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(INDIANAPOLIS) – When Eric Holcomb became governor, he brought some history with him to the governor’s mansion: a presidential autograph collection Indiana’s chief executive has a collection — the signatures of the nation’s chief executives.

When Holcomb was an aide to Indiana Congressman John Hostettler in the early 2000s, George W. Bush sent him a signed inaugural photo. Then Holcomb acquired a couple more autographs, and by the time he acquired documents signed by Indiana’s William Henry and Benjamin Harrison, he was hooked.

The collection moved with Holcomb to the governor’s residence after he won the governorship, and includes the signatures of every president except George Washington. There’s a spot reserved for it on the wall beneath a Washington portrait — Holcomb says he’s looking, but Washington signatures are expensive. The memorabilia website Nate D. Sanders Auctions says signed Washington documents start at more than $12,000, and can soar into seven digits depending on the historical significance.

Washington’s autograph alone, without an accompanying document, costs less, but Holcomb says it’s the history behind the documents that interests him. He says it’s thrilling to realize you’re holding a document Thomas Jefferson once held, and ponder what he was thinking as he read it. The framed documents at the residence include a letter from William McKinley discussing the political outlook in the 1896 campaign, and one from William Henry Harrison when he was an aide to General “Mad Anthony” Wayne, requesting rations for Army spies. And some documents create a mystery to unravel, like tracking down the identity of the original recipient of a note from Ronald Reagan.

Holcomb keeps an eye on flea markets and auction sites for verified documents. He’s added Lincoln and John Adams documents since becoming governor.

The collection even includes a signed letter from David Rice Atchison, a footnote to history sometimes listed as “president for a day.” Inauguration Day fell on a Sunday in 1849, and Zachary Taylor refused to take the oath of office on a Sunday. Some argue that technically made Atchison, as president pro tem of the Senate, the president for 24 hours.

And the wall includes a few documents with another degree of separation from the White House. Former Senator Dan Coats’ letter welcoming Holcomb as his chief of staff sits above a John Quincy Adams letter — both Coats and Adams served as ambassador to Germany. A letter from Benjamin Harrison V, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, sits above the letter from his son William Henry Harrison — Holcomb says he’s looking for something from William Henry’s son John to complete the chain to President Benjamin Harrison.

As a politician himself, Holcomb’s acquired some signatures personally. He already had a photo of George H.W. Bush greeting members of the Houston Astros, inscribed to Astros coach and two-time All-Star shortstop Denis Menke. When Holcomb was elected governor, Bush sent him a congratulatory letter after his election in which he said “a little birdie” had told him about the collection, and enclosed an autographed baseball to add to it.

Naval commission signed by President John Adams (Photo: Eric Berman/WIBC)