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Lot # 1159 (of 1336)   < Previous Lot | Next Lot >

Hetty Green Document Collection with Three Exceedingly Rare Signatures - Legendary Financier - The Witch of Wall Street!

Starting Bid - $3,000, Sold For - $6,000

Offered here are three exceedingly rare signature examples of Hetty Green (1834-1916), an American financier often referred to as "The Witch of Wall Street." Ideally, all of the signed items in this collection are related to business and include a signed stock certificate and an early document bearing her maiden name, "Hetty Robinson." These are the first examples of Green's signature that we have ever handled and we cannot recall having seen more than one or two other examples at auction over the past ten years.

Green was one of the wealthiest individuals of her time and arguably the richest woman in the world at the time of her death in 1916. Wealth and eccentricity have always seemed to go hand in hand, but Hetty Green took both to new levels at the turn of the century. Born Henrietta Howland Robinson to a family of Quakers in New Bedford, Massachusetts, in 1834, Green was well acquainted with money her entire life. Her parents, Edward Mott Robinson and Abby Robinson (née Howland), were the richest family of whalers in New Bedford. Forced to live with her grandfather (Gideon Howland) at the age of two due to her mother's illness, Hetty developed an acute fascination with finance at an early age. She began reading the financial papers to her father at the age of six and by the age of thirteen was handling all of the family's financial books. In 1864 her father died and she inherited his entire fortune (estimated at $7.5 million), which she quickly invested in Civil War Bonds. At roughly the same time she made news by contesting the will of her aunt, who had left $2 million dollars to charity instead of Hetty. During the ensuing five-year trial, it was determined that Hetty had forged a document from her aunt (stating that Hetty would receive her estate) and she ultimately lost the case.

In 1867 Hetty married Edward Henry Green, a member of a wealthy family from Vermont, but prior to the ceremony Hetty made Edward sign a document in which he renounced all rights to her money. During the ensuing years Hetty became notorious for her miserly ways, even as her net worth kept rising dramatically. She was known to wear the same plain black dress every day, only laundering the bottom half, and constantly reused envelopes and other forms of stationery to save money. One apocryphal tale has Hetty staying up all night searching her home for a lost two-cent stamp. Perhaps the most famous story regarding her extreme frugality is that of her son's illness. When her young son Edward broke his leg it is said that she attempted to hide her identity and have him admitted to a free clinic. Whether true or not, what is known is that the boy did not receive adequate treatment at the time and, as a result, had to have his leg amputated a few years later. Through all the years of her life Hetty was devoted to her investments, mainly real estate, and her business acumen was second to none. When she finally passed away in 1916 estimates of her net worth ranged from $100 million to $200 million (roughly $2.17 billion to $4.33 billion today). Years later she enjoyed newfound fame when she was listed in the Guiness Book of World Records as the “World's Greatest Miser.”

The collection is comprised of the following:

1) Hetty Green Handwritten Receipt. The undated receipt, which in typical fashion is written on a torn piece of scrap paper, reads "Received of Annie O'Foster fifty dollins [sic] in check for rent of No. 3 Howland Street Roxbury - Estate Edward M. Robinson for the trustee Hetty H R Green." Both the text and signature are scripted in blue ink and grade "9/10." 5.5 x 7.25 inches. Vg-Ex, with a horizontal center fold and irregularly torn right border.

2) Hetty Robinson Handwritten Document. The small blue sheet is dated "New York Jany 19 1886" and reads in full: "Treasr., Boston & Providence Rail Road. Please pay Mr. E. H. Green any dividend now due on my stock in your road. Hetty H. Robinson." Both the text and signature grade "9." Hetty married Edward Green the following year. This is an extremely rare Hetty Green signature example featuring her maiden name. The sheet (5.5 x 3.5 inches) features a number of horizontal and vertical folds, a two-cent stamp, and irregularly cut borders. Vg. Accompanying the sheet are three additional documents originating from the Howland family. The first is a payment receipt on Howland & Doughty Lumbar stationery, dated October 20, 1865 (6.75 x 4 inches; Vg). The second is a handwritten document, dated June 30, 1866, regarding the payment of stock dividends (7.75 x 4.5 inches, Ex). The third, dated December 31, 1864, is also a handwritten document regarding the payment of stock dividends (8 x 2 inches, Ex).

3) Hetty Green Signed Stock Certificate. Stock certificate, for 100 shares of capital stock in the Pacific Railroad Company, made out to "Hetty H. R. Green." Dated October 6, 1902. Signed by both the president and treasurer of the company on the front. Green later sold and transferred these shares to J. T. Elder on May 13, 1904, confirmation of which is noted by her signature, "Hetty H R Green" in black ink (grading "8") on the reverse. The certificate (11.25 x 7.5 inches) displays light staining along the base, cancellation holes (not affecting Green's signature), and a few tiny edge tears. Vg. Accompanied by a second stock certificate, dated February 7, 1913, made out to, and signed by, Green's son, Edward H. R. Green, The certificate is for five shares of capital stock in the Columbia-Knickerbocker Trust Company and is signed "Edward H. R. Green" in blue ink (grading "10") on the reverse. (13 x 7.5 inches, Vg).

Total: 7 items (three of which are signed by Hetty Green). LOA from James Spence/JSA.

  Reserve $3,000. Estimate (open). SOLD FOR $6,000

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