The Authentic Experience
Steve Koschal Announces: “JFK had an Autopen!”
by Herman Darvick
Stephen Koschal’s next booklet will announce that, after years of research, he has solved a mystery that has plagued autograph collectors for over 50 years. He has
discovered the reason behind the uncanny similarity of John F. Kennedy’s
signatures on numerous letters and photographs: JFK didn’t sign them! His
autographs were signed by a machine called the Autopen. Koschal’s study will be
called “JFK Autograph Mystery Uncovered.
Actually, Koschal is not about to publish a booklet on JFK and the Autopen. But … why not? It doesn’t matter that Charles Hamilton wrote all about John F. Kennedy’s use of the Autopen in his “The Robot That Helped to Make a President” in 1965, 45 years ago. After all, Stephen Koschal published “Ronald Reagan and Nelle Reagan Autograph Mystery Uncovered” in 2008, 23 years after I wrote “Devoted Mother, Devoted Son” in the January/February 1985 issue of “The Pen and Quill” revealing that Ronald Reagan’s mother handled his fan mail. I showed how it was easy to tell the
difference. Upper case “D” in “Dear,” upper case “I,” the letter “g,” an “s” at
the end of a word, etc.
Warner Bros. sent me photocopies of Inter-Office Communications agreeing to pay Ronald Reagan’s mother $75 per week which “will be repaid to us by Reagan when he returns to resume services under his contract by our making weekly deductions of $200 per week from his salary checks.”
I contacted one of Nelle Reagan’s Dixon friends and obtained letters handwritten
by her from Hollywood. I discovered that not only did Mrs. Reagan sign
photographs and handwrite letters, signing her son’s name, she also answered
much of her daughter-in law Jane Wyman’s fan mail as well.
My 1985 discovery was picked up by news services and was published nationwide. The February 18, 1985 issue of “New York” magazine wrote about my discovery in a
story on page 11 headlined “Mother Signs Best.” “New York” even contacted The
White House; Reagan had just begun his second presidential term. An aide only
confirmed that Nelle Reagan “helped with” Reagan’s fan mail.
In 1989, a 162 page paperback called “News of the Weird” included in its “Celebrity Corner” chapter, in part, “Darvick said Reagan paid his mother Nelle $75 a week to do the signing for him. In fact, he added ‘she even signed Jane Wyman’s name.’”
In 1999, Pulitzer Prize winning author Edmund Morris, in his authorized biography
of Ronald Reagan, wrote in “Notes,” page 727, in part, “Nelle became an expert
forger of her son’s handwriting and even handled some of JW’s mail. Herman M.
Darvick in Pen and Quill, 18.1 (Jan./Feb. 1942 [sic, 1985]).”
In 2003, “Reagan: A Life in Letters,” with commentary by Kiron K. Skinner,
Annelise Anderson, and Martin Anderson, even mentioned Nelle’s work on the
inside front flap of the dust jacket: “The editors also reveal that another
long-running pen-pal relationship, with fan club leader Lorraine Wagner, was
initially ghostwritten by his mother…” From “Reagan’s Hollywood Fan Mail,”
pages 836-837: “Some handwritten letters signed ‘Dutch,’ ‘Ron,’ ‘Ronnie,’ or
‘Ronald Reagan’ were excluded from consideration for the book because they are
in his mother’s handwriting … Nelle’s work on her son’s behalf was unearthed by
Herman M. Darvick, an autograph dealer, who noticed the similarity of the
handwriting on fan membership cards and letters Reagan’s mother Nelle, wrote in
her own name, and published an article in Pen and Quill (18.1 Jan./Feb. 1985)
about the differences in their handwriting.
“Darvick found evidence that Nelle also answered some of Jane Wyman’s correspondence (Wyman was Reagan’s first wife). Reagan separately told Martin Anderson that as an actor he received many letters from gays, and that his mother answered them … One of the letters signed ‘Ronald’ but in Nelle’s hand notes that Reagan’s mother and sister-in-law help him with fan mail by writing addresses on
envelopes and postcards…”
In Steve Koschal’s 2008 booklet “Ronald Reagan and Nelle Reagan Autograph Mystery Uncovered,” he compares columns of words and individual letters handwritten by Ronald Reagan and Nelle Reagan as I did 23 years earlier. I could quote directly from his booklet, but two pages before the table of contents, Stephen
Koschal clearly states “No part of the contents of this study, in part or in
full, may be copied, reproduced, duplicated or transmitted in any form without
the expressed permission of the author.”
If I did that, it would be a violation of copyright. If I used his words, he might
accuse me of plagiarism and I wouldn’t want to be accused of being a plagiarist by Steve Koschal on his Autograph Alert website. After all, he’s already called me “Mr.
Autograph Disgrace,” a “liar,” and a “thief” and said I “forged presidential
autographs” (without, as is usual on his website, including anything to back
his unfounded accusations) in his March 1, 2010 “Breaking News” just two weeks after I published my February 16th Autograph Magazine Live! blog "Self-Serving Antipathetic Steve Koschal."