Museum finds Lincoln's letters stuffed in old box - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

Museum finds Lincoln's letters stuffed in old box

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SAN DIEGO (CBS 8) - A major historical find was right under their noses. Letters written by Abraham Lincoln have been found by a local history center stuffed in an old box.

This Saturday marks what would have been Abraham Lincoln's 202nd birthday, making the uncovering of two documents -- authenticated by the Lincoln Presidential Library as the real deal -- even more exciting.

It's a discovery by the San Diego History Center that links one of the greatest U.S. presidents to San Diego. Two newly-authenticated documents by the hand of Abraham Lincoln, including an 1865 presidential appointment naming Lewis C. Gunn as tax assessor, signed just 23 days before Lincoln's assassination.

Archivist Jane Kenealy came across the appointment by chance while examining some of the center's millions of unarchived papers.

"I came across this box that had no label, so I thought, what's in here?" Kenealy said.

Inside the framed certificate, Kenealy realized the handwriting on the document looked strikingly similar to another two-page handwritten, though unsigned, court document the center had from 1841, when Lincoln was a lawyer.

"But we really didn't know whether it was in Lincoln's own hand, as it now turns out to be the case," San Diego History Center Executive Director David Kahn said.

The center emailed digital copies of the documents to the Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, which authenticated them.

"So then we confirmed these were in Lincoln's handwriting, and the rest is history, as we say," Kahn said.

The discovery is now on display, dazzling history buffs of all ages. It also raises an important question.

"It is really thrilling, and of course, it makes us wonder what else is here that we haven't found yet," Kahn said.

Lincoln's court declaration from 1841 is actually written for a client to collect an overdue debt of $137.50.

As for the 1865 presidential appointment, Lewis Gunn was the father-in-law of San Diego philanthropist George Marston, who founded the San Diego History Center.

If you would like to see these historical documents for yourself, they'll be on display at the San Diego History Center in Balboa Park through the end of February.

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