FBI Returns Darwin Letter to Smithsonian Archives

A stolen 1875 letter written by Charles Darwin is back at the Smithsonian after being recovered by the Art Crime Team.

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Martin Licciardo, FBI Special Agent, Washington Field Office: In early 2016 we received a citizen tip that an individual had in their possession an original Charles Darwin letter. And through our investigate we were able to determine that the letter itself was stolen in the late 1970s from the Smithsonian by a former employee.

After receiving the citizen tip we were able to recover the letter immediately from the individual that had the letter. And then furthermore we were able to determine through some research, the Cambridge Project, that the letter itself belonged to the Smithsonian Archives.

And then today, its delivery to its final resting place, its home here at the Smithsonian Archives in Washington, D.C.

Paul Abbate, Assistant Director in Charge, Washington Field Office: Thank you for the partnership.

Anne Van Camp, Archives Director, Smithsonian Institution: Thank you very much. We are so grateful and so appreciative of the work that you do.

Licciardo: The fact that the letter that we were able to recover was dated back to 1875 has some serious historic significance.

Art itself is what defines a society as being civil. And its return has a pretty remarkable feeling for us as investigators.

This letter to Mr. Hayden, Ferdinand Hayden, thanking him for some geological work that he had done, sharing information—scientific information—with Charles Darwin, and the fact that we get to return that letter to its rightful owner, it feels pretty awesome.

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