Abe Lincoln letter worth every penny





A firefighter from Tampa, Fla., recently has received confirmation that an 1858 Abraham Lincoln letter he bought at a yard sale for $8 is the real thing.

His discovery will be featured in a PBS "History Detectives" episode that was partly filmed in Springfield and that will air nationwide Aug. 27. The show's fifth season begins Monday.

Joseph Skanks had been known by many around Tampa as the guy with the Abraham Lincoln letter. Maybe.

A few years ago, Skanks, a collector of old photos, swung by a modest estate sale near his home to pick up a stack the owners put aside for him.

His wife had been at the same sale earlier, trying to reserve a larger pile for him. But by the time he arrived, it had been sold. The owners, however, had uncovered a few more photos by then. They had been hidden out of view with some books and other materials.

Skanks stopped by on his way home from a 24-hour shift that ended at 8 a.m. Tired, he didn't bother to sift through the items.

"I gathered them all up and pushed them all together," Skanks said. "They asked for $8."

At home, Skanks began shuffling through his photos at the kitchen table as his wife and two daughters made breakfast. As he made his way through, he came upon an item that nearly stopped his heart.

"I was shocked at first," Skanks, 43, said. "I couldn't be that lucky."

It appeared to be a short letter written by Abraham Lincoln on Aug. 2, 1858, to Henry Clay Whitney, a political ally of Lincoln's and a fellow circuit court lawyer.

The short note simply reads:

"Yours of the 31st. is just received. I shall write to B.C. Cook at Ottawa and to Lovejoy himself on the subject you suggest.

"Pardon me for not writing a longer letter. I have a great many letters to write.

"I was at Monticello Thursday evening. Signs all very good. Your friend as ever A. Lincoln."



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