When Archivists Go Bad

John C. CalhounThe Associated Press reports that a New York state archivist has been charged with stealing hundreds of historical documents and selling them in order to pay his household bills, including his daughter’s $10,000 credit card debt. Police were tipped off by a Virginia history buff who was surprised to find an 1823 letter from U.S. Vice President John C. Calhoun offered for sale on eBay.

The documents allegedly stolen include “Davy Crockett Almanacs, Currier and Ives lithographs and the 1865 railroad timetable for Abraham Lincoln‘s funeral train.” The man accused of taking them was an archives and records management specialist in the New York Department of Education. He has pleaded not guilty to charges of grand larceny, criminal possession of stolen property and scheme to defraud. If convicted, he could faces up to 25 years in prison. Despite his plea,

In a handwritten statement released by [Attorney General Andrew] Cuomo’s office, [the accused] said he took “more than 300 or 400 items in 2007 alone.”

He said he “particularly liked” artifacts associated with the Revolutionary, Civil and Mexican wars, World War I, black Americana and “anything related to the Roosevelts and Jewish items.”

Officials found hundreds of documents and artifacts in [the accused’s] home over the weekend. Authorities believe the theft goes back to 2002, although it accelerated in 2007.

About Christopher Green

Professor of Psychology at York University (Toronto). Former editor of the Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences. Creator of the "Classics in the History of Psychology" website and of the "This Week in the History of Psychology" podcast series.