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John Quincy Adams Artifact Found in Rye

RYE, N.Y. – When Rye Historical Society Executive Director Sheri Jordan assigned a willing volunteer to go through a few left over boxes from the Parsons Estate, which is  in between Whitby Castle and the Jay Heritage Center, she hardly knew what she would find.

However, when Jordan was handed a piece of paper with the names “John Adams Jr.” and “J.Q. Adams” on it dated 1823, she knew she had something.

After a few calls to the Massachusetts Historical Society, the keepers of the Adams family papers, Jordan confirmed that the piece of paper found in the dusty box turned out to be the envelope of a letter sent from the man who would become the sixth president of the U.S. (son of the second president) to his son enrolled at Harvard University.

With her hopes confirmed, Jordan, like all good historians, began pushing for more.

"I was curious to find out what was in the letter," Jordan said. "I wondered what John Quincy was saying to his son."

It turns out that the 1820's correspondence between the president and his son aren't that different from the average parent and child, except for maybe the medium.

"The letter is full of exhortations from John Quincy Adams to his son that if he would 'just apply himself and work harder' he would see his marks improve," Jordan said. "Here he is the secretary of state probably drafting the Monroe Doctrine and it's like reading any parent's letter. History used to be about great men and the great things they did. It's interesting to see the universal sentiment of parent to child."

How the envelope got into the hands of Jordan and the Rye Historical Society is another story altogether. According to Jordan, the envelope was sent to one of the of grandsons of Rye historical figure John E. Parsons by an Aunt as a collectible.

"It all happened with a serendipitous encounter with the Rye Historical Society," Jordan said. "That's how most things are found. You just follow the path and you're able to find brand new information and new insight."

The envelope, along with a copy of the original letter, is on display at the Square House in Rye.

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