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Letter by the 31-day President leads Malcolm Forbes collection at Heritage

A collection of rare political letters once owned by the late billionaire and philanthropist Malcolm Forbes will be sold in Dallas next week.
"In the pantheon of skilled collectors, few stand out like Mr. Malcolm S. Forbes," said Sandra Palomino, Director of Historical Manuscripts at Heritage Auctions. "His unbound curiosity combined with his scholarly view of American history made his collection one of the most important."

Leading the collection is a highly rare handwritten letter by William Henry Harrison, the ninth U.S President whose 31 days in office remains the shortest term in American history.

Harrison wrote the letter in 1840, during his presidential campaign in which he stood as a military hero, having led forces against American Indians at the Battle of Tippecanoe in 1811 and then served as a General in the War of 1812.

The letter was Harrison’s defence against claims by his opponents that he had been absent during the Battle of the Thames:

"The Speaker of the House doubted whether I have ever been in any danger in any battle in my life. …time is of great importance & it is necessary that these answers to these vile slanders should be made in the House where they uttered…"

Harrison eventually won the election by a landslide, but his victory was short-lived. Having refused to wear a hat or an overcoat on the cold, wet day of his inauguration, he then gave the longest inaugural address in American history at over two hours, before heading to three different balls in his honour.

Less than three weeks later he was struck down with pneumonia, and died on April 4, 1841, making him the first U.S president to die in office.

Due to his brief term, and the fact that presidential candidates did not campaign publically at the time, items signed by Harrison are scarce. The letter, which played a pivotal role in his path to the presidency, is now expected to sell for upwards of $25,000+.

Further highlights from Forbes’ collection will include a large group of hand-written notes, sketches and doodles by John F. Kennedy; Andrew Johnson’s marriage certificate from 1827; a Franklin D. Roosevelt signed photograph inscribed to his wife Eleanor; and a signed and inscribed address by Theodore Roosevelt stating his position in favor of entering World War I.

The Heritage Auctions Historical Manuscripts Grand Format Auction takes place in Dallas on October 19.

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