4 thoughts on “Charley Ross ransom letters have surfaced

  1. Kat December 15, 2013 / 8:43 pm

    Very interesting! However can someone explain why these things are always found in someone’s drawer, or attic, or basement……

  2. Amy White December 15, 2013 / 9:16 pm


  3. Peter Henderson Jr. December 17, 2013 / 12:13 am


    The reason historical documents, photo’s, even valuable baseball cards are normally found in out of the way places is because they are frequently acquired in estate sales by people who don’t know their true value.

    In the case of my wife’s family they were a gift that was simply kept for decades before learning their true worth.

    From one of my Facebook photo’s

    Alice Stokes Paul (January 11, 1885 – July 9, 1977)

    Alice was an American suffragist leader. Along with her close friend Lucy Burns and others, she led a successful campaign for women’s suffrage that resulted in the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution in 1920.

    This is a picture of Alice as a college student at Swarthmore College

    How Charlene came to have these pictures.

    As a child Charlene got to meet Alice Paul. She was living in Ridgefield, Connecticut and Charlene’s dad Charles did handyman/grounds keeping work for her.

    One day when Charlene was 8 or 9 she went with her dad. Ms. Paul said hello and asked Charlene what she wanted to be when she grew up. She said a nurse or maybe President of the United States. With that a big smile crossed Alice’s face.

    Later she gave Charles a series of photo’s to give to Charlene. They were very old, most taken at a woman’s suffrage parade in New York City.

    When Charlene and I first started going out in 1989 her parents showed me the pictures. I said gee these are probably valuable, but that was it.

    Years passed and then one day in 2003 Charlene decided to find out if I was right. It took her about six months research and several trips to the New York Library, not to mention wandering the streets of New York, but she found out.

    First she matched up the photo’s to buildings in the background so she knew the parade took place in New York City, but she could find no news reports about the parade itself.

    The brake came when she stopped trying to find reference to it in the New York Times news section and instead looked under woman’s features.

    The parade took place in 1911, and the photo’s, were taken by one of the first female professional photographers in the United States, Jessie Tarbox Beals. She was first hired by The Buffalo Inquirer as a staff photographer in 1902. She is thought to be the first woman in the United States to hold this position. By 1911 she was living in New York where she had a studio and took photos for the New York Times.(Side note she was seven months pregnant with her daughter at the time of the parade.)

    Charlene researched all the women in the photo’s and one by one learned who they were. As it turns out those photo’s read like a Who’s Who of the woman’s suffrage movement.

    One was of lawyer Inez Milholland, who two years later at a different parade in Washington D.C made history. The parade took place on the day before Woodrow Wilson’s inauguration, March 3, 1913, and Inez lead the parade.

    Inez would go down in history as the woman astride a white horse. Sadly in 1916, she went on a tour in the western US speaking for women’s rights, despite suffering from pernicious anemia. She collapsed in the middle of a speech in Los Angeles, and was rushed to Good Samaritan Hospital. Despite repeated blood transfusions, she died on October 22, 1916. She never got to see the adoption of the 19th amendment to the Constitution. Her last public words were, “Mr. President, how long must women wait for liberty?”

    Neither Charlene’s dad or I are wealthy. In 2004 Charlene decided to sell most of the pictures to help both her dad and us.

    Charlene did some research and choose the Swann Gallery in NYC. She contacted Daile Kaplan, Director of photographs and made a appointment.( you may know Daile from the PBS program Antiques Road Show)

    Most people who bring old photo’s into the Swann Gallery know very little about them and it takes Ms. Kaplan months to establish their province.

    When Charlene got there she showed Daile the photo’s and research she had done. She looked it over then said, “Charlene are you doing a doctorate on the suffrage movement?” Charlene chuckled and said no I just have a high school education, but I like to know what I am talking about. The only thing Daile had to do was edit what Charlene had written so it would fit into the Swann Gallery auction catalogue.

    Long story short the photo’s went for just under $20,000. We don’t know who bought them as the bid was phoned in. We hope they went to a museum or historical archive, but if they went to a private person the we hope that person is Actress Hilary Swank as she played Alice Paul in the HBO movie ‘Iron Jawed Angels.’

    BTW Julia Ormond, played Inez Milholland.

    • Kat December 17, 2013 / 4:47 pm

      Peter: That is one of the most fascinating stories I’ve ever heard. What a wonderful history for your family. Now I have to watch the movie! I do remember when it came out but I’ve never had HBO, but now I’m sure you can get it anywhere. Thanks for sharing the story with us all :).

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