Salvaged Scrapbook Reveals Political Treasures

Signed letters from two U.S. Presidents recently turned up in a car wash trash bin outside Chattanooga, Tenn. Enclosed in a leather-bound scrapbook that chronicles the life of Atlanta businessman Charles Seward, the letters mark a political devotee's private victories.

The grandson of Abraham Lincoln's secretary of state, Seward never enjoyed the political spotlight. But his private contributions to political campaigns earned him letters from both Franklin D. Roosevelt and Richard Nixon.

“I want to express my personal appreciation for your efforts on behalf of my candidacy for the President of the United States of America,” says Nixon's typed 1968 letter.

Similarly, Roosevelt's letter thanks Seward for lending political support during the 1932 campaign.

However, not all of Seward's letters are uplifting. Some — like the one from Georgia Governor Eugene Talmadge denying Seward's request to be named U.S. Marshall — mark disappointments.

Another letter from Seward to U.S. Senator Richard Russell, D-Ga., pleads for the military to continue searching for Seward's son, who was shot down over Vietnam.

Seward's daughter, who lives in Atlanta, told authorities she has no idea how the scrapbook could have ended up in a Chattanooga trash can, although she speculates that her mother may have inadvertently thrown it away after selling the family home in 1975. Where the scrapbook has been for the past 25 years is a mystery.

Another mystery is why a man so clearly intent on recording the events of his life never shared these letters with his daughter.

“I'm absolutely thrilled [to see the scrapbook],” his daughter admitted. “I never knew it even existed.”