Lot 130
[WELLS] Sentenced to Die for Throwing a Cuspidor! 1953

Estimate: $400 - $500

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About this Lot
WELLS DEFENSE COMMITTEE Sentenced to Die for Throwing a Cuspidor! Save Wells?Write Gov. Knight

Offered for sale by 'A. Adebayo, bookseller' - for more information please contact Andrew via email at adebayobookco@gmail.com

[Afro-Americana]. [Wesley Robert Wells]. [Wells Defense Committee].

WELLS DEFENSE COMMITTEE. Sentenced to Die for Throwing a Cuspidor! Save Wells - Write Gov. Knight. Los Angeles: Wells Defense Committee, 1953.

Unbound. Original broadside poster. Measuring approximately 22 by 17 inches. Printed offset in black and burnt umber on lightweight cream stock. Light age toning. Minor edgewear. Unbacked. Clean. Very Good or better overall.

Lithograph broadside issued by the Wells Defense Committee, amply featuring a woodcut three-quarter length portrait of Wesley Robert Wells bound in a Martin-link belly chain restraint. The exclamation “Sentenced to Die for Throwing a Cuspidor!” appears at his left shoulder. Below the illustration: “Save Wells - Write Gov. Knight.”

Wesley Robert Wells was sent to San Quentin State Prison at age 19 with a conviction of ‘receiving stolen goods’ (a suit of clothes). Released in 1941, he was re-incarcerated in 1942 with another ‘stolen goods’ charge (a car battery). Five years later, during a hearing at Folsom Prison, Wells threw a brass cuspidor, striking a guard in the head. In response, he was sentenced to death under California Penal Code Section 4500.

Months after this poster was produced, nearly seven years after the courtroom incident, and just two weeks before Wells’ scheduled date of execution, Governor Goodwin J. Knight issued a proposal to commute Wells’ death sentence to life imprisonment.

Exceedingly scarce. None in trade. One seen at auction. OCLC locates one at UC Berkeley.

The California Eagle - the Afro-American weekly edited by Charlotta Spears Bass (who worked on the State Defense Committee for Wesley Robert Wells) - followed the case closely, and reported on the Wells defense letter writing campaign in “Unions, Church, Civic Groups Write Knight” (Dec. 3, 1953):

"Ministers, doctors, painters, newsmen, longshoremen—thousands of people are writing to Governor Knight for Wesley Wells' life.

In Los Angeles last week the largest AFofL Painters Local, 116. sent a letter to the governor. In San Francisco, 14 white and Negro clergymen formed a Religious Committee for the Defense of Wells. Included are co-chairman Rev. F. D. Haynes and Rev. R. W. Moon, also Rabbi Saul White, Rev. Howard Thurman, Dr. Dillon Throckmorton.

The big CIO-United Auto Workers at the General Motors plant in Los Angeles, Local 216, sent a letter to Governor Knight, as did the Southland Jewish Organization. Walter Winchell, who first told the nation of Wells’ plight is printing news of him again.

Osmyn Stout, writing for the American Friends Service Committee, says to the Governor: “It is the very earnest hope of this committee that you will see your way clear to commute the death sentence ... It seems to us to run counter to the Eighth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution which forbids cruel and unusual punishment. ¶ Writes Mrs. Elinor Ashkenazi, Orange Grove Monthly Meeting of Friends: “We find it difficult to believe, in the twentieth century and in California where the penal system has made so many advances, that a man can be executed for throwing a cuspidor at a prison guard.”

Argosy Magazine’s “Court of Last Resort” has shown sympathy and interest in Wells. On October 26 the 12,000 member ILWU Local 6 appealed for Wells.

The Monrovia and San Jose branches of the NAACP have written Gov. Knight.

Norman Houston, State Athletic Commissioner and president of the Golden State Mutual Life Insurance Company, has informed the EAGLE he is sending a letter for clemency to the Governor. ¶ A Marin City carpenter Alex J. Wheelock, spoke before his AFofL union laborers 291: “Trade unionists have always championed the cause of the oppressed. This is that kind of a case.” The local voted to write on behalf of Wells. ¶ San Diego longshoreman Preston Hill told his union: “This is a labor case. Labor understands what frame-ups mean.”

Written appeals for Wells lave been voted by the following California unions and their memberships: AFofL Carpenters 35, San Rafael, Carpenters Local 1710, Mill Valley, Af of L Laborers, 291, San Francisco, Furniture Workers 576, Los Angeles, and Los Angeles Fur and Leather Workers union.

24 doctors and dentists in San Francisco have appealed for Wells life, issuing a public pamphlet in his defense."