What will happen to famous papers locked behind bank vault in Washington DC?
On Aug. 28, 1861, a month after the Union Army's disastrous defeat at the first Battle of Bull Run, President Abraham Lincoln sat down and wrote out a Riggs Bank check for $3 to "Mr. Johns (a sick man)."
It is not known who Johns was, where Lincoln encountered him or what prompted the beleaguered president to pause amid the opening weeks of the Civil War to give him a donation.
It is but a tantalizing shard of local history, one of the thousands that reside not in the National Archives or Library of Congress but behind the thick steel door of a 40-year-old basement bank vault in downtown Washington, where the question has become: What to do with them?
The Lincoln check is among a trove of documents gathered over the decades by Washington's venerable and now-defunct Riggs Bank -- which, along with its antecedents, had customers ranging from Davy Crockett to President George H.W. Bush.
The collection includes letters, notes and checks written by, among others, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, Theodore Roosevelt, Eleanor Roosevelt, Dwight Eisenhower, Brigham Young and Gen. John Pershing.
Now, Pittsburgh-based PNC Bank, which took over Riggs on May 13, 2005, is in the midst of a project to gather and inventory the artifacts, which include shelves of crumbling ledgers that go back a century and a half.
comments powered by Disqus
- New Hampshire professors at odds with library over discarded books
- Troubled history fuels Japan-China tension
- Independent Scotland's last gasp forgotten in Panama jungle
- LBJ was the ‘most-threatened president in American history’
- New exhibit at the World War I Museum ... Over by Christmas: August-December 1914
- Ken Burns on Colbert to promote his new documentary, "The Address"
- UC Santa Barbara History Department featuring a series on the Great Society at 50
- Historians are trying to recover censored texts from World War I poets
- Diane Ravitch blasts the NYT for failing to understand the controversy over Common Core
- Mormon history professors debate atheists in bid to foster greater understanding