EXCLUSIVE: Sealed recordings from JFK’s Air Force One, Benjamin Franklin lamenting about his opium habit and MLK’s prison love letters to a secret sweetheart: Modern day treasure hunter reveals his extraordinary findings in new book
- Nathan Raab is a modern day treasure hunter who searches all around the U.S. for rare and valuable finds of undiscovered history
- He tells about his findings in his new book The Hunt for History, On the Trail of the World’s Lost Treasures, published by Scribner
- Raab, who works with his father Steven, tells of discovering a letter from Ronald Reagan to his daughter and another to actor George Murphy
- He uncovered tapes taken on board Air Force One when JFK’s body was being transported and revealed a debate about the destination of the body
- The tapes were 42 minutes longer than the heavily edited official version at the LBJ library in Austin, Texas
- Raab also discovered a love letter from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in a Georgia jail to an unknown sweetheart and Ben Franklin complaining about his opium habit
A modern day treasure hunter and Sherlock Holmes of historical artifacts, Nathan Raab is the preeminent dealer searching for rare and valuable finds of undiscovered history in America.
He travels the country, visits auctions and fields phone calls and emails searching for and authenticating undiscovered gems of history that someone might have unearthed in their attic.
Highlights of some Raab’s extraordinary finds, including tapes from Air Force One of a debate over the destination of JFK’s body after his assassination, are revealed in his new book The Hunt for History, On the Trail of the World’s Lost Treasures, published by Scribner.
In the book, out on March 10, Raab also tells of finding a letter from Ronald Reagan to his daughter, Patti Davis, a love letter from Martin Luther King Jr. in a Georgia jail to a mystery sweetheart, and Founding Father Ben Franklin complaining about his opium habit.
Nathan Raab is a modern day treasure hunter who searches all around the U.S. for rare and valuable finds of undiscovered history. Pictured (left) with his father and business partner Steven
People from all over the world contact Raab hoping to learn if their newly discovered historical item is valuable and how to sell it.
Raab tells about his findings in his new book The Hunt for History, On the Trail of the World’s Lost Treasures, published by Scribner
‘Every day I sift through dozens of historical documents and artifacts, looking for a few gems. Some are valuable, many aren’t,’ he writes.
‘I am the bearer of good tidings; I am the wrecker of dreams. No, the book personally inscribed by Mahatma Gandhi in the early 1970s is not real. He died in 1948’, Raab writes.
‘Each day brings new hope and a renewed thrill of discovery – and it never gets old’.
He tells of the disappointment of finding forgeries, prized collections an owner refuses to sell or stolen artifacts.
DailyMail.com has obtained an advanced copy of Raab’s book for an exclusive look at some of his most incredible finds.
John F. Kennedy’s Air Force One tapes
In November 2011, Raab’s father and business partner, Steven, who started their business, called him from a small auction house in Philadelphia that had a collection of JFK material once belonging to General Chester Clifton Jr., chief military aide to the president and de facto chief of staff who had been in the motorcade and on board Air Force One.
Clifton had died in 1991 and the material remained untouched until his wife died and heirs discovered it in Clifton’s attic.
They promptly consigned the cache of JFK items to an auction house.
There was a logbook of the day-to-day presidential schedule, a rare White House guidebook signed by JFK and Jackie, a letter written by the President suggesting naming Polaris submarines after WWII heroes Douglas MacArthur and Chester Nimitz.
But the real find was a box of reel-to-reel tapes – something the father and son normally didn’t pursue and that had slipped under other bidders’ radar.
The tapes were 42 minutes longer than the heavily edited official version at the LBJ library in Austin and revealed the onboard debate on the destination of the president’s body as well as what transpired during the autopsy.
Raab has uncovered tapes from Air Force One that carried JFK’s body back to Washington, where an on board discussion over the body’s destination occurred. The collection of JFK material had belonged to General Chester Clifton Jr., chief military aide to the president and de facto chief of staff who had been in the motorcade and on board Air Force One (pictured with JFK in 1961)
JFK was shot and killed on November 22, 1963, while riding in his presidential motorcade in Dallas, Texas
In this cache, two tapes were dated November 22, 1963. One labeled ‘Traffic on Board Air Force-1’, the other ‘Radio Traffic involving AF-1 in flight from Dallas, Texas to Andrews AFB on 22 November 1963.’
These tapes were created before the public version was released and deposited at the LBJ Library in Austin, a version heavily edited down to one hour and forty minutes long that didn’t surface until 1968, five years after Kennedy’s death.
The official story was that the original, unedited version that should have been four hours – the length of the flight – was lost.
Now the Raabs were in possession of two identical tapes that were two hours and twenty-two minutes each – forty-two minutes longer than the one at the LBJ Library.
Nathan Raab is the preeminent dealer in America searching for rare and valuable finds of undiscovered history
‘I knew we’d stumbled across something that would change history,’ writes Nathan. ‘Explosive news on a subject of never-ending fascination for conspiracy enthusiasts, historians and the general public’.
These Clifton tapes revealed the on board debate concerning the destination of the president’s remains for autopsy purposes as well as additional details of what transpired during the autopsy.
The ‘official’ tape omitted that the original destination for JFK’s body was Walter Reed Hospital, rather than Bethesda Naval Hospital where the president was taken.
Included was a discussion of what vehicle would transport Kennedy’s body and whether Jackie would go along.
‘New names, code names and expanded conversations related to the flight, the arrival and other logistics also appear,’ he writes.
None of this was on the official version released in 1968.
The Raabs agreed that $500,000 was a fair price to ask for the tapes and gave an exclusive story to the Associated Press.
It prompted a dozen voicemails from other news outlets as well as Gary Stern, general counsel to the National Archives, saying that the tape belonged to them.
‘You can choose to try to sell this tape, if you want’, Stern warned Raab. ‘But you should know that we believe this is ours and we always win’.
With a lawyer on board, the Raabs agreed to sell the tapes.
One now resides in the National Archives’ Kennedy Assassination Records division located at the JFK Library in Boston and can be listened to online.
The federal government has stored the second tape somewhere in total security.
Still missing is the original unedited four-hour Air Force One tape.
Letters written by Ronald Reagan
Found in a jewelry consignment store near Chicago, the missives were all written to Ronald Reagan’s old Hollywood pal, musical song-and-dance man, George Murphy, also one time president of the Screen Actors Guild.
In those letters, Reagan called Senator Ted Kennedy the ‘playboy from Massachusetts’ and complained about former vice president Walter Mondale ‘lying through his teeth’ when he suggested Reagan was going to cut Social Security.
He wrote he was innocent in the Iran-Contra affair and bitter about the ‘daily poison of the New York Times and Washington Post’.
The collection of letters sold for $225,000.
Then Raab got a call from Reagan’s daughter Patti Davis with letters from her father that she wanted to sell.
Letters written by former President to his friend, actor and politician George Murphy were uncovered by Raad, the book reveals
‘Patti, you are hurting us – your parents—but you are hurting yourself even more. We were not a dysfunctional family…I have memories of a little girl cuddled in the chair with me asking me to marry her,’ the former President wrote in a letter to his estranged daughter
Raab says asked Patti to scan and send one letter.
The letter was written in 1990, two years following Reagan’s retirement to his ranch northwest of Santa Barbara.
On learning of a memoir Patti was planning to write and did publish in 1992, Reagan was pleading for a reconciliation with his daughter.
‘Patti, you are hurting us – your parents—but you are hurting yourself even more. We were not a dysfunctional family…I have memories of a little girl cuddled in the chair with me asking me to marry her. Across the room, her mother signaled me to say yes…
‘We have many happy memories of her childhood. We have no thought or desire of interfering with her life, but now and then we’d like to see her and know how she’s getting along. After all, it’s sunset time for us.
‘Please Patti don’t take away our memories of a daughter we truly love and who we miss. With Love, Dad,’ the president pleaded with his daughter.
A letter from Martin Luther King, Jr. to his mistress
Dr Martin Luther King, Jr wrote a letter to a suspected mistress while in jail in Georgia in 1962
The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was young when he became prominent and internationally famous, winning the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964 as ‘a validation of his moral vision of a country united in peace,’ the author writes.
Finding a letter that revealed this beloved historical figure in a potentially unflattering light was a ‘significant moral dilemma’ for the author despite King being known as a ‘sexual libertine’ who reportedly had affairs with dozens of women.
One day a man called with a letter that his mother, Pauline had received from King in 1962 – with the return address: Albany City Jail, Albany, Georgia.
The letter was handwritten by King himself – a rarity – and sent from his jail cell.
Pauline had known King for five years, meeting up with him on the road.
Rumors have swirled for years that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was unfaithful to his wife Coretta Scott King (pictured together in 1964)
He wrote: ‘Here in this dirty, dingy cell, in the Albany jail, my mind, with a sort of instinctive naturalness, turns to the beautiful, sunlit countenance of my Pauline. I had hoped that you would have written me by now. I have written a million times in my mind, and I regret that I am now just getting it on paper.
Be sweet, just for you know who’.
It was a love letter.
Raab bought the letter for $25,000 but decided not to publicize it but sell it privately.
He did not want to be accused of denigrating King’s legacy.
Benjamin Franklin laments about his opium use
One of the Founding Fathers of the United States, Benjamin Franklin was a universal man, an inventor, scientist, politician, and diplomat.
Founding Father Benjamin Franklin complained about his opium use making him late to a meeting
He was a prolific letter writer but one particular letter saw Franklin complaining about his opium use making him late to a meeting.
He had taken to opium later in life to relieve the pain from a bladder stone that grew too large for surgery and left him bedridden in his final years.
Despite his extensive correspondence, finding Franklin’s letters was rare and the seller was asking $25,000 for this one.
The Raabs did not buy the letter because typical correspondence from Franklin sold for $15,000 and his legacy was centered around his great contribution to this country and not his opium use.
‘There is so much left to explore’, writes the author.
‘Hidden in attics and basements, hanging on walls, filed away in cabinets – all over the world are treasures we have yet to find’.
‘I dream of some large historical find, something no one else has seen in eons, a vast trove of significant documents, letters, or objects – a find that changes our view of history itself’.
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