I just don't know what it is about the letters people write that I find so irresistible. Maybe it's the fact that, with the possible exception of the famous, the letters we write are momentary. That is to say, an individual wrote a letter to someone as a means of communication to the addressee. I can guarantee you that the individuals who penned these letters would never have dreamt a perfect stranger, i.e. me, would be reading their correspondence a hundred years after it was written.
When I read a letter or look at a newspaper clipping or document contained in a collection of 'stuff', I realize it survived for a reason. It was important to someone at some point, otherwise it would have ended up in the trash which, I would submit to you, was the original destination these documents were designed for. So when I manage to find a box of stuff collected by the same individual or family, it draws me like a magnet. These collections of documents are like time machines to me.
Unfortunately, there is a lot of bidding competition when these boxes of ephemera come on the market. There are stamp collectors who are not interested in the contents of the letters, just the envelopes. There are collectors of letterheads who are interested in only a document or two. Dealers in ephemera are likely to break apart the box of documents, selling letters, letterheads, envelopes, and what ever else is in the collection a piece at a time. And then there are people like me.
I approach a box of documents as an historically significant record. As long as the collection remains together, it creates a window into the past. It speaks to us one individual and one place at a time. Events that may have long been forgotten live once again.
So with that in mind, I will introduce the Humphrey family to you. I purchased a collection of letters and documents relating to the Humphrey family at an auction in New York. It looks to me like the documents had been sorted by an ephemera collector, ready for piece by piece sale. For whatever reason, the collection remained intact. So now, we get to put back together a little section of the tapestry we call history...