Unexpected Treasures: Unabomber Handcuffs


By Nancy Pope, Historian and Curator

This is part of a series looking at some items in the museum that, at first glance, seem quite out of place in a postal museum. Today’s objects are a pair of handcuffs.

From 1978 to 1996, a man named Ted Kaczynski mounted a campaign of terror through a series of bombs sent in the mail to university professors and airline and advertising executives. The bomber used the mail to deliver nine of his 16 known devices. Postal inspectors and other law enforcement agencies created the Unabom Task Force (a combination of the words “university” and “airline bomber”). The press created the name Unabomber from that original task force designation.

In 1995, while still on the loose, and through anonymous letters, the Unabomber demanded the publication of what became known as the “Unabomber Manifesto” in exchange for an end to the violence. The New York Times and Washington Post published the diatribe against technological advancement on September 19, 1995. David Kaczynski recognized his brother Ted’s writing style and notified authorities.

 Ted Kaczynski, wearing handcuffs, exits his home, lead by a Postal Inspector
The arrest
Refer to caption
Members of the Unabom Task Force placed these cuffs on Kaczynski when they captured him in a shack near Lincoln, Montana, on April 3, 1996. Members of the Task Force presented these cuffs to Postal Inspector Anthony Muljat in recognition of his many years of tireless work on the case.

The Unabomber handcuffs can currently be viewed on display in the museum’s exhibit, Postal Inspectors: The Silent Service (February 7, 2007 - April 8, 2014).

Learn more: Postal Inspectors


Nancy Pope

About the Author
The late Nancy A. Pope, a Smithsonian Institution curator and founding historian of the National Postal Museum, worked with the items in this collection since joining the Smithsonian Institution in 1984. In 1993 she curated the opening exhibitions for the National Postal Museum. Since then, she curated several additional exhibitions. Nancy led the project team that built the National Postal Museum's first website in 2002. She also created the museum's earliest social media presence in 2007.