the upward stroke, but then appears to be overwritten itself, only to overwrite it again on the downward stroke. I guess it's possible the pen left the paper at the top of the "h", but it's a bit of a puzzle. Anyone care to comment on this phenomenon?

Wally Schirra's signature is anomalous, missing several traits seen in the vast majority of his signings. It shares many similarities to some of his early autopens, but I don't believe this to be an autopen and I'm not aware of a secretarial. Can anyone clarify this?

The vertical line at the end of Wally's name on this cover, is one of the features that I've seen on quite a few of his more irregular signatures. One of his autopens has a more elaborate version of it and I'm not sure whether it's his way of writing Junior (Jr) or perhaps even a Mercury 7 symbol. (Can anyone throw any light on this?) It's one of the indicators which in my mind gave it some credibility. Some of his signatures have a vertical line extending down from the "a" in Schirra, which I believe is meant to be the same thing.

The clincher for me, was an article I found, which appeared in the April 2000 edition of Autograph Times entitled "Building an Apollo Collection" by Dr. William Hanson. In it, he includes Schirra signature examples, which he states are genuine, a couple of which are very similar to the one on this cover. See below:

I'm sorry if I've waffled on a bit. If you managed to get this far, I hope it's made sense enough to provoke a discussion.

Ken Havekotte

Posts: 2704
From: Merritt Island, Florida, Brevard
Registered: Mar 2001

posted 12-02-2018 11:01 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Ken Havekotte   Click Here to Email Ken Havekotte     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Just briefly, the top cover contains a cut-out signed Apollo mission emblem decal sticker, of which I do believe — but only my opinion — that both Cunningham and Eisele are genuine.

The Schirra signature on the peelable label of the crew insignia is either a common secretarial or an outright forgery in my opinion. That type of signature pattern does go back a long way, though, and two of the depictions by Dr. Hanson of Schirra are not authentic in my opinion.

The second photo scan of the Apollo 7 crew signed Sarzin cover for launch looks fine to me with authentic autographs of the first manned Apollo crew to fly.

David Carey

Posts: 724
Registered: Mar 2009

posted 12-02-2018 11:21 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for David Carey   Click Here to Email David Carey     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Originally posted by MendipmaNic:
I guess it's possible the pen left the paper at the top of the "h", but it's a bit of a puzzle.
Interesting. A lift of the pen at the direction change on the "h" peak is the only explanation I can imagine.

Cunningham seems to be added after Kennedy.

Perhaps the "h" upstroke was disturbed when crossing the die-cut gap with the "g"'s trailing line? Doesn't look very feathered at the break though. Maybe a purposeful lift by Walt to limit over-signing Kennedy?

A finger/hand print fragment from slow-drying marker over the printed area seems plausible for the smudge in Kennedy's signature. Don't see any remnant of the "g"'s lower loop remaining and smudge appears to be same ink.

I'd concluded same as Ken on authenticity but his comments would be an authoritative opinion (mine would not!).

Ken Havekotte

Posts: 2704
From: Merritt Island, Florida, Brevard
Registered: Mar 2001

posted 12-02-2018 12:09 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Ken Havekotte   Click Here to Email Ken Havekotte     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Just my own opinion, David, and nothing authoritative in my own personal observations of seeing and working with so many astronaut autographs for most of my life.

New Member

Posts: 8
From: Somerset, England
Registered: Aug 2016

posted 01-04-2019 06:41 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for MendipmaNic   Click Here to Email MendipmaNic     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Ken and David, I am grateful for your valued input into this topic. I had hoped we might draw a few more people into the discussion but it appears to have rather fizzled out, so I shall attempt to fire things up again.

The general consensus of opinion so far suggests the only signature giving cause for concern is that of Wally Schirra, so I'd like to concentrate on this.

Listed below are the reasons I believe the signature, and the style associated with it, should not be totally dismissed as a secretarial or forgery. Please feel free to add, criticize, debate and inform as you see fit.

  1. Several known autopen signatures are very similar in style. (I always thought that autopens were created based on a genuine signature style).

  2. Schirra's style has been variable over the years. Particularly in the early years. Is this not just another variation or combination of variations in the evolution of his signature?

  3. He occasionally adds what I now believe to be Junior (Jr) at the end of his signature. Sometimes this is quite elaborate as seen on one of his autopens other times it's just a vertical line either down from the "a" or adjacent to the "a". Since it is not a regular feature of his autograph, I would not expect to see it in a secretarial or forgery. It is not always seen in this signature style either.

  4. The dot in the "i" is way off to the right in common with many of his signatures, but because this is not the norm, again it is not something I would expect to see in a secretarial or forgery.

  5. Dr. Hanson identified very similar style signatures to be genuine. (See my original post above). Granted, I don't know how authoritative Dr Hanson is, but I'd like to think he had some justification for saying this.

  6. Schirra's signature has never been difficult to obtain so no real need to create a forgery. The Cover is home-made so sticking another genuine "cut" signature would not look out of place!

  7. Something that has been puzzling me for a while. As David pointed out, it appears that Kennedy's signature was completed before Cunningham added his. The fingerprint/smudge also overlays Ted's signature.

    Bearing in mind it is the Apollo 7 Mission Emblem Sticker surround that has been signed, why would Ted Kennedy be asked to sign what may have been a blank Apollo 7 sticker? Could there have been an event, attended by all four signatories, perhaps paying tribute to the mission and crew? Possibly the stickers were freely available at the event and provided the only suitable means to obtain the signatures at the time?

    It is the most logical explanation I can arrive at, to justify why all four signatures have been applied to this cut sticker surround, instead of some more suitable medium that just the mission emblem itself could have been applied. Can anyone remember, or do they know of such an event where this may have happened?

  8. I've not been able to find any evidence that this signature style has been brought into question before. (Ok it has now!)
Whilst the cover itself is not particularly attractive, it's rarity, significance, desirability and value would be greatly enhanced by having authentic signatures, not only of all three crew members of the first manned Apollo flight, but also the Brother of President Kennedy, who's vision, drive and goal was to land a man on the Moon and return him to Earth before the end of the decade. Naturally, since the Cover belongs to me, I want the Schirra signature to be genuine which in the absence of evidence to the contrary, biases my opinion.

If there is sufficient evidence either that the signature style is a secretarial or a forgery then I think this needs to be brought out into the open in the same way that autopens have been identified. To my knowledge there is not a recognised secretarial for Schirra, but that doesn't mean there are none. That's where I think this Forum should come into its own, by using the combined knowledge and experience of the Members to weed such things out and bring them to the attention of potential buyers and sellers alike.

I suppose the best supporting evidence would be if anyone has a signature in the same style with provenance to back it up. Can anyone help with this?

Steve Zarelli

Posts: 708
From: Upstate New York, USA
Registered: Mar 2001

posted 01-05-2019 08:40 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Steve Zarelli   Click Here to Email Steve Zarelli     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
A few thoughts:
  • The questioned example is secretary signed in my opinion, including the 1974 and 1985 examples from Hansen's article.

    To me, there are numerous differences and the questioned examples appear to be crude imitations of authentic examples. One obvious tell is the slant of the signatures. In verified authentic examples, Schirra has a slight left leaning slant. This is consistent through all eras. In the questioned examples, the slant is hard right leaning. Compare the "ll" formation to see this clearly.

  • Regarding the Kennedy/Cunningham signatures. Generally, darker ink APPEARS to be on top, even when it is not. This is an optical illusion. I do not know which signature was signed first, but it may not have been Kennedy.

New Member

Posts: 8
From: Somerset, England
Registered: Aug 2016

posted 01-16-2019 06:49 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for MendipmaNic   Click Here to Email MendipmaNic     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Steve, you have, very succinctly I think, put the final nail in the coffin for Schirra's signature on my cover. Unless a similar style can be identified with cast iron provenance, this does indeed appear to be a secretarial/forgery.

I wasn't aware of the trait towards a leftward slant, most evident with the "ll" in Wally. So as you suggested, I checked out as many Schirra autograph images as I could find and was amazed at how obvious it suddenly became! There are some that could be considered vertical but nothing with the pronounced slant to the right seen on my cover, and the (now suspect) examples from Hanson's article shown in my initial post on this topic.

Your statement regarding the Kennedy/Cunningham signatures is interesting. The fingerprint/smudge is relatively faint compared to the Kennedy signature but even so, when you zoom in, it still appears to be on top. But I guess if it's an optical illusion, this may well help to explain why.

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