Monday, April 17, 2006

Provenance? Hey, I told you the price. Do you want it, or not?
Washington Letter Returned to Mass.

BOSTON (AP) -- A letter signed by Gen. George Washington is back in the hands of state archivists, 60 years after it was stolen from the Massachusetts State House.

The future president's letter, dated April 14, 1783, asked the states to settle their financial accounts with the army before it was disbanded following the war. Copies were delivered to Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York and Rhode Island.

When it disappeared in the 1940s, official documents in Massachusetts were open to the public inside the State House. [Ed. – Seems MA government has always attracted the best and the brightest] Dozens of historic documents vanished before the archives were moved to Dorchester, and state employees now regularly watch the Internet and auction catalogs for missing documents to reappear.

It was in a February auction catalog that a staff member at the Massachusetts Historical Commission spotted the Washington letter - valued at $60,000 to $80,000.

The letter was among 750 items up for auction from a collector who bought it 50 years ago, apparently from a now-closed Boston book shop, said Tom Slater, director of Americana for Heritage Galleries & Auctioneers of Dallas. [Ed. – And neither expert involved in this transaction would have known that a document sent to the state government by Gen. Washington was purloined. Right!]

Alan Cote, secretary of Massachusetts' supervisor of public records, called the Texas gallery two days before the Feb. 21 auction and persuaded the owners to withdraw the letter from the sale.

State officials said they had no reason to believe the collector knew the letter had been taken from the state archives [Ed. – This would be true only if the collector was a moron. Surprisingly, this ignoramus did know its monetary value - wonders never cease] and do not plan to legal action.

"No one conceded it was stolen," Slater said of the letter. "There was an arrangement made whereby it would go to the state of Massachusetts, and it was withdrawn" from the auction. [Ed. - This was the 'arrangement': “Give us the letter, NOW, or you’re all going to jail]


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