I thought this composite might be useful in identifying the rampant secretarials of Jackie Gleason's signature that are offered, both raw and certified. The topic has risen before, but I did not see this all laid out simply and clearly labeled. Gleason's authentic signature is quite rare in any form. Almost everything out there is a secretarial or poor forgery, especially the 1970's signatures. The comments below concern the scans above as shown.
The authentic example from 1951 shown is typical of this period, not terribly neat, sometimes slightly flowery, and with a rather bouncy base line (especially early examples) in "jackie", which often appears as "jockie". Note the overall shape and slight lean of the "a" in Jockie" compared to the secretarials (much more round). Note the attack of the "jackie", the connection of the "j" to the "a", and the clear construction of the "k" (hooking back and under). Sometimes the "e" in "jackie" is a touch higher than the "i" and leans back a bit to the left. Also note the differences in the formation of the "g" in "gleason" with the 1950's secretarial (and the form of the "ason"). The "a" in "gleason" is often complex and dense. Ink dispersal shows a rather quick hand compared to all the secretarials. Authentic examples are very hard to find and rather expensive if identified. Gleason's signature remained more or less the same, sometimes taking on a more extreme slant, until the early 1960's, after which it became more scrawled and a bit simplified. Most authentic examples appear to come from the 1950's and are often found on album ages; examples from the 1960's can be found on playbills and theater programs as well as other items. From what little I have seen, later examples exhibit more variation and simplification in the last years and are seldom encountered.
The 1950's secretarials are easily spotted by an overall drawn quality, extreme neatness, straight baseline, even ink dispersal/pressure, and the very similar "j" and "g" bottom loops. Do not ignore this. The formation of the letters in first and last names is very different and the "ason" in "gleason" is quite different from the authentic (see the elongated space between the "a" and "s" in the secretarial) and is always legible (true of most all secretarials), with no ending trail off that melds the final letters. This is important. The entire signature is very clearly and carefully drawn. Early examples can show an elongated thinner "j" (now added in a composite scan posted below), but are readily betrayed by the rest of the signature which displays hesitance and the drawn quality and form. These 3.5" x 5" secretarials exist in quantity, yet I believe are still quite collectible as period items - if you wrote to the Jackie Gleason Show during the 1950's this is indeed what you would have received. Very few of these bear authentic signatures.
The 1960's secretarials are even more obvious with very even ink dispersal, a very different overall slant compared to either the authentic or earlier secretarials, a straight base line, a different formation overall and of the last name in particular. The "j" in "jackie" is not connected to the "a" as the authentic. The capitalized "E" in "glEason" first appears on photographs of the sort shown from C. 1954, but bearing ballpoint signatures that appear much like the 1960's version. Several examples exist with the capital "E", so that one can distinguish the forged from the secretarial. Note the opposing slants of the "j" and "k" in "jackie" compared with the authentic example - same holds true for the 1970's and 1980's. These 3.5" x 5" secretarials do not show up as frequently as the earlier 1950's 3.5" x 5" secretarials. There is another scarcer 3.5" x 5" early 1960's version showing Gleason on stage in front of stage curtains - I have seen this version bear the shown 1960's secretarial signatures and, very rarely, a genuine signature. If my memory serves, I have seen a very few stamped versions of just the standing pose.
The 1970's secretarials, as those of the 1980's, are also very neat and exhibit very consistent ink dispersal even if more fluidly executed. These later secretarials are usually accompanied with the inscription "My Best Wishes" and display a slant to the right, posses a readily identifiable "j", and the "k" is formed very much like the "i" and "e" - with all reaching the same height. There is usually a space before and/or after the "a" in "jackie" (lone "a"),and often a space before the "a" in "gleason". The last name appears to be broken into two or three segments. There can be some variation of the "g" (thinner bottom loop, angular tipped) but the rest of the signature will quickly confirm the secretarial (the "j", which sometimes has a loop at the top and a slightly varying flourish, and then the "g"). These secretarials are extremely common, generally accepted as genuine, and are usually seen on 8" x 10" cast signed bus photographs (with the rest often authentic), fan letters, personal portraits and, later, 5" x 7" portraits. The signature is almost always in black felt tip without regard to what the item is; this allows ready examination of the ink and pressure changes which will reveal the secretarial.
Below is another authentic vintage signature - a superb example in pencil that dates to shortly after the 1951 example above. It is a wonderful example of the true signature of The Great One.
Additional authentic signatures from 1944 to 1961 can be see here (the 1948 example is very useful, but they all are of great value in this discussion), as well as a confirmed common secretarial from the 1970's:
Note: If you have an authentic Gleason signature or another type of secretarial from any period and would like to share it for the purposes of this article please contact me. Member Bob Shinn also has a superb example, but I wont post images w/o permission.
A large scan of the 1951 has been added as an attachment below.
Closing notes: It is sometimes said that Gleason's wife signed for him. Gleason was married 1936-1970, 1970-1975, and 1975-1987. From what I have seen the "My Best Wishes" secretarials, which represent the overwhelming majority of signatures, start to appear on photographs from about 1975 on. The presence of this inscription does not equate with being a secretarial, but this is often the case. I also note the lack of any transitional examples of the secretarials. The little I have seen appears forged or unusual in some odd way. His authentic signature mutated slightly over the years while retaining basic elements, yet the secretarials just change violently. I have never seen the 1960's style secretarial signature shown in the composite above, whose appearance seems to correlate with his move to Miami in 1964, on anything but these small photographs from this period.
This article is under construction. Updated December 28, 2015 with much additional information and a new scan. © EKL 2016
that is very cool Eric. thank you for educating us all on Gleason.
No, thank you! You helped a great deal with your superb pencil exempler and keen observations.
This felt tip 1980's "gleason" has a pretty straight baseline for the first name, very low "c" in "jackie", with a vintage style "crazy 8" "g" that starts a touch odd and arches up and over encircling the "ackie" which is very unusual, but is also not connected to the "l" which is very odd as well, and then it becomes quite shaky in the "g" at the bottom going left, as it does a bit in the descending stroke of the "l'. Also unusual a very hard "s" (a "v" shape) in "gleason". All marked by red arrows. The "ea" connection is a bit strange also. Some slants. All of this too much for me.
More junk. I have not bothered to show the reprint copy of the Elvis photo most of these are offered with. The additional writing also shows same hand on first and third examples. The third and currently offered example is dated 1966 and in no way resembles The Great One's 60's signature - which I show below these scans.
One wonders how long it will take this person who signed the above "gleasons" to think of another name besides "Donna"...
Didn't The GREAT One tend to say "And away we go" often as a request/segue for "a little traveling music"? NOT "Away we go"? Ugh...
"You can take the man out of the sewer, but you can't take the sewer out of the man." - Trix Norton
ooh, this one is very much no bueno! not even worth spending any extended amount of time on. And Away We Go indeed! Into the trash can!
"Yes, efficiency...you garbage pail was half full...when it's full full, I'll take it out!"