The Kidd-Palmer charts were discovered by retired lawyer and collector of pirate relics, Hubert Palmer, in a number of items of furniture that were said to have belonged to Captain William Kidd.
In 1929, Palmer bought a heavy 17th century oak bureau bearing the inscription "Captain William Kidd, Adventure Galley 1669," it is said that within the bureau Palmer found a secret compartment which contained a hand drawn map of an unnamed island, it bore the initials W. K., the words "China Sea" and was dated 1669.
Palmer went on to track down two sea chests and a wooden box that were also supposed to have belonged to Kidd, Palmer claimed to have found further maps in all three of them, all depicting the same unknown island, but with varying levels of detail.
After Hubert Palmer's death, ownership of all four of the maps passed to his housekeeper, Elizabeth Dick, who took them to the British Museum to be examined by map expert R. A. Skelton. Skelton expressed the opinion that all of the maps were genuine 17th century charts, a fact that he confirmed to author Rupert Furneaux in 1965.
Elizabeth Dick sold all four maps in 1950 to a man who later moved to Canada. Rupert Furneaux contacted the owner of the maps who told him "The charts are fading badly."
The current whereabouts of the four maps is unknown.
Many believe that the island depicted in the maps is not in the "China Sea" as the inscription claims, but is in fact Oak Island off the coast of Nova Scotia, Canada. The "China Sea" inscription being a deliberate attempt to throw treasure hunters off the scent.
William Kidd and Gardiners Island
Some have noted that the island in the Kidd-Palmer charts does look a little like Gardiners Island (Suffolk County, New York State), where Kidd unquestionably did conceal goods and items of value in the Cherry Tree Field area of island shortly before his arrest for piracy. This treasure was recovered and returned to England by Governor Bellomont where it was used as evidence at Kidd's trial.