Rice University
Rice Magazine| The Magazine of Rice University | No. 1 | 2008

Cyber Sleuth

The set of letters written by Jefferson Davis, president of the Confederacy, looked innocuous enough on the auction house Web site. But Lynda Crist immediately smelled a rat.


Crist, editor of Rice’s Jefferson Davis Papers project, knew the documents, worth $15,000, actually belonged to Transylvania University in Lexington, Ky., because she had microfilmed them for inclusion in one of the project’s volumes. Among the items were letters and notes written by Davis and his wife, Varina, dated from 1847 to 1898. The documents had gone missing in 1994.

After Crist notified Transylvania University of her find, the university contacted the auction house and the police. Eugene Zollman, a Jefferson Davis impersonator who researched documents to make his impressions more authentic, was charged with theft of major artwork.