Explore the Autograph Collection

Example from Autograph Collection

The Albert Balch Collection includes letters, photographs, printed materials, standard autograph forms, and ephemera. These materials range from the 18th to 20th centuries, largely of North American, Central American, South American, and western European subjects. Subjects include political and military members, authors, actors, artists, activists, business leaders, performers, and athletes.

Materials were collected primarily through written solicitation, but Balch also purchased items of significance. Initially interested in autographs, Balch later began to request words of advice or letters of autobiographical reflection.

These collections are non-circulating and can be accessed by appointment through the Hugh and Jane Ferguson Seattle Room, located at the Central Library on Level 10. Appointments are available on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays between 1 p.m. – 5 p.m. You may book 30 minutes to 2 hours of time.  Advance request for materials is preferred and a staff member will accompany materials at all times. Photocopying, scanning, and flash photography of materials is prohibited.

Preview the Collection

A collection finding aid is available online to better identify items of interest and to see the scope of materials available.

About the Collection

Albert S. Balch (1903‐1976) was a Seattle builder and realtor. Born in Gem, Idaho, he graduated from the University of Washington in 1922. As a high school student in Blaine, WA, Balch obtained the autographs of Queen Marie of Romania and Marshal Foch of France, beginning a lifelong procurement of autographs. Primarily obtained through letter writing, some were received in‐person, and others purchased. His father, Albert S. Balch, was a Whatcom County pioneer, settling in 1888. Balch was awarded numerous awards for his homes and communities, including View Ridge and Wedgwood, for which he received Award of Merit from the National Association of Home Builders.

Balch donated the entirety of his collection to the Seattle Public Library in 1946 and then continued to add to the collection until his death in 1976.