The beginning of Profiles in History was modest but driven. Born into a family of antiques dealers in Rhode Island, Joseph Maddalena learned early on how to turn his passion of collecting historical autographs into a career. As a child, while traveling with his parents to various antiques shows, a great idea was born. An avid card collector, Maddalena saw that there was a community of collectors around the New England area, but not enough shows to accommodate them. At 12 years old, he decided to organize the first baseball card show in Rhode Island. With the money he saved from his paper route, young Maddalena rented the American Legion hall in his hometown of Cranston, Rhode Island and staged the first-ever local card show. With his parents serving hot dogs and sodas to the attendees, Maddalena’s show proved so successful, that he branched out to comic book conventions as well. By the age of 14 he had amassed over one million baseball cards, thousands of autographs and over 100,000 comic books and original pieces of art!
Still more a hobby than a career, Maddalena moved west in 1980 to attend Pepperdine University and pursue a career in broadcasting. Needing to support himself, Maddalena turned to his hobby of buying and selling historical documents. On weekends he scoured the old bookstores of Hollywood for letters and rare books from such famous writers as Dashiell Hammett, Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, John Steinbeck, Raymond Chandler, etc. that would fetch a fair price to collectors back east. Upon graduation from Pepperdine, realizing that a career in broadcasting was not in the stars, Maddalena pursued his passion becoming a full-time dealer of historical documents.
Expanding his horizons to include all facets of entertainment and historic memorabilia, Maddalena opened his first office in 1985. His inventory grew to include quality historical material dating from the Revolutionary War through contemporary world events, in fields ranging from the arts and sciences to U.S. presidents, aviators, explorers, the Wild West, business leaders, literature and Hollywood icons.
A lifetime member of the Manuscript Society, Maddalena is widely recognized as the nation’s leading authority on entertainment memorabilia and historical documents. Maddalena won a spot in the Guinness Book of World Records for paying a world record price at public auction for a handwritten letter of Abraham Lincoln dated January 8, 1863 regarding his issuance of the Emancipation Proclamation for $749,000. Maddalena sits on the boards of various private foundation and has built a permanent display of historical documents at the Beverly Hills Public Library and another at the Portland Oregon Historical Society to further the public’s awareness of U.S. history.
His expertise is well known and relied on. In 1997, he was instrumental in exposing the Lex Cusak $13 million dollar JFK/Marilyn Monroe forgery hoax, and was interviewed by Peter Jennings of 20/20 as an industry expert. In February 2009 Maddalena worked with the Library of Congress to stage “With Malice Toward None: The Abraham Lincoln Exhibition”, the most successful exhibition in its hoted exclusively to this field.