Former local teacher's autograph collection being auctioned

This vintage New Castle News photo of James Bowman showing his collection to local historian John Hitch accompanies details of the auction of Bowman’s myriad autographs at

For James A. Bowman, a longtime educator at Benjamin Franklin Junior High School, autograph collecting seemed the logical next step.

A history buff with an impressive, award-winning stamp collection, Bowman incorporated the signatures of some of the world’s greatest names as a way of exciting the imaginations of his seventh-grade classroom and, in his own particular way, bringing history to life. “I have found that there is a visual means of forming this necessary educational contact, which inspires the best in the lives of pupils; namely, the exhibiting of the autographs of the great people in all fields of endeavor,” he once noted.

The catalyst for Bowman was a stamp auction in 1938, and the chance to obtain a coil strip of three of the 2 centThomas Edison Commemorative, signed across the face by the famed Menlo Park inventor. He lost the bid, but in his failure Bowman discovered a novel way of enhancing his philatelic pursuits — mailing stamps to notable figures for them to sign. His first successful signed stamp was Alfonso XIII of Spain, and his second, after several attempts, was King Edward VIII.

Although the advent of World War II forced Bowman to secure a license for sending stamps abroad, even this could not slow the steady growth of his collection. And much to Bowman’s eruditionary delight, as his collection grew, so did the fascination of his students. “Many of my pupils have been inspired by the signatures of the great people of our times to do better,” he had said. “Some of the pupils have themselves taken up the hobby.’

Filled with an array of kings, presidents, inventors, scientists, artists, and athletes, Bowman’s collection is being made available through online auction at

Highlights of the collection include:

Babe Ruth: Vintage fountain pen signature, “Babe Ruth,” on an off-white card bearing an affixed three-cent postage stamp honoring the centennial of baseball. Accompanied by the original mailing envelope, which bears a colorful World War II victory cachet, postmarked in New York on March 6, 1943.

Walt Disney: Vintage fountain pen signature, “Walt Disney,” on an off-white card. Accompanied by the original mailing envelope, postmarked in Los Angeles on May 28, 1943.

Albert Einstein: Vintage ink signature, “Albert Einstein,” on an off-white slip bearing an affixed postage stamp from Israel. A partial note on the reverse, written by collector James A. Bowman, states that Einstein signed the slip before the stamp was affixed.

Pablo Picasso: A intage ballpoint signature, “Picasso,” over a Czech dove stamp he designed, affixed to an off-white card. Accompanied by the original mailing envelope, addressed in Picasso’s hand.

The Fine Autographs and Artifacts Featuring the James A. Bowman collection from RR Auction began on April 17 and will conclude at 7 p.m. May 13. For more information, go to

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