The National Archives Would Like These Priceless Artifacts Back

Stuff that's gone missing: letters from Lincoln, the Wright brothers's original patent

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You expect employee theft to plague places like Best Buy, where consumer electronics can easily go on the black market for close to their retail value. But it seems far less likely at a place like the National Archives, whose store of dusty documents contains treasures at once priceless and, it would seem, worthless. But on Tuesday, a former employee of the National Archives pleaded guilty to stealing 1,000 sound recordings from work and selling some of them on eBay, including one of Babe Ruth on a hunting trip that went for $34.74 (it was later recovered). A year ago, when agents first raided the home of Leslie Waffen, the now-retired chief of the Archives' audiovisual holdings, Iowa Republican Sen. Charles Grassley issued a statement saying there was "a lot of work to be done" to increase security at the Archives. "These problems have needed correction for years," he said, according to the Washington Post. A glance at the list of missing items on the Archives' website confirms a host of astonishingly unique or important items and documents have disappeared over time.

  • The Wright brothers' patent for their flying machine:

  • Target maps of Hiroshima (left) and Nagasaki, created by the Army Air Corps to plan the nuclear attacks of 1945:

  • Five 1864 telegraphs signed by Abraham Lincoln:

  • Lindon B. Johnson's 1964 class ring from the US Coast Guard Academy, a yellow sapphire in 14-karat gold:

A letter from a Confederate soldier to Union forces near Fredericksburg, VA, offering to trade tobacco for coffee:

A sword from the shah of Iran, undated but obviously from before 1979, when the shah went into exile. It comes from a series of other missing swords and daggers given to President Harry Truman by Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Saud:

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