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Author Topic:   Autograph of the Week 001: Alan Shepard

Posts: 474
From: Northville MI USA
Registered: Aug 2005

posted 08-12-2012 10:40 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for yeknom-ecaps   Click Here to Email yeknom-ecaps     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Space Autograph of the Week, Week 1 (August 13, 2012)
Space Autograph of the Week Topic 1: Alan Shepard

The first American to travel into space was Alan B. Shepard aboard Project Mercury's Freedom 7 suborbital flight on May 5, 1961 aboard a Redstone rocket. In addition to being one of the original NASA astronauts Shepard was a naval aviator, flag officer, and test pilot. Shepard was effectively grounded for 5 years (late Project Mercury through Apollo 11 — 1964 to 1969) by Meniere's disease which is an inner-ear disease. For basically this period of time he served as Chief of the Astronaut Office with a tenure from November 1963 through July 1969. The disease was surgically corrected and he was able to return to flight status.

In his second space flight Shepard was the commander of the Apollo 14 mission to the moon. He piloted the LEM to the most accurate landing of all the Apollo missions and was the fifth astronaut to walk on the moon's surface during which he is famously known for hitting two golf balls with a make-shift six-iron. Here is the transcript:

135:08:17 Shepard: (Facing the TV) Houston, while you're looking that up, you might recognize what I have in my hand as the handle for the contingency sample return; it just so happens to have a genuine six iron on the bottom of it. In my left hand, I have a little white pellet that's familiar to millions of Americans. I'll drop it down. Unfortunately, the suit is so stiff, I can't do this with two hands, but I'm going to try a little sand-trap shot here. (Pause)

135:08:53 Mitchell: You got more dirt than ball that time.

135:08:58 Shepard: Got more dirt than ball. Here we go again.

135:09:01 Haise: That looked like a slice to me, Al.

135:09:03 Shepard: Here we go. Straight as a die; one more. (Long Pause)

135:09:20 Shepard: Miles and miles and miles.

135:09:26 Haise: Very good, Al.

After the Apollo 14 mission he resumed his duties as Chief of the Astronaut Office in June 1971 and served in this capacity until he retired from NASA and the Navy on August 1, 1974 and became a successful businessman. Alan Shepard died of leukemia on July 21, 1998 — the 37th anniversary of Gus Grissom's flight.

Ever have a time when you knew something was going to turn out badly but you had to do it anyway... well the autograph of Alan Shepard pictured above is just that... when I arrived for an Alan Shepard booking signing I grabbed a book and got in line right after an acquaintance who I knew was VERY meticulous about things. Not thinking too much about it was my downfall!

It took us about a half-hour to reach Shepard and he handed him the book to sign which he did, so far so good, but then things went downhill fast. He handed Shepard a philatelic cover for his Project Mercury flight. As Shepard was about to sign the cover he stopped him and asked him to sign at a different location. As he was about to sign at the new location he stopped him again to ask him to sign with a pen he had brought with him. I could tell from Shepard's reaction this was going from bad to worse... but Shepard took the pen and when he went to write with it nothing wrote! So Shepard started going in circles with the pen to get the ink to come out - he literally almost went through the paper before it started writing - he signed it and handed it back without looking up.

My turn, and I knew it wouldn't turn out good but the line was too long to start over and I was already late for the next stop on the way home. Shepard did not look up at me or respond to my greeting to him, he took my book and added a sloppy signature and I then handed him the philatelic cover pictured above and you can see the result. I do know that this is an authentic Shepard signature — I saw him write it! — but if I ever tried to sell it as such no one would buy it - now it is just a good conversation piece!

Looking forward to your posts of your favorite Alan Shepard item and any story behind it.

New Member


posted 08-13-2012 04:20 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for propliner1   Click Here to Email propliner1     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
So many times on eBay, I have been out bid by those who can afford to spend hundreds of dollars each month on their collections. But one sweet time, I was able to obtain an actual Alan Shepard 3x5. It had been passed on due to "cosmetic issues."

I did the research on each letter and detail and was able to confirm it's authenticity. It now is the lead item in my manned spaceflight collection! Thank you Angela!


Posts: 3127
From: London, UK
Registered: Feb 2002

posted 08-14-2012 03:50 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for gliderpilotuk   Click Here to Email gliderpilotuk     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Here's one of my favourites from the grumpy Admiral - although to be fair, asking for a signed outline of his hand is somewhat bizarre.

Bob M

Posts: 1393
From: Atlanta-area, GA USA
Registered: Aug 2000

posted 08-14-2012 11:28 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Bob M   Click Here to Email Bob M     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Tom, very nice debut for the new AOTW feature that we hope will prove to be popular here on cS.

So often, as you've shown, the story behind an autograph can be more interesting, and better, than the autograph. We've seen hundreds of Alan Shepard autographs, but rarely with such an interesting story with them.

Years ago I had a response from Shepard somewhat similar to what Paul has shown us, but a little friendlier.

Right after Shepard retired from NASA, an article about him in my newspaper included his new place of business. I sent a cover there and he nicely signed it (top). Several months later, I tried again, but with my cover returned unsigned and with a "Sorry - out of business - S" inscription on my stuffer card. He did go out of the autographing business then, as he didn't sign TTM for years after that. Then when he started back, he was very cooperative about autographing for several years.

Robert Pearlman

Posts: 28757
From: Houston, TX
Registered: Nov 1999

posted 08-14-2012 11:45 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I met Alan Shepard for the first and only time in 1996 at 'his' annual Freedom Forum lecture in Arlington, Va. The Alan B. Shepard Lecture that year was being delivered that year by Buzz Aldrin and as I was at the time supporting some of Aldrin's work, was invited to attend.

I was also the National Chair for the Students for the Exploration and Development of Space (SEDS-USA) and knowing Shepard was going to be there, I had been tasked with approaching him about possibly serving as the organization's honorary president.

I caught up with him during the reception prior to the lecture, near the refreshments table. He was very cordial, gave me time to share a brief history of SEDS and make my pitch for him to be our president. He politely explained that his schedule was busy and that he really couldn't take on another organization but was very grateful for the consideration.

Before parting, I shook his hand and then asked if he would grant me an autograph.

As he was signing, a small boy came up to us. I am positive he had no idea who was the man signing my book but reasoned he had to be someone important, so grabbed a napkin off the table, waited until I was done and then asked Shepard to sign the square paper cloth.

It was then I had the chance to witness the 'other' Shepard, the so-called 'icy commander,' as he turned around and brushed off the kid. Part of me wanted to rip the autograph out of my book and give it to the boy — he needed the inspiration more than I did — but didn't.

What I didn't know then, and couldn't have known, was that Shepard had already been diagnosed with leukemia when he explained to me that he couldn't take on any new organizational responsibilities. Despite the minor incident with the boy, I am grateful for the time I had to meet and talk with the first American in space...


Posts: 585
From: South Carolina
Registered: Jul 2006

posted 08-14-2012 03:57 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for ea757grrl   Click Here to Email ea757grrl     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
My Shepard signature came secondhand, from a former coworker who was our chief fundraiser and who knew of my love for spaceflight. The following story is therefore secondhand, but I remember it well enough.

Many years ago my former colleague was chief fundraiser for a regional medical center, and they'd bring in celebrity guest speakers and performers for public events. Donors over a certain amount would get an item signed by the famous person at a meet-and-greet, and have their picture taken with the celebrity.

Somehow the hospital foundation was able to get Alan Shepard to come. As it was told to me, the flight crew of the private jet invited Shepard to take the controls during the flight, and I believe they let him handle the radio duties on approach; the controllers were amazed to hear the First American in Space coming across their frequency. After they landed, students from a high school next to the airport put on a welcome celebration for Shepard.

The "thank you" gift for the big donors was a small picture frame with the "Project Mercury" postage stamp inside, tastefully matted. Shepard signed each across the glass with a fine gold paint marker.

One day my former colleague came over to my office and handed me a little box. Inside was one of these little framed stamps with Shepard's autograph across the glass. He'd had a couple extra, and after he found out how crazy I was for space history, he dug one out and brought it in for me. Made my day, it did. (Apologies for not having a picture of it handy; the little item is currently in a secure place, as it's priceless for several reasons.)

As for me, I never met Shepard, and to be honest would have been a little apprehensive, not knowing if I'd catch him in an outgoing mood or in a businesslike, get-the-books-signed mood. Be that as it may, I'm happy to have his signature.


Posts: 206
From: cumberland, wisconsin
Registered: Aug 2001

posted 08-14-2012 06:15 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for liftoff1   Click Here to Email liftoff1     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
When my kids were younger we would walk to the post office to collect the day's mail. There was a stamp vending machine in the lobby. Usually there would be a number of 1-cent stamps hanging out of it that people just didn't wish to take. We would always help ourselves to the free stamps.

In the late 90's when Mr. Shepard was no longer signing through the mail, my son and I concocted a plan that we hoped would make his autograph request stand out enough to get a response from the Admiral. I don't know if it was the letter or our frugal use of postage stamps, but Shawn received his litho soon after sending it out.


Posts: 702
Registered: Sep 2003

posted 08-14-2012 09:55 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for JasonB   Click Here to Email JasonB     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Loving the stories about Shepard and particularly loved seeing the note from Shepard on the request for a hand tracing. I got quite a chuckle over that.


Posts: 1025
Registered: Aug 2002

posted 08-14-2012 10:34 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for MarylandSpace   Click Here to Email MarylandSpace     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I have a favorite Alan Shepard memory. In the summer of 1998, I was listening to my AM car radio of Mitch Albom (Tuesdays with Morrie) interviewing Admiral Shepard. Shepard was quite gracious and informative. I did not know at the time he was so gravely ill. I sat in my car in the driveway until the interview was over.

I am also grateful to our DRJim, a collectSPACE member, for exchanging MoonShot books with me. His was autographed to Max. My son's name is Max and the book is for him. Thank you DRJim.


Posts: 3622
From: Midwest, USA
Registered: Jul 2005

posted 08-15-2012 12:58 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for mjanovec   Click Here to Email mjanovec     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The following item was auctioned by Heritage in 2002 as part of an autograph and memorabilia auction. At the time, Heritage stated that the piece came from the estate of collector Dennis Daniels. As it turns out, Mr. Daniels is the same person who wrote the autograph-request letter than Paul posted earlier.

It appears that Shepard grudgingly agreed to trace his hand after all (even if it was "___king ridiculous").

Hart Sastrowardoyo

Posts: 2365
From: Toms River, NJ,USA
Registered: Aug 2000

posted 08-15-2012 01:27 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Hart Sastrowardoyo   Click Here to Email Hart Sastrowardoyo     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I'm surprised, given the exchange, it shows all five fingers....


Posts: 461
From: Bloomington, Illinois, USA
Registered: May 2005

posted 08-15-2012 03:41 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for J.L   Click Here to Email J.L     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Originally posted by Hart Sastrowardoyo:
I'm surprised, given the exchange, it shows all five fingers...

Hart Sastrowardoyo

Posts: 2365
From: Toms River, NJ,USA
Registered: Aug 2000

posted 08-15-2012 04:34 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Hart Sastrowardoyo   Click Here to Email Hart Sastrowardoyo     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
But... how do we know that's Shepard's hand? Maybe Wally pulled a gotcha and got a befuddled janitor ("Hey, place your hand on this piece of paper, let me trace it, and I'll give you five bucks.") while Shepard went along and signed it.


Posts: 2139
From: Belfast, United Kingdom
Registered: Feb 2002

posted 08-15-2012 05:03 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Blackarrow     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
To borrow a quotation of Shepard's (to Mitchell, on whether he would have gone for a landing without the LM radar): "You'll never know."


Posts: 259
From: Columbus, Ohio USA
Registered: Jan 2003

posted 08-15-2012 09:06 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for DSeuss5490   Click Here to Email DSeuss5490     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The letter and handprint should never have been separated. Together they tell a wonderful story!!


Posts: 3127
From: London, UK
Registered: Feb 2002

posted 08-16-2012 11:57 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for gliderpilotuk   Click Here to Email gliderpilotuk     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I agree! I'd love to have both! Thanks for making the connection Mark.


Posts: 1423
From: Fairfax, VA, USA
Registered: Feb 2007

posted 08-26-2012 09:57 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for stsmithva   Click Here to Email stsmithva     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I want to mention that I really like this new "Autograph of the Week" format. We'll see a lot of interesting examples and read some great stories.

That being said, here is a "clueless beginning collector" story about how I got Alan Shepard's autograph. I started collecting in middle school in 1986, and soon heard about commemorative postal covers that one could get autographed. So I made my own for each surviving Mercury astronaut by (of course) cutting apart a 1960(?) National Geographic and gluing pictures on 5x7 manila envelopes. As for the postmark, I walked to my local post office on the 25th anniversary of Grissom's Mercury flight.

The National Air and Space Museum had just printed some nice brochures about Project Mercury... so of course I got them stamped too. And then immediately spilled something on them.

Shepard was kind enough to sign them for me. Sure would have been nice if I'd known how to track down a litho or red serial # photo of him on the moon in the pre-Internet days, but oh well. I'm happy to have them in my collection.

A couple of years later a dealer at a Universal Autograph Collectors Club convention offered to trade my John Young-signed STS-1 landing postcard for an unusual 3D model representation of Apollo 14's ascent stage lifting off from the moon. (It has Apollo 14-specific information on the back.) For years I thought this was a bad trade, but after I decided to assemble small photographs with just the autographs of each moonwalker for a display, I was very happy I had traded.


Posts: 72
From: New York, NY
Registered: Mar 2009

posted 09-04-2012 05:05 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for datkatz   Click Here to Email datkatz     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I met Admiral Shepard at a conference in Minneapolis in 1986. I brought the letter I had received in 1961, and told him how the rubber-stamped signature so disappointed a ten-year-old boy:

Here's a photo that was signed and dated on a very special day:

All times are CT (US)

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