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“To Someone More Precious Than Gold”: Love Letters to Margaret Bordner from Olympian Harold M. Osborn

Written by Jessica Followell

The Student Life and Cultures Archives recently acquired the letters of Olympian Harold M. Osborn. Dating from September 1924 through August 1928, Harold corresponded with Margaret Estelle Bordner. These letters chronicled their long-distance romance and courtship, with the couple ultimately marrying on September 7th, 1928.

Harold Osborn

After Margaret’s death in 2003, her daughters discovered the letters tucked away in a shoebox in her bedroom closet. Daughter Susan Osborn Jones compiled the letters into an album. They decided to donate a scanned copy of the album to the Archives, as both Harold and Margaret were alumni of the University of Illinois. These letters were written after Harold’s first Olympics and during Margaret’s studies at Illinois.

Harold M. Osborn graduated from the University of Illinois in 1922. During his time at Illinois, he was a member of the track and field team. Harold helped the team win both indoor and outdoor Big Ten titles in 1920, 1921, and 1922. He also tied for the NCAA and AAU outdoor high jump championships in 1922 [1]. During his Illinois career, Harold set six world records [2]. After his time at Illinois, Harold went on to compete at the 1924 Olympic games. He won the gold medal for both the high jump and decathlon, making him the only athlete to ever do so [3]. He competed again in the 1928 Olympic games. After finishing his athletic career, Harold returned to Champaign to practice osteopathic medicine. He maintained a close connection with his alma mater, helping coach the University of Illinois track team in the 1940s. His world record in standing high jump still stands today [4].

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