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The Story of Virginia

Hidden Treasures: A Short History of the Mary Custis Lee Trunks

Presenter: 
Lee Shepard
Duration: 
(00:47:06)

On April 22, 2010, Lee Shepard delivered a Banner Lecture entitled “Hidden Treasures: A Short History of the Mary Custis Lee Trunks.”

In 2002, two wooden trunks were found at Burke & Herbert Bank & Trust Company in Alexandria, Va. The trunks contained letters, legal papers, journals, travel souvenirs, financial records, and smaller artifacts that were collected by Mary Custis Lee, the eldest daughter of General Robert E. Lee. The collection of manuscripts and artifacts, now in the collections of the museum in Richmond, have been added to what is currently the largest holding of Lee family papers in any single repository. Lee Shepard discussed and showed images of items found in the trunks—including an 1810 letter from George Washington Parke Custis, the builder of Arlington House; an 1863 order from Robert E. Lee, in his own hand, announcing the death of General Stonewall Jackson; and an 1872 letter from former Arlington House slave Selina Gray to Mary Randolph Custis Lee. Shepard also revealed new information that we have learned not only about Robert E. Lee, but also about his very interesting daughter Mary.

Lee Shepard is a former Vice President for Collections at the Virginia Museum of History & Culture. After more than 40 years at the museum, Shepard retired in 2017.

(Introduction by Paul A. Levengood)