When he was in high school, Rick Badwey started collecting coins and rare paper money. His father was a rare coin collector, and Badwey — a Washington, D.C. native — caught the bug at an early age. When he was studying business administration at American University, he got the idea to translate his passion into a profession. So after he graduated he opened a frame shop in Falls Church that specialized in preserving historic documents and letters. In 1997, he moved the business to South Union Street in Old Town.
“When you hold something like a letter from George Washington in your hands, it really brings history alive,” said Badwey, owner of Badwey Gallery. “It’s amazing to think that not only did he sign this letter, but he also read it with his own blue eyes.”
From 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday, Badwey will host a show in the Federalist Ballroom of the Old Town Hotel that will showcase a wide array of documents and letters. The show will bring together autograph and manuscript dealers from across the country for the display and sale of hundreds of documents and letters spanning six centuries of politics, science and the arts. The show will include documents signed by Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, John Kennedy and Albert Einstein.
“This is a unique opportunity for history buffs in the region to view, in a single location, a collection of documents representing the work of hundreds of people who helped change our world,” said Badwey. “We welcome those who simply want to enjoy a brush with history by viewing these wonderful pieces and those who are interested in acquiring documents for their personal collections or as holiday gifts.”
Badwey said his favorite item in the show is a 1789 letter from President Washington to Samuel Huntington, who was then the governor of Connecticut. The two-page letter discusses key legislation enacted by the First Congress, including an act setting up the federal judiciary and giving the president power to federalize state militias during a crisis. Washington also discusses the appropriation for what would be the first federal budget: $639,000. Huntington had previously served as president of Congress during the Revolutionary War. So this document is a rare letter the “first” president to one of his predecessors.
“I’m a big fan of George Washington,” said Badwey. “So I guess I’m a little biased.”
Other documents will include a letter signed by Theodore Roosevelt in which the bluff New Yorker first employs the phrase “speak softly and carry a big stick” and a letter from Abraham Lincoln explaining his willingness to grant pardons to Confederates who sign an oath of loyalty. The show will also feature a dizzying array of other gems: a signed photograph of Martin Luther King taken in 1964 at London’s St. Paul’s Cathedral while on his way to receive his Nobel Peace Prize; a note from Frederick Douglas about John Brown’s anti-slavery vision; and a framed ensemble of currency from the 13 original colonies signed by prominent citizens.
Among dealers scheduled to attend are noted writers Dan Weinberg, co-author of the book “Lincoln’s Assassins,” David Lowenherz, author of “The 50 Greatest Letters from America’s Wars,” and Steve Raab, author of “The Living Experience of the Civil War.”