Ulysses S. Grant, Personal Memoirs of U.S. Grant, 1st Trade Edition, with Salesman Sample


Grant’s Memoirs, With the Salesman Sample

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Offering U.S. Grant’s Personal Memoirs of U.S. Grant, the Green Shoulder Strap First Trade Edition, with the tough-to-find Salesman Sample. 

Written as Grant was dying of cancer in 1885, the two-volume set was published by Charles L. Webster and Company shortly after Grant’s death. This is one of three states for the original first edition, at once the most common and the most sought after by collectors.

Each copy includes what looked like a handwritten note from Grant himself; a note that vexes booksellers to this day.

Still in print today, it is considered the gold standard of the Memoir genre and is considered by many as the finest memoir of any of our presidents, rivaled only by Eisenhower’s Crusade in Europe.

Finished by July 20, 1885, three days before his painful death, these books are ranked as among the finest memoirs from any U. S. president.  Published in 1885-6, the initial printing of 200,000 of two octavo volumes were sold only by subscription.

Grant, Ulysses S.  PERSONAL MEMOIRS OF U. S. GRANT.  NY:  Charles Webster, 1885.  1st trade edition; 2 vols.; distinctive shoulder straps on each spine. 


The seldom-seen Salesman Sample Book.

For several years, rumors circulated that Ulysses S. Grant did not write his memoirs; many thought them the work of Mark Twain.

That rumor is untrue.  The original handwritten manuscript survives today, and is entirely written in Grant’s hand.

Mark Twain was not part of project when Grant began his memoirs. Originally, Grant had written some articles about his battle experiences for The Century Company. He wanted to continue on that path, hoping to create a memoir of his military career.

Grant had agreed to–but had not signed–a contract with The Century Company.

That plan would give Grant ten percent of all sales after the book was finished. When Twain heard about the offer, he was appalled by how little money Grant would get from the sales of the book. He believed he could offer Grant a better deal. Grant eventually signed with Twain’s firm, Charles L. Webster and Company. 

Twain’s created a unique marketing plan that would reach millions of veterans. Ten thousand agents blanketed the North, each following a script Twain had written. Many of these salesmen were veterans, some dressing in their Civil War uniforms.

This team initially sold 350,000 two-volume sets; with prices ranging from $3.50 to $12; depending on the binding. Samples of the binding are included in this Salesman Sample booklet.

The cover of the Salesman Sample is the usually-seen green cloth boards and cover design we see on the trade edition. The Sample includes two engraved frontispieces; a few other full-page illustrations; Grant’s Preface; and sampling of various chapters from the two volumes. This is followed by blank pages for noting the subscribers to the set, with place for the names, addresses, and number of volumes purchased. The inside front board has spine samples of the dark leather and tan editions, while the inside rear board has the same in green cloth; each bears the famous “shoulder strap” that marks the set.  Quite uncommon and quite a catch for someone!                                                                                                               

Tipped in the sample book are three printed sheets; they appear to be publisher updates sent to the salesmen to keep them up-to-date:

The first (June 30, 1885) contains a letter from Charles Webster written to Grant explaining that there are “mischievous books” that are titled to mislead the public into thinking they are purchasing the true memoirs written by Grant.  Below that is printed a reply from Grant (July 1, 1885).  

The second (July 1, 1885) is titled “To Our Agents and the Public” being a letter, signed by Webster in type, further amplifying the extent of the fraud being perpetrated by “scheming publishers” and “unprincipled booksellers” who, by their deception, snatches “the budding fruit (i.e. royalties) of hard-earned toil from (Grant).”

The third (July 30, 1885) is titled “The Book Is Finished” (meaning volume 2) that states “the complete manuscript of both volumes had been delivered to us” and explains some of the changes in page and chapter numbers.

Through the date on the last sheet it can be seen that this sample book was produced very close to Grant’s death – indeed only three days before his passing!

In the end, Grant’s widow Julia received about $450,000. In today’s dollars, that would be over $8,000,000.00. So much for Grant being a “failure.”

All are in excellent condition for all three volumes; the volumes of The Personal Memoirs… are fresh and bright; the sample book unused, with the spine samples the freshest we’ve ever encountered.      

Salesman’s Sample Book, also known as a “Dummy” for the above set. NY:  Charles Webster, 1885.

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