Recently exhibited in Stop the Presses: Fake News and the War of 1898, this autograph album was a guest at the Tampa Bay Hotel alongside Army generals, foreign attaches, war correspondents, and Red Cross nurses. The compiler of the album, Simon R. Golibart, perhaps intended it as a gift for his second son, then ten years old, Simon R. Golibart Jr.
The gift was a historian's dream, filled with names of popular journalists, cartoonists, correspondents, and writers. The album wasn't the only exciting moment of Golibart's year, his third son, Paul Plant Golibart was also born in 1898. Was Paul Plant perhaps named for the builder of the magnificent hotel where Golibart stayed and collected so many famous signatures?
The album itself is a true treasure, containing over thirty signatures. Some of the more famous include Frederic Remington (artist and writer) and Richard Harding Davis (journalist and novelist).
Frederic Remington's signature page in the 1898 autograph album.
Other interesting signatures include those of artist Douglas MacPherson, who later attended the opening of King Tut's tomb in 1922 and made watercolor drawings of the event. Julian Harris is also included, a progressive journalist who in 1898 was an editor at the Atlanta Constitution. Harris and his wife, Julia, later won the Pulitzer Prize in 1926. James O'Shaughnessay's signature is also found in the book, who, following his time as a journalist, toured Europe as a publicist for Pawnee Bill's Wild West Show.
James O'Shaughnessay's signature page in the 1898 autograph album.
The sources of a few tall tales are also found in the book. Karl Decker (pen name Charles Duval) was a journalist famous for taking liberties in articles, and in 1932 wrote an article claiming to know the true story of the 1911 theft of the Mona Lisa. However, his article is the only source for his version of events and also the only mention of his key suspect. Therefore, the accuracy of the story remains in serious doubt. John R. Rathom was another who exaggerated events of his life - though the fact of his autograph is not exaggerated. A proponent of the long tried "lying on your resume" technique, it was later discovered that Rathom did not attend the school he claimed to, cover the war in Sudan, or adventure through China, nor can verifications of a claimed expedition to Alaska be made.
John R. Rathom's signature page in 1898 autograph album.
Clearly the owner of this autograph album had many stories to share, all thanks to his father and the Tampa Bay Hotel.
The album recently underwent conservation at the Northeast Document Conservation Center in Andover, MA. To learn more about this process, they have written a short article "A Signature Piece of Florida History" available on their website.
If you would like to learn more about the Spanish American War, check out our online exhibits Rocking Chair Report
and Red Cross Nursing and the War of 1898: The Tampa Connection