My Thoughts on Presidential Signatures

By David G. Firestone

So in honor of the inauguration, and politics being the topic of discussion, I felt the need to do something, but I didn’t want to do anything political. I’m not political, but I am an autograph collector. I’ve been noticing that the quality of signatures have gone downhill, and I had an idea. I’m going to grade every president on how their signature looks. It’s a handwriting grade.

1. George Washington-The first of what is going to be a trend here, signatures that don’t look like the name of the person signing them. If I showed you this signature, and I didn’t tell you who it was, you would have no idea what you were looking at. I can kind of make out Washington, but it could be several other things. I don’t see “George” but I do see a “G.” I give it a D-.

2. John Adams-It’s a great signature, the handwriting looks good, and I can easily tell who signed this. I give it an A.

3. Thomas Jefferson-The man who wrote the Declaration of Independence apparently didn’t feel the need to add the “omas” in Thomas Jefferson. The signature reads “TH Jefferson.” The argument that the H was a middle initial isn’t valid, since Jefferson didn’t have one. Still the Jefferson is easy to make out, and it’s not that terrible, so I’ll give it a B-

4. James Madison-Ok, I can see that it’s James Madison. The “mes” looks like one scribble. Madison looks really good. All in all, it’s a decent signature. B+

5. James Monroe-Everything that I said about James Madison also applies here. B+

6. John Quincy Adams-Is that JQ Adams, or JJ Adams? It’s hard to tell. The Adams looks decent, but the penmanship does need some work. I’ll give it a B.

7. Andrew Jackson-Can I ask a question? Why do people feel the need to underline their signatures? It serves no purpose, adds an extra step, and it never looks good. Andrew Jackson has a great signature, but I don’t like the underline. It takes an A signature down to a B+

8. Martin Van Buren-Really? M. Van Buren? Is Martin too hard of a word to write? I get if this was a signature used occasionally, but I’ve been able to find no evidence that he ever signed his name as Martin.

9. William Henry Harrison-The penmanship is really good here, but, again, why would you not write “William Henry?”  Why just watch WH?  I would like to give this signature a higher grade, but our shortest-reigning President gets a C-

10. John Tyler-Why in the world are the J and the O below the rest of the signature? It looks really odd. The signature itself isn’t terrible, but the odd placement of the first two letters gives it a weird look. I’ll give it a B-

11. James K Polk-Huh? What am I looking at here? Like George Washington, if I didn’t tell you who this is, you wouldn’t be able to figure it out. I know that the letter in the middle is supposed to be a K but nobody would be able to identify that as a K. It’s an F signature for sure.

12. Zachary Taylor-Another thing that annoys me is a signature where two names become one word. Taylor signed his name while never taking the pen off the page. It looks odd though. It’s not terrible, but it looks odd. B+

13. Millard Filmore-You can tell who it is, but I’m a little put off by the fact that the FI sort of looks like a swastika. Yes I’m aware the swastika didn’t become the official symbol of the Nazi Party until 1920, but it still looks odd. Still it’s not terrible, so I’ll give it a B

14. Franklin Pierce-A little hard to make out with some pointless flourish on the F and E will take a B scheme down to a C+.

15. James Buchanan-One of my all time favorite presidential signatures. It has a nice look, you can tell who signed it, and every letter is easy to see. I give it an A.

16. Abraham Lincoln-It’s a good signature, every letter is clear, and it looks good. Another A scheme.

17. Andrew Johnson-While every letter is clear, and you can tell who signed it, the penmanship could use a little work. It’s still a solid A- signature though.

18. Ulysses S Grant-Let’s take every thing that annoys me about signatures, unreadable, you can’t tell who wrote it, can’t write the whole name, pointless flourish, and underlining and compress them in to one signature, and you have a signature worth an F.

19. Rutherford B Hayes-R.B. Hayes. While you can see every letter, it’s a little difficult to tell who signed it, since the R and the B look a little similar. Points are also deducted for not writing Rutherford, choosing instead to write simply R. All things considered, it’s worth a C-

20. James A Garfield-I don’t like the fact that the A and G are connected. The signature is good but those two little details take it from an A to a A-.

21. Chester A Arthur-Pointless flourish and a little too hard to read. It’s an A- scheme.

22/24. Grover Cleveland-While he did write every letter in his name, it’s a little hard to make out those letters. You can tell who it is, but the penmanship needs work. I’ll give it B+

23. Benjamin Harrison-I can make out the Harrison fine, but I have a lot of trouble with the Benjamin, since it doesn’t look like it says Benjamin. The penmanship needs work too. I’ll give it a C-

25. William McKinley-Why can’t people sign their whole first name? Why is that so hard of a concept? Add to that the fact that the last name would be unreadable if you didn’t know who had signed this, and you have an F signature for sure.

26. Theodore Roosevelt-He did write his whole name, but it’s such a jumbled mess that you can’t really tell the name. I can’t tell what the last letters are supposed to be. It’s not a good signature at all. F

27. William H Taft-Virtually unreadable is all that needs to be said here. It’s an F signature, and I’m being kind.

28. Woodrow Wilson-It’s a little hard to read, and while he does write every letter in his name, the penmanship does need a little work. I also don’t like the line on the N. I’ll give it a C+

29. Warren Harding-While it is technically possible to figure out who signed this, It takes some work, and since the penmanship is terrible, that makes it more difficult. While he does sign every letter in is name, its not easy to read. It’s a D+ graded signature.

30. Calvin Coolidge-While I can tell that there are two C’s, the rest of the signature is unreadable. The flourish on the E is annoying, and I give the signature a D+

31. Herbert Hoover-While he does write every letter in his name, it is a little hard to read, and the fact that it’s one word, with the cross of the T leading into the H is a little off-putting. The letters at the end of the name are a little jumbled as well. I’ll give it a C+.

32. Franklin D Roosevelt-The letters are all there, and it’s easy to read. My thing is with the R. Is that an R by itself, or is that an D and an R? It’s hard to tell. I’ts an B+ scheme.

33. Harry S Truman-While he does write every letter in his name, it’s not very readable, and the fact that it’s all one line is annoying me. I’ll give it a B-

34. Dwight D Eisenhower-This is an odd one, because for some reason Dwight and Eisenhower are two separate lines, but the end of Dwight and Eisenhower are connected. He does write every letter in his name, and it’s easy to see who wrote it, but the spacing is odd, and I’ll give it an A-

35. John F Kennedy-It’s next to impossible to figure out who signed this. I can kind of make out John, but Kennedy is next to impossible. Add to that odd spacing, and you have an F scheme for sure.

36. Lyndon B Johnson-Is that a signature or a cardiogram? It’s kind of hard to tell. It’s all one line, with scribbles for letters. I can’t tell who wrote this at all. I’ll give it an F.

37. Richard M Nixon-While the penmanship does need work, the letters are all there, it’s pretty easy to read, and it’s easy to read. No flourish, or underlining, and you have an A signature.

38. Gerald R Ford-It’s a little hard to read, but the letters are all there, and you can tell who wrote it. I’m a little confused by the left-to-right upward slant of the signature. It just looks odd. It’s worth a B.

39. Jimmy Carter-All the letters are there, it’s easy to read, the penmanship is good, the one thing that I find odd is how much higher the cross in the J is above the rest of the letter. Still, all things considered it’s worth an A.

40. Ronald Reagan-What I like about this signature is that the loops in the R’s remind me of Mickey Mantle’s signature. All the letters are there, and it’s easy to read. I give it an A.

41. George H.W. Bush-Unreadable, with a left-to-right upward slant. Another example of a signature that you can’t tell who signed it unless someone else tells you. I give it an F.

42. Bill Clinton-Yes, he wrote every letter in his name, and you can tell who wrote it, but the penmanship is awful, and both names are one word. I give it a C-

43. George W Bush-How can anyone tell that is supposed to spell George W Bush? It looks like a scribble. It’s unreadable, has a bad slant, and is all in all an F signature.

44. Barack Obama-I guess you could tell that is the signature of Barack Obama, because of the B and the O. The rounding of the B is odd, and the scribbles in “arack bama” aren’t good, so I’ll give it a C.

45.Donald Trump-Another example of “signature or cardiogram?” This one is much worse, because there is no way anyone could tell who signed it by looking at it. I’ll give it an F.

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2 thoughts on “My Thoughts on Presidential Signatures

  1. How come you took points off of everyone who abbreviated their full name, except William Henry Harrison who signed his “W. H. Harrison” but got commended for writing his full name?

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