Jul 20, 2013
How did the curator know the supposedly historic letter was boo-gus?
RAY: This Puzzler is from a fellow named Larry Hall. I want to preface the reading of the Puzzler by saying that there are hints embedded everywhere. So, here it is.
Larry writes, "John knew he had secured his fortune. After his father died in Dearborn, Michigan, he began cleaning out the attic. Most of the attic contained stuff that his dad had collected for 70 years or so. But while going through a scrapbook, he came across the treasure of a lifetime. It was an original letter to none other than Henry Ford signed by President William McKinley himself.
"This was the letter, as it came, on White House stationery. Up in the upper left-hand corner, it says The White House, 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington, DC, March 3rd, 1898, addressed to Henry Ford, 58 Bagley Avenue, Detroit, Michigan.
"'Dear Mr. Ford, we received your letter dated February 1st. This letter is written to thank you for your offer to present a gift of one two-cylinder, four-cycle gasoline engine-powered quadricycle that you have developed in your workshop in Detroit for use by the President. While such a vehicle is of high interest to machinists and hobbyists, I do not feel the automobile can be perfected to replace the safety and comfort of the carriages we have available to us here at The White House. Please feel free to write again should you ever design and manufacture standard horse-drawn buggies. I will happily forward that information to my Treasury Secretary, Lyman J. Gage, for possible procurement. Until that time, I must thank you for and yet decline your generous offer. Sincerely, William McKinley, President of the United States.'"
Knowing that this letter would bring a fortune from historians and collectors, John takes the letter to the curator of the Henry Ford Museum in Detroit. The curator expressed surprise and great interest at the find. But after several readings, he looked at him and said it's...
RAY: Exactly. How did the curator know?
RAY: Here's the answer. And there were a lot of hints. It could be Ford's incorrect address. Or maybe the White House wasn't located at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue back then. Maybe it was 1601 Pennsylvania Avenue. But the curator knew the letter was bogus because in 1898 it was not called The White House. It wasn't called The White House until Theodore Roosevelt became President, after McKinley was assassinated. In 1898, it was called The Executive Mansion.
TOM: Get out! And it couldn't have come from The White House in 1898 because The White House didn't exist as such.