Detecting A Case: Part Two


Here we are dear readers with part two of the sleuthing and solving saga involving an exciting and mysterious piece of paper found in an old book!

In case you need a refresher… last week, Ms. Jeannie blogged about how she found a note in an old 1940’s art book entitled Masterpieces in Color. This week we are taking a good long look at the note and determining its age and possible author.

First things first, here’s a full view of what we are working with in clue department…


A lovely, sentimental handwritten note on White House stationary! How exciting! If you are having trouble reading it from the photo this is what the note says:


Merry Christmas. I found this in a bookstore here. It is from an ambassador’s estate and has some nice reproductions from a good cross-section of art history. Tell everyone there hello for me.

Love, Jay

Who is this Jay? What’s his connection to the White House? And who is Kay or the ambassador for that matter?! And just when was this note written?

Here is what we know for certain…

Fact #1: The book was published in 1945. Fact #2: The book was purchased second-hand. Fact #3: It was a gift for Kay from Jay. Fact #4: The note was written on White House stationary.

Armed with that info, Ms. Jeannie began by researching letterhead from past administrations. It was her theory that White House stationary changed with every new President, so that offered help in determining the age of the note. When she found a picture of this stationary, she knew she found her administration…


Gerald Ford, the 38th President of the United States served in office from 1974-1977. You’ll notice it is the exact same font and layout on Jay’s stationary. To be certain of this letterhead, Ms. Jeannie also researched stationary from Kennedy, Nixon and Carter administrations, which produced no similarities.

So with the administration decided, Ms. Jeannie continued on with her second theory… that Jay was part of the higher echelons of the White House staff, because it didn’t seem probable that everybody (meaning all workers) at the White House would have access to White House stationary – even if they were just scratch pads or notepads. What if an inappropriate note was misplaced and found its way out into the world? Surely there is some sort of protocol for what is being written on paper that represents the highest form of government in the country. Don’t you think dear readers?

Continuing in that same vein Ms. Jeannie combed through the names of Ford’s administration on the lookout for our Jay. Thanks to the help of the Gerald Ford Presidential Library – she found a Mr. Jay F. , who served on the legal team as counsel to the President. (Ms. Jeannie is not including his last name here because he is still alive and because this would seem like some sort of breech of privacy.) But she can share that he is pictured somewhere in here…


How exciting! Which one could he be? The guy on the crutches? Or the one in the thick black glasses? The suited sitter on the couch or the shy stander with his back to the camera?  Half the fun of this detective project was just looking at these retro white house pictures:)

In the course of her research, very easily Ms. Jeannie came upon Jay’s email address. Pretty confident in her deductive reasoning regarding this whole quest Ms. Jeannie sent Jay a message hoping to appease her curiosity about such a prominent previous book owner.

Some days went by. There was no news from Jay. Ms. Jeannie waited. More days went by. Ms. Jeannie continued waiting. And still no news arrived.

In the meantime during all this waiting, Ms. Jeannie worked on a  completely different research project. Very randomly, she happened upon this image…


The same stationary font! On a letter from Eleanor Roosevelt! Written twenty years before Gerald Ford’s administration! Oh my. So it seems, dear readers that not ALL stationary changes with each administration. Ms. Jeannie’s first theory was wrong!

It’s been close to two weeks and still there is no response from hypothetical Jay. Of course, there is a whole slew of reasons why he might not have responded from the trivial to the extraordinary, with the very first and most obvious reason being that he never even received or saw the email. But it wouldn’t be fun to pester him again, so Ms. Jeannie’s giving this one over to the hands of fate.

The art book was published in 1945 which gives it dozens of decades of possible Jay connections. Even though Ms. Jeannie still believes she has hit the mark with the Ford administration, she’ll continue poking around the staff files of previous presidents. It’s a case not yet closed, which means there is more to the story yet to come! If our letter-writer is meant to be found than we will find him!

And if anyone out there is a presidential paperwork scholar, please weigh-in with your theories about who our characters might be. Half the fun of connecting the past with the present is daydreaming about what could have been and what might have happened. Happy speculating dear readers!


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