Andrew Jackson's Autograph Turning Point


By: Brian G. Kathenes, ISA CAPP

Andrew Jackson (1767-1845), the 7th President of the United States is known for many "firsts."    He was the first non-aristocratic President.  Jackson was the first U.S. Representative for the newly formed state of Tennessee.  He may have been the first and only President to have married a woman who was already married (but that's another story).  What makes him especially interesting to presidential autograph collectors is that he was the first president to have a secretary sign land grants for him.  

"Old Hickory", a military man, served in both Houses of Congress as a Senator and U.S. Representative of Tennessee.  He represented the common man.  It was reported that he let farm animals wander the Executive Mansion lawn, and even allowed them to enter the Executive Mansion.  His "Kitchen Cabinet" consisted of old friends and advisors on which he relied more upon than the official cabinet.

Jackson had quite a history.  He enlisted in the militia to fight the British in the American Revolution.  He was only 13 years old.  His early education was limited, but became a lawyer and a successful politician.  He was quite a fighter and actually killed a man in a duel that had slandered Rachel Jackson.  His wife died shortly after he was elected President.

He asked his adopted step-son's wife Emily Jackson Donelson to serve as Hostess of the White House.  His step-son Andrew Jackson Donelson became an administrative assistant and adviser.  He also signed land grants for Jackson beginning in 1833.

Officially, all land grants were required to be signed by the President of the United States.  All Presidents prior to Jackson signed many thousands of land grants.  Jackson apparently had enough of this procedure, and by the beginning of his second term, (1833), passed the task along to his son.  Other Presidents continued the “tradition” after Jackson left office.  Almost all land grants after that date were signed by secretaries and not by the President.

This date of 1833 is a significant date to remember.  If you see a land grant dated 1833 or later it is most likely signed by a secretary, and not by the President.  Knowing just a few facts, especially knowing the "land grant date of 1833", can help you identify non-geniune signatures. 

So the next time someone tells you he or she  found a land grant signed by John Tyler (elected after Andrew Jackson) you can be pretty sure it was not signed by President Tyler  -- without even seeing it.


7th President (1829 - 1833 and 1833 - 1837)
Born: 15 March 1767
Place of Birth: The Waxhaws, South Carolina
Ancestry: Scottish and Irish
Wife: Rachel Donelson Robards
Children: one boy adopted from his brother-in-law John
Religion: Presbyterian
Military Service: Judge advocate of Western District County Militia 1791
Major General of Tennessee Militia ( 1802 - 1812 )
Major General of the U.S. Army ( 1814 - 1821 )
Political Party: Democrat
Vice President: John C. Calhoun ( 1829 - 1832 ) and Martin Van Buren ( 1833 - 1837 )
Died: 8 June 1845 of natural causes
Emily Tennessee Donelson
Uncle: Andrew Jackson
Husband: N/A
Born: 1808
Place of Birth: N/A
Ancestry: N/A
Children: Four ( 4 )
Died: 20 December 1836 of natural causes


The illustration is a secretarial signature on a land grant dated October 1, 1835, executed by Andrew Jackson Donelson.