Alan B. Shepard, Jr.

In general Shepard preferred to signed for him (by a secretary or other office personnel) rather than use an Autopen machine. This remains true throughout his career at NASA, although when Apollo 14 crew covers and portrait lithos were machine-signed an Autopen would often be used for all three crew members.

Pattern 1

Possibly the first Autopen pattern used by an astronaut, or it may have been a rubber stamp. Seen used on 1961 cover.

Shepard Autopen pattern 1
Shepard Autopen pattern 1 example

Shepard Autopen pattern 1 example

Pattern 2

Seen on later items, usually of the Apollo 14 crew (including a 1971 cover).

Shepard Autopen pattern 1
Shepard Autopen pattern 2 example

Shepard Autopen pattern 2 example

Pattern 3

This recent discovery appears to be an Autopen pattern used circa 1962. The pattern has a distinctive loop on the right side of the leading "A". Some of the examples below show variations due to slippage under the AP machine as is typical with covers - e.g. the "S" of Shepard and the lower part of the "Jr."in the second example, and the leading "A" and the "B." in the third example.

Shepard Autopen pattern 3
Shepard Autopen pattern 3 example

Shepard Autopen pattern 3 example

Shepard Autopen pattern 3 example

Pattern 4

This appears to be a rubber stamp version of Shepard's signature.

Shepard Autopen pattern 4
Shepard Autopen pattern 4 example

Alan Shepard secretarial signatures

Throughout much of his time at NASA and afterwards, Alan Shepard often had items signed on his behalf by office staff - either a secretary or by an intern. Identifying these 'secretarial' signatures is not easy as they tended to be quite good copies of his real signature style. In addition, the fact that a number of different people signed for him over the years means there is not one particular style of secretarial signature to spot.

A good article on this subject was produced in the March/April 1995 issue of Space Autograph News but the usefulness of the article today is limited by the fact that it only really dealt with secretarial signatures produced in around 1994/5. The author was not aware at the time that Shepard had frequently had others sign on his behalf for 30-odd years prior to that point.

The tells and traits identified below may help identify a signature as a probable or certain secretarial, or may indicate a probable genuine Shepard signature, but few traits can give you a definitive answer. In the end the best way to spot secretarials is to be familiar with Shepard's genuine signatures, at which point most secretarials tend to look a little 'off'.

Secretarial tells

1. The "loopless" h

Examples of Shepard secretarial loopless Hs
Secretarial loopless "h"s
Examples of typical Shepard H with loop
Typical Shepard looped "h"s

The top of Shepard's "h" usually features a distinct loop, occasionally with a break in the pen stroke near the extremity of the loop (as shown in the 2nd example on the right).

By contrast most secretarial signature styles tend to run straight up from the "S" to the top of the "h" and into the downstroke with little or no loop at the top.

Although not completely clear cut, this loopless trait seems to be applicable to all secretarial styles from the early days right through to the 90s, and Shepard's own looped style seems to have remained very consistent throughout, making it one of the more useful tells.

2. The "spiked" p

Examples of Shepard secretarial with spiked Ps

A "p" in "Shepard" that is topped with an upward spike (as shown in two examples on the left) is a sure sign of a particular secretarial signature as genuine Shepard "p"s never had this form.

Unfortunately, only a few secretarial signatures seem to have this trait so the absence of a spiked p does not prove that a signature is genuine.

3. The disconnected "p"

Although not mentioned in the text, a number of the secretarial examples given in the 1995 article showed a very distinctive trait - the "p" of Shepard completely disconnected from the "e" preceding it. Shepard's genuine signature almost always ran the tail of the "e" up and into the start of the "p".

A disconnected "p" is very rare in genuine Shepard signatures so can be taken as a possible indicator of a secretarial. Since only a subset of secretarial signatures have this trait the presence of a connected "ep" does not prove that a signature is genuine.

4. The straight "r"

Example of Shepard secretarial straight R
Example of Shepard curved R

A trait apparently common to earlier secretarial styles in that the "r" in Shepard ends with a straight downstroke. In genuine Shepards the final stroke of the "r" tends to curve out to the right, even if only slightly.

Note that the later secretarial styles (mid 90s) have a curved "r", so this trait can only be used as a general indicator of possible early secretarials.

5. Inscriptions - the colon

Examples of Shepard secretarial colons

An inscription that begins with "To :" is a sure sign of a secretarial signature as Shepard himself never followed the "To" with a colon.

Note that not all secretarial inscriptions have this trait so the absence of a colon does not prove that a signature is genuine.

6. Inscription location on WSS lithos

Examples of Shepard signature placement

If you are trying to judge a signature on Shepard's official Apollo 14 NASA WSS portrait litho the position of the inscription may be a useful indicator of certain secretarial signatures which tend to start in the gold border of the logo in the background near the "14", as shown in the "To:" examples above.

When Shepard signed these lithos himself he tended to start the inscription and signature in the blue area above the star, as shown in the examples on the right.

7. The "d" with a tail

Examples of Shepard secretarial Ds with tails
Secretarial "d"s with tails
Examples of genuine Shepard Ds
Genuine "d"s with and without tails.

The vast majority of Shepard secretarials end with a tail on the "d" of Shepard. The article from 1995 stated that 'in authentic signatures the "d" is either unfinished or it drops nearly straight down'.

In fact this is true for something like half of Shepard's signatures but he did actually end his "d"s with a tail in many cases.

In conclusion, the presence of a tail-less "d" indicates a likely non-secretarial signature but the presence of a tail on the "d" does not indicate that a signature is a likely secretarial.

Less reliable secretarial tells

8. The tail-less "l"

Examples of Shepard secretarial Ls
Secretarial tail-less "l" examples
Examples of genuine Ls
Genuine Shepard examples

In Shepard's genuine signature the "l" usually ends with a downstroke that curls slightly out and to the right at the bottom. By contrast some of the earlier secretarials end the "l" with a straight downstroke that meets the start of the "l" at the bottom leaving no significant tail.

Note that only a subset of early secretarial signatures have this trait so an "l" with a tail does not prove that a signature is genuine. Also, a small subset of genuine Shepard signatures also have a truncated "l" so this trait alone should never be taken as conclusive proof of a secretarial.

9. The relative size of the "A" and "l" in Alan

The 1995 article pointed out that in some secretarial examples the "l" in Alan is larger than the leading "A" and stated that this was not the case with genuine Shepards. In fact the mid-90s secretarials did sometimes have a small leading "A" but Shepard's genuine signatures sometimes shared this trait.

In my opinion the relative sizes of the leading "A" and "l" in the signature are not reliable indicators of secretarial or genuine autographs as there is significant variation in both types of autograph.

10. The shape of the "S"

The 1995 article states that the secretarial "S" has a more pointy and angled bottom loop that in authentic signatures and that the line connecting the "S" to "h" in nearly horizontal in the secretarial but angles upward in authentic signatures.

Although this was certainly true of some mid-90s examples given in the article it doesn't apply to other secretarials which can have the style described as authentic. More importantly many genuine Shepard signatures have the pointed bottom loop and near-horizontal line described as the secretarial style, which in my opinion makes this trait of little use in judging signatures.

Secretarial and genuine signature examples

The following examples show a few secretarial and genuine Shepard signatures side by side (or one after another on mobile displays), ranging from early full signatures to later versions.

Secretarial example 1

Example of Shepard secretarial signature

This signature shows many classic traits of an early secretarial - a tail-less "l", a loopless "h", straight "r", and a tail on the "d", all rare characteristics in Shepard's genuine signatures at the time.

Genuine example 1

Example of genuine Shepard signature

By contrast this early genuine signature has a tail on the "l", a looped "h", a curvy "r" and no tail on the "d".

Secretarial example 2

Example of Shepard secretarial signature

Another early secretarial this too has a tail-less "l", a loopless "h", and a straight "r". This particular example also has a spiked "p" (a definite sign of a secretarial), and a tail-less "d" (actually rare in secretarials).

Genuine example 2

Example of genuine Shepard signature

Like the above, this early genuine signature has a tail on the "l", a looped "h", a curvy "r" and no tail on the "d".

Secretarial example 3

Example of Shepard secretarial signature

This slightly later secretarial has a tail-less "l", a loopless "h" and a spiked "p", as well as a nearly straight "r".

Genuine example 3

Example of genuine Shepard signature

This genuine signature has a tail on the "l", a looped "h", a curvy "r".

Secretarial example 4

Example of Shepard secretarial signature

Another slightly later secretarial this one has a tail-less "l", a loopless "h" and a straight "r".

Genuine example 4

Example of genuine Shepard signature

This genuine signature doesn't really have a loopless "h", rather his pen has left the page slight whilst swooping up from the "S". You can see the slight hook at the top of the "h" where the stroke starts again.

Secretarial example 5

Example of Shepard secretarial signature

This classic later secretarial has a tail-less "l" and a loopless "h". It doesn't have a straight "r" as this was only a trait of earlier secretarials, but it is immediately identifiable as secretarial by the colon in the inscription. The inscription is also placed near the "14" rather than in the blue area of the Apollo 14 logo where Shepard usually signed.

Genuine example 5

Example of genuine Shepard signature

This genuine signature actually has a tail-less "l", but has Shepard's classic looped "h" (with characteristic slight break). The inscription is placed in the blue area of the Apollo 14 logo to the right of the moon.

Later genuine examples

Many of Shepard's later signatures have a style that is in stark contrast with his neat and flowing earlier versions. This is particularly true of his book-signing autographs, many of which were presumably done in vast numbers over a short period of time. It's more difficult to pick out genuine Shepard signature traits in these later examples but at the same time no secretarial signatures really mimicked this style.

Examples of later genuine Shepard signatures

All three examples shown above are genuine Shepard signatures. The first example is a rare genuine signature that has a tail-less "l". Note also that the "n" of "Alan" is almost non-existant. In the second example the "n" of Alan has disappeared altogether. Many of his later signatures were actually signed "Al Shepard" or just "A Shepard" as in the third example above.