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  • Writer's pictureMichael-Chase Strollo

Rare George Washington Letter Found in Goodwill Auction

Updated: Apr 9

A framed piece of paper
Framed Letter from George Washington April 14, 1789. Courtesy of

TAMPA –– A piece of American history has surfaced in an unexpected place – the online auction platform

Goodwill Industries of Ventura and Santa Barbara Counties has listed a letter dated April 14, 1789, purportedly written by American Founding Father George Washington to John Langdon, detailing Washington’s acceptance of his election.

Langdon, a senator hailing from New Hampshire, assumed the role of president pro tempore of the inaugural Congress. His primary duty – to oversee the counting of the electoral votes. With meticulous care, Langdon personally unsealed, tallied, and announced the outcome: George Washington for President and John Adams for Vice-President.

Charles Thomson, Congress's steadfast secretary, was chosen to deliver the formal certification of election along with a personal missive from Langdon to Washington. Dated April 6 from New York, Langdon's letter conveyed the unanimous nature of the election, affirming it as a resolute testament to the people's affection and support. Washington promptly replied to Langdon, acknowledging the honor of accepting the Presidency and revealing his plans to depart Mount Vernon for New York on April 16.

The letter, which has garnered significant attention from collectors and historians alike, appears to match archival scans from Indiana University's Lilly Library, the institution's principal rare books, manuscripts, and special collections library. However, Goodwill has explicitly stated that it cannot verify the authenticity of the potential historical artifact.

The description of the letter provided by Goodwill reads as follows: "Framed Letter from George Washington April 14, 1789. Backing Paper is Torn Off and Paper is Coming Loose from Frame. Piece is in good condition, though frame and backing may show some signs of wear. Height: 14 inches, Width: 12.5 inches." As of publication, the letter has reached a price tag of $3,001.00 from 30 bids with the auction ending promptly on April 11, at 6:07 PM PT.

Despite attempts to obtain further information regarding the auction, Goodwill did not immediately respond for comment. The discovery has ignited significant interest, particularly in light of the recent auction of another letter penned by Washington. Last September, a letter dated March 15, 1789, from Washington to Physician Dr. Frederick Phile sold for a staggering $220,000 through the New York-based auctioneer Gotta Have Rock & Roll.

Highlighting the unpredictable nature of historical preservation and the potential for valuable artifacts to be found in the most unlikely of places, anticipation builds among collectors eager to claim this rare piece of American history.

Update: According to an email received from Shop Goodwill, as of 6:24 PM ET, all bids have been retracted citing the reason "To Be Authenticated."

Update: According to staff at Indiana University's Lilly Library, the university confirmed to be the owner of the original and authentic letter in question. Source: Lilly Library U.S. History mss., 1612-1977, LMC 2029

By: Michael-Chase Strollo, Digital Journalist

Art & History

Published: April 8, 2024 7:00 PM ET

Updated: April 8, 2024 8:04 PM ET

Updated: April 9, 2024 6:09 PM ET

United States, Human Interest, American History

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