Recovered James Lyman Brubaker Photographs: Are they part of your institution?
Recently the FBI contacted Jim Kroll, Manager, Western History/Genealogy Department at the Denver Public Library (DPL), regarding several stolen photographs that the Bureau recently recovered. The materials were recovered from James Lyman Brubaker, a convicted felon who stole books and other materials from various libraries and institutions throughout the west.

The materials that DPL received from the Bureau are mainly historical photographs of various Native American figures and settings. We have identified some of them, but several of the photographs are unknown and belong to other institutions. There are also several photographs of early American industry.

We would like to find the rightful owners and return them. If any of these photographs belong to your institution or library please contact us and we will help arrange a return. Hopefully posting the photographs on Flickr will facilitate this endeavor and help alleviate some of the damage that Mr. Brubaker created. Even if you do not know who owns the photograph, we would be interested in making sure that the information attached to the photographs are correct. Thank you for your interest and help!

Background information:

On September 15th, 2008, James Lyman Brubaker was sentenced to a prison term of 30 months for possession and interstate transportation of stolen property. In January of 2006, the Western Washington University (WWU), Office of Public Safety, began an investigation of malicious mischief and theft at the Wilson Library. The Librarian at WWU had observed several governmental reference books over 100 years old to be out of numerical order and missing large sections from the books. The books appeared to have been intact and in order on the shelves a week earlier. Investigation revealed that foldout maps had been cut out of the books with a sharp instrument. The damaged books were irreplaceable and values are difficult to assign to the damage. After a complete inventory, 108 volumes of governmental books had been vandalized with 648 pages of maps and colored plates missing. The Librarian estimated the replacement cost for these volumes would total $21,600.

A library employee recalled seeing an individual during the week of February 12, 2006, who had been looking through a large stack of the same types of books as the ones damaged. She observed a male in his late fifties or early sixties with short, thin, gray hair, average height and heavy-set; his face was pockmarked and he had beard stubble. This employee walked by the area where the man was reviewing the books for a second time, when the man asked her where he could get a cup of coffee. Later in the day, the man was gone and the books were no longer on the table.

Realizing that the thefts had likely been for re-sale, the Librarian started researching the eBay website and discovered several of the missing pages were listed for sale under the seller name of montanasilver. The Librarian worked out an agreement with investigators to have third parties bid on and purchase two documents, which the Librarian recognized as matching items stolen from the WWU library. The items were purchased and sent to the Washington State Patrol Crime Lab, where Questioned Documents examination showed that the items purchased over eBay were taken from the books that belonged to WWU.

The eBay seller of these documents was James Brubaker, operating under the eBay name "montanasilver," out of either Belt or Great Falls. The welcome page of the montanasilver eBay store claimed the items for sale "are part of a personal collection that had been put together for over 50 years." Investigators obtained a current Montana driver's license photo of Brubaker, which matched the description of the person of interest in the WWU Library on February 16, 2006.

A search warrant was obtained to search Brubaker’s home based on the WWU investigation. During the search, law enforcement discovered approximately one thousand books of which 832 were suspected of being stolen from libraries and universities. Hundreds of the books were marked with Dewey Decimal stickers (often used in libraries) attached to the spines, as well as bar code stickers, library stamps, and stickers indicating, "not to be removed from library," as well as some books that had clearly been "cleaned" to remove evidence of library ownership. More than 100 libraries are represented in the recovered books. Hundreds of maps, lithographs, and serial plates were found in envelopes ready for sale on eBay. Possibly tens of thousands of maps, lithographs and plates were found in plastic containers.

For additional background information please see:

Brubaker traveled throughout the west and visited many libraries and universities. Of the many books and materials Brubaker stole, 338 books have been confirmed stolen from libraries. Victim libraries were found throughout the west, including the Denver Public Library.
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