At the bottom of an old trunk was a letter dated May 2, 1954, written by Laura Ingalls Wilder, the famous author of the Little House books.
You just never know what you might find in a forgotten trunk. A WorthPoint client recently bought an old trunk at an auction near Springfield, Mo. Probably consigned from the leftover estate of a deceased relative’s home, it was filled with random paperwork, yellowed documents, stamps and letters. Like so many similar accumulations, this one had outlived its owner (and its storage space). Although most of the ephemera was of no interest, at the bottom of the trunk was a letter dated May 2, 1954. It was written by Laura Ingalls Wilder, the famous author of the Little House books.
“Dear Mr. George,” the short letter begins. “I am sorry my book and I caused you so much trouble and no apology was needed from you. It is mysterious how the “Flying Saucers” disappeared and reappeared. Just living up to its name I guess. I have the book now and thank you. Please give my kindest regards and good wishes to your brother, Ralph. I miss him a lot when I go to town. I always enjoyed meeting you and hope we may not altogether lose touch with each other. Sincerely, Laura Ingalls Wilder”
Curious, the client contacted WorthPoint’s “Ask a Worthologist” service to investigate.
The signature and handwriting were authenticated and the letter deemed to be genuine, written when Laura Ingalls Wilder was 87 years old and living in the nearby town of Mansfield, Mo. Laura became famous within her lifetime and she personally answered much of her fan mail. She also sometimes sat for book signings at libraries and bookstores in Springfield. And, if someone actually drove to her home—it happened quite regularly—and requested an autograph, she would comply. This happened especially after 1952, when her books were re-issued with new illustrations and became even more popular. She died in 1957 at age 90.
A copy of "Little House in the Big Woods" by Laura Ingalls wilder
Because of this activity, it seems her signature and inscriptions should be fairly prolific. However, it is very hard to find any examples that have sold on the market. In fact, there are indications that only a handful have sold at auction over the past 30 years. Perhaps this means that there is not a high demand for them, but perhaps they are not as plentiful as one would assume.
The content of the letter is fascinating and fun. Interest in UFOs was high in the early 1950s and several books were written about them. Laura obviously owned one. Wouldn’t it be great to learn more about the provenance of this letter? How did the book become lost? Who were Mr. George and his brother, Ralph? Did they pass down stories of their acquaintance with Laura to members of their family? Like flying saucers, the story of this saved letter—long forgotten and tucked inside a trunk for so many years—will probably always remain a mystery.
Liz Holderman is a Worthologist who specializes in collectible books.
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