Dean and Jim Thomas, brothers and book publishers from Gettysburg, Pa., thought the Civil War documents they spotted for sale on EBay looked familiar. In fact, Dean Thomas recognized them as ones he’d photocopied two decades ago, while conducting research at the regional National Archives in Philadelphia.
He immediately contacted the National Archives, and a short time later former Archives intern Denning McTague was arrested for stealing 164 documents, 161 of which have now been recovered. He will be sentenced on July 12.
The Thomas brothers were honored in recent days by Archivist of the United States Allen Weinstein, who commented that the National Archives “has a great responsibility to keep the nation’s documents safe and secure, but we can’t do this without the public’s help.”
He called the Thomas brothers’ catch “extraordinary.”
John McCaslin, whose column is nationally syndicated, can be reached at 202/636-3284 or firstname.lastname@example.org.