Ward Roberts ‘14 finds piece of Centre history on Ebay

Posted by Centre News in News 22 May 2014

Ward Roberts 1832 Letter DonationSenior Ward Roberts (pictured right) never expected that an Ebay search for items related to Centre College would lead him to a letter written to school officials nearly two centuries ago.

For the last year and a half, the history major from Georgetown, Ky., has had a business selling vintage items on the online auction service. During that time, his interest in history and a self-confessed sentimental streak prompted him to keep watch for Centre memorabilia.Ward Roberts 1832 Letter Donation

His search paid off earlier this month, when he received an alert informing him that a dealer in antique documents from Michigan had put up for auction a letter written to Centre’s president and trustees on August 8, 1832.

The short document was penned in Frankfort, Ky. by John F. Macurdy, secretary to the governor of Kentucky. It informed Centre administrators that the governor had received a set of documents from the 21st United States Congress intended for the use of the College.

The starting bid for the letter on Ebay was less than $10.00, but Roberts quickly found himself in a bidding war with another buyer. He emerged as the winner on May 5, when he managed to place the final bid with just seconds remaining in the auction.

Roberts bought the letter with the intent of giving it to Centre’s Grace Doherty Library, though he admits there was a small part of him that wanted to keep it for himself.

“Not too many things from that era in Centre’s history are still around, so the preservation of something like that is important,” he says. “There’s some sentimental value in knowing that it’s back on campus rather than in Nevada or Oklahoma or wherever it could have gone.”

“The letter, 182 years old, is a remarkable document,” says Stanley Campbell, director of library services (pictured above). “We are delighted to have it. It is also wonderful when students take this kind of interest in Centre’s history and heritage.”

Campbell and colleague Beth Morgan, cataloger and systems librarian, are looking into the best method of preserving the letter before placing it in the library archives. The paper is fragile, but in good condition given its age, says Campbell.

“It is a unique and lovely piece of Centre College history,” he adds.

by Laurie Pierce

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