PRESS RELEASE FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Timothy Slavin, Director
Delaware Public Archives
Lori Sitler, Public Information Officer
Department of Justice
Date: November 12, 2002
Delaware Historical Document Recovered from E-Bay Sale Missing 1910 Blackbird Hundred tax book was sold on-line
(Dover, DE): A routine check of Delaware memorabilia listed for sale on e-bay,
the on-line auction site, led to the recent recovery of an important historical document. When Bruce Haase, an archivist at the Delaware Public Archives, went
on-line to check the current auctions involving Delaware items, he was surprised to find the Blackbird Hundred tax book from 1910 being offered for sale.
Blackbird Hundred was created in 1875 and contains the towns of Blackbird and Taylor's Bridge. Woodland Beach, Blackbird State Forest, Blackbird Creek and
Smyrna Creek are the boundaries for the area. This tax book, which lists all property owners, value of land parcels and taxes paid for the Blackbird Hundred area
of lower New Castle County per the 1910 census, rightfully belongs to the state and is part of a series of tax valuations completed in 1910. Public Archives
believes that the volume was lost during an office move in the early teens of the last century. According to Timothy Slavin, Director of the Delaware Public
Archives, a Division of the Secretary of State's office, recovery of this volume means that Archives now has a complete set of tax records for 1910. "This small
volume provides important information on the history of land usage in Delaware," said Slavin.
The Delaware Public Archives staff requested the assistance of the Attorney General's office in the recovery of the document. Officials at e-bay cooperated with
the AG's request for buyer and seller information so that the document could be retrieved.
The Attorney General's office learned that the errant tax book was purchased by an Annapolis man at a flea market and posted to the e-bay website for sale in late
August. Ms. Lisa Burris, of Townsend, Delaware, was the high bidder on the book which was listed as Local Historical Memorabilia and described on the e-bay
site as "a certified copy of the assessment of Blackbird [H]undred, New Castle County, Delaware for the year 1910…It shows the property owners by district,
acres of land owned, description of and use, value of each parcel, value of stock, and county and Poor tax and the road tax". Ms. Burris, who paid $9.50 for the
document, said, "Being a lifelong resident of Blackbird, I was interested in the tax book as a historical document. Delaware memorabilia is rare, and any piece from
the Blackbird area even moreso. Besides that, genealogical research puts ancestors on both sides of my family in the Blackbird Hundred area at the turn of the 20th
century. I originally bid on the tax book out of curiosity, but then was thrilled when I received the book and found that my ancestors were, in fact, listed in it."
The historical document was returned by Ms. Burris to the State Archives in late October. Burris commented, "I'll admit that I was a little disappointed at having to
give up the Blackbird Hundred tax book. I am glad that I played even a minor role in returning the document to the state archives where it can be used and
appreciated by many generations to come." It now resides with the other tax records from 1910 in the new Public Archives building in Dover. Slavin commented
that, "what was once bound for a private collection is now again part of the public record."
Attorney General M. Jane Brady said, "I am pleased that my office has been able to assist in the return of this historical document. I credit the Public Archives staff
for their continued vigilance regarding historic Delaware documents."
This incident may prompt new regulations at e-bay for the sale of historical materials. Slavin will be working with the National Association of Government Archives
and Records Administrators to petition e-bay to designate public records as prohibited items that cannot be sold through the on-line auction site.
N.B. Ms. Burris is available for media interviews. Please call Lori Sitler at the above number for Ms. Burris' contact information.