This Month in Real Estate History: 1912 REALTORS® remembered the Maine

thismonth0906JUNE 2009 — At its 1912 annual convention in Louisville, Kentucky, the National Association of Real Estate Exchanges received a new wooden gavel and a piece of American history.

REALTORS® met in the city’s Armory on June 19 and were called to order by President Samuel S. Thorpe of Minneapolis. After an invocation and welcoming speeches, President Thorpe paused the proceedings “for a few minutes while we have this photograph taken.”

Shortly afterward, delegate J. L. Head from Havana, Cuba, was recognized. An Associate Member of the national association, Head was one of nine registrants from Havana. He presented to Thorpe a mallet with a unique history. It originated with the unfortunate battleship U.S.S. Maine, which exploded and sank in Havana Harbor 14 years before. The wood came from a table in the cabin of Captain Charles Sigsbee. As to its condition, Head explained “the shells and the gnawings of the insects of the sea are there.”

Head called the gavel a good symbol. “As our navy protects the honor of our national affairs, the members of this Association should protect the honor in every respect of the dealings in real estate.

President Thorpe accepted the gavel and put it to immediate use. “This represents more than a piece of wood,” he said. “The American flag is in this. We certainly appreciate that and hope to keep it for many, many years.”

97 years later the gavel can still be found in the NAR Archives collection.

Frederik Heller

Managing Director of Information Services at the National Association of REALTORS®.

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