Mitch Yockelson knows what’s missing by heart. There’s an arsenal of diamond-encrusted daggers, swords, and scabbards gifted to Harry Truman by a Saudi prince and the Iranian shah—all stolen from his presidential library in 1978. There’s Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s official White House portrait. It went missing in a move. And there’s a batch of Abraham Lincoln’s telegrams that just up and vanished.
Yockelson, the investigative archivist for the U.S. National Archives, is unlikely to find any of these priceless historical treasures in a fluorescent-lit hall on the Maryland state fairgrounds. The annual Maryland Antique Arms Show brings together hundreds of dealers peddling all types of military antiques and ephemera. There, men toting bayonets for sale peruse table after table of old uniforms, yellowed discharge papers, and bowls of ammunition. Yockelson attends shows like this two or three times a year, in addition to scouring online auctions and following tips, on the hunt for lost Americana that rightfully belongs to the U.S. government.
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