To catch a thief at the National Archives
The unusual crime began to unravel last September, when Dean Thomas of Gettysburg, Pa., had the sensation of déjà vu while reading an eBay offer for three Civil War documents from 1861 and 1862 that his brother was bidding on for him. Thomas, who publishes Civil War and American Revolution history books, got up from his desk and looked into one of his many black binders, the one that holds the letters he photocopied some 20 years earlier at the Philly National Archives. There, he found the same ones he was seeing on eBay, being sold by a private seller, “hchapel.” His brother won the bid on a Sunday night and the purchase went through for $298.88. Payment was to be delivered to Denning McTague of Philadelphia; his full address and contact information clearly printed. “It wasn’t very secretive,” says Thomas.
The next morning he called up an acquaintance at the archives and asked if there was a sale of original documents under way. There wasn’t, so Thomas called up the Archives’ Inspector General’s office. A quick search revealed that 164 documents were missing, and soon the National Archives Archival Recovery Team (ART) got to work. Like most of McTague’s other eBay clients, Thomas quickly returned his letters. Only three documents are still missing.
comments powered by Disqus
- Journalist Michael Wolraich says he wrote his new book about the Progressives to teach Americans how to do liberal politics
- It’s Martin Kramer vs. Ari Shavit vs. Benny Morris
- It's official: 2014 AHA election results are in
- In new book UC Berkeley historian Waldo E. Martin, Jr. takes Black Panther Party's point of view
- Economics historian finds that real social mobility takes hundreds of years