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Lincoln Presidential Library Foundation Owes Big $$$
05-19-2018, 12:42 AM (This post was last modified: 05-19-2018 12:48 AM by Steve.)
Post: #16
RE: Lincoln Presidential Library Owes Big $$$
Here's an article from the April 15, 2012 edition of the Chicago Sun-Times that did a story on the authenticity of the hat:

SPRINGFIELD — It bears the floral stamp of an 1850s-era Springfield hatmaker. It remained in the possession of the same southern Illinois family for a century. And it fits a head about 22 inches in circumference — the same as Abraham Lincoln’s hat size.

But did this iconic, beaver-fur stovepipe hat really once have a place atop the head of Honest Abe?
For the first time, the people who run the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield — who have long proclaimed the hat was Lincoln’s and continue to insist that — are admitting they can’t pin down how, more than 150 years ago, a farmer acquired the stovepipe hat.

That missing detail has injected an unexpected air of doubt about the authenticity of one of the museum’s prized showpieces, a historic icon valued at $6.5 million that’s a cornerstone in the museum’s fund-raising pitches and that, until now, has had a provenance once thought to be indisputable.

“In a court of law, there are different levels of assurance,” said James Cornelius, curator of the museum’s Lincoln Collection. “The Scottish legal system has guilty, not guilty and not proven. We elected in this country not to take that third option, in which the presumption of guilt is kind of heavy. I guess, if you want to be pushy about the hat question, you’d have to judge it in the not-proven category of Scottish law because it cannot be proven or disproven.”

That acknowledgment, in response to inquiries from the Chicago Sun-Times, follows the February disclosure that a portrait of Mary Todd Lincoln donated to the state by the Lincoln family, which has hung in the Executive Mansion for decades, was a fraud.

No one is claiming the hat is a fake. It remained in the possession of the family of farmer William Waller until 1958. That’s when James Hickey, then head of the Illinois State Historical Library and overseer of the state’s Lincoln artifacts, bought it for himself in a move that today would almost assuredly spark conflict-of-interest questions.

The hat changed hands again in 1990, when Lincoln collector Louise Taper bought it from Hickey for an undisclosed price. She, in turn, parted with it in 2007, selling it to the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library Foundation as part of a $23 million haul of Lincoln memorabilia in 2007. The purchase was proclaimed a coup for the museum.

The museum won’t say how much the hat cost but, for the first time, it has produced a 2007 appraisal valuing it at $6.5 million.

The foundation is raising money to repay the city of Springfield, which issued taxpayer-financed bonds used to buy the Taper collection.

The hat has been described alternately as one Lincoln wore during the Civil War and, more recently, one that he gave away after an 1858 debate in southern Illinois with Stephen Douglas.

If one of those scenarios is true, the other can’t be. But that doesn’t mean the hat is a fraud, said Wes Cowan, co-host of the PBS-TV show “History Detectives” and an expert in historical artifacts who owns a Cincinnati auction house.

“The fact that there is this longstanding tradition and that it clearly came from a hatmaker in Springfield — that’s interesting. But, beyond that, it gets squishy. What you really want to see was a newspaper article from . . . whenever the debate was: ‘Candidate Lincoln gives local farmer his beaver top hat.’ That’s what you want to find. That’s the sort of chain of custody you want. Without that unbroken chain of custody, it becomes very difficult to prove any of this. It may be. It may not be.”

The story of the hat was first written in August 1958, when Carbondale resident Clara Waller signed an affidavit in which she said her father-in-law, William Waller, obtained the hat from Lincoln “during the Civil War in Washington” and, upon Waller’s death, it was passed on to her husband, Elbert Waller. William Waller had been a Democrat in the 1850s but incurred his neighbors’ wrath by bucking the region’s pro-slavery mind-set by backing Lincoln, a Republican, in his 1858 U.S. Senate bid against Democrat Stephen Douglas, according to Cornelius.

Attached to Clara Waller’s affidavit is a handwritten statement from the late John W. Allen, a history professor at Southern Illinois University-Carbondale, who said he had been told the “same” story about the hat by Elbert Waller and was “inclined to give it full credence.”

The hat was sent on loan for a large Illinois State Historical Library exhibit in Taiwan in 1988. It later appeared in 1993 and 1994 in San Marino, Calif., and in Chicago during a high-profile tour of major Lincoln artifacts known as “The Last Best Hope of Earth: Abraham Lincoln and the Promise of America.” The hat was described in a catalog co-authored by former Illinois state historian Thomas Schwartz as one that Lincoln “wore . . . during the Civil War.”

But that claim — and Clara Waller’s story — has a big hole: No evidence has been unearthed that places William Waller in Washington, D.C., after Lincoln was elected president. And Lincoln never returned to Illinois before he was assassinated.

Cornelius, who has been in his post since 2007, said he was told by Schwartz before he moved on to head the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library that William Waller instead must have gotten the hat from Lincoln during his Sept. 15, 1858, debate with Douglas in Downstate Jonesboro.

Schwartz declined an interview request, referring questions to the Lincoln museum.

“I guess you’d say we’ve taken something of a historic liberty in re-dating it to a much more plausible time and place,” Cornelius said of the hat. But that contradicts the Weller affidavit — which had never been made public until a Chicago Sun-Times reporter asked to see it.

Lincoln, who did give gifts to friends and admirers, wasn’t known to have given away any of his hats, Cornelius said. There also are no newspaper stories from the 1858 debate, photographs or letters between Lincoln and William Waller to corroborate the hat changing hands that day in southern Illinois.

“What does he do for a hat in [September] when he gives away a hat? That’s my only problem with the story — the logic part,” said Harold Holzer, a Lincoln expert who is a senior vice president at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.

Still, Holzer thinks there is a “strong likelihood” the hat belonged to Lincoln, based on the hat size and its tie to the Springfield hatmaker, where Lincoln was known to buy hats. But Holzer said the museum should redouble its efforts to pin down the hat’s origin.

Further evidence that validates the hat is that it was held in the same family for a century and scooped up by Hickey and later Taper, two of the pre-eminent collectors of Lincoln memorabilia, Cornelius said.
“Not only did the Waller family believe it and have it, Louise Taper believed it and had it after Jim Hickey believed it and had it,” he said.
“There’s nothing to indicate to us that it’s not what we’ve inherited.”

Cowan, the PBS host, doesn’t think the Lincoln museum was duped, but he encourages it to present both scenarios when the hat is next exhibited. When displayed previously at the museum, it has been linked to William Waller, but the uncertainty over how Waller got it has been sidestepped.

“I think the issue that I would bring up over and over and over again is that there is no unbroken chain of custody, that the facts as they are known surrounding the top hat are compelling, but, ultimately, they can never be proven,” Cowan said.
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05-19-2018, 03:56 AM
Post: #17
RE: Lincoln Presidential Library Owes Big $$$
(05-18-2018 07:40 PM)LincolnMan Wrote:  Maybe this has already been asked/discussed: how many Lincoln hats in total are there in various museums?

Offhand, I can only think of one. The hat he wore to Ford's Theatre the night of the assassination is in the Smithsonian.
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05-19-2018, 09:55 AM
Post: #18
RE: Lincoln Presidential Library Owes Big $$$
But I have seen a Lincoln hat at the Springfield Museum also—at least I think I have. Sucks getting old.

Bill Nash
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05-19-2018, 10:30 AM
Post: #19
RE: Lincoln Presidential Library Owes Big $$$
If we don't count the hat that ALPLM has, there are two: the one at the Smithsonian and one at Robert Lincoln's home, Hildene.
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05-19-2018, 11:08 AM
Post: #20
RE: Lincoln Presidential Library Owes Big $$$
(05-19-2018 10:30 AM)davg2000 Wrote:  If we don't count the hat that ALPLM has, there are two: the one at the Smithsonian and one at Robert Lincoln's home, Hildene.

Thanks, Dave, for correcting me. Here's the hat at Hildene.

http://i.dailymail.co.uk/i/pix/2012/11/2...34x908.jpg
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05-19-2018, 11:20 AM
Post: #21
RE: Lincoln Presidential Library Owes Big $$$
(05-19-2018 10:30 AM)davg2000 Wrote:  If we don't count the hat that ALPLM has, there are two: the one at the Smithsonian and one at Robert Lincoln's home, Hildene.

Doesn't it seem reasonable that Lincoln may have owned more than three? Men's hats took a beating, especially in those days. They were worn in all kinds of weather (in fact, that's why a beaver hat was popular - it tended to repel water); the sweat from one's brow damaged the inside bands; road dirt and dust gathered on it; etc.

There is one hat that we know he owned that is not accounted for: Lincoln was wearing his signature stovepipe hat, I believe, when a supposed sniper put a bullet through it as he returned to the summer White House one evening. Can we assume that (the others being authentic) that hat would be #4?

Just as an aside, I find the "original" appraiser a bit questionable. It seems that he did not question the authenticity of the hat (and the clock and the fan) at the time of the appraisal and set a high price. There's a 99% chance that his "fee" (commission) for the appraisal was based on a percentage of that total appraisal. Once he has been paid, then he casts doubt on the authenticity of some of the items?

One more trivial thought, based on the article that Steve posted. I love the reference to the Scottish verdict system of Guilty, Innocent, or Not Proven. It reminded me of how many times James O. Hall would answer someone's question of "Was Mary Surratt guilty or innocent?" with his opinion that the verdict was "Not proven." He felt that the government did not prove their case sufficiently enough to render a "guilty" verdict.
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05-19-2018, 06:17 PM
Post: #22
RE: Lincoln Presidential Library Owes Big $$$
Found this on an NPR site from 2013:

By the way: The hat fits. It's 7 1/8 inches — Lincoln's head size — and in those days, top hats were custom-made. It also bears the mark of his Springfield hat maker.

Over the years, every scrap of paper on which Abe Lincoln scribbled is preserved and analyzed. But when William Waller got that hat, be it in Illinois or Washington, Abe Lincoln was on the edge of failure — losing a senatorial campaign or a civil war — not the kind of fame that got his face carved into mountainsides.

But farmer Waller kept that hat his whole life and passed it on to his son, who was a five-term state legislator who died in 1956. His second wife sold it to a collector and attached that affidavit.

James Cornelius, the Lincoln library's curator, told us that calls to test the hat for DNA are even worse than a bad idea." DNA tests on a 160-year-old hat would not be conclusive and could harm what is, after all, not a bloody shirt in a murder trial, but something that's been deemed a historical artifact. And the suggestion that the hat be vacuumed for traces of Abe Lincoln's dandruff just made him laugh. In the end, Lincoln's legend is larger than a size 7 1/8 hat.
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05-20-2018, 04:17 AM
Post: #23
RE: Lincoln Presidential Library Owes Big $$$
Thanks to Steve for sending Elbert Waller's obituary. It's from the June 18, 1956, edition of the Southern Illinoisan.

[Image: waller.jpg]
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05-22-2018, 02:03 AM
Post: #24
RE: Lincoln Presidential Library Owes Big $$$
Does anybody have a transcription of Clara Waller's affidavit?
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05-22-2018, 04:22 AM
Post: #25
RE: Lincoln Presidential Library Owes Big $$$
(05-22-2018 02:03 AM)Steve Wrote:  Does anybody have a transcription of Clara Waller's affidavit?

Steve, I did a web search to see if the Sun Times reporter included the text of the affidavit in an article, but I could not find anything. I could write Tom Schwartz about this, but based on what I've read, I do not think he would respond.
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05-22-2018, 05:41 AM
Post: #26
RE: Lincoln Presidential Library Owes Big $$$
I ask because I've been doing some research on William Waller and the theory concocted by the museum people that Lincoln gave him the hat in 1858 is impossible. He was a supporter/voter of Stephen Douglas in the 1860 Presidential election, not Lincoln. He was a fervent Unionist, though, and supported Lincoln in the 1864 election. If Lincoln did give Waller one of his hats, it would have to have been in Washington like the description of Clara's affidavit given in the articles. I was just wondering if there might be more information/clues to what happened in the exact wording she used.
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05-22-2018, 06:17 AM
Post: #27
RE: Lincoln Presidential Library Owes Big $$$
Steve, I just wrote Dave McKinney about this. He is the former Chicago Sun-Times Springfield bureau chief.
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05-22-2018, 08:04 AM (This post was last modified: 05-22-2018 08:06 AM by brtmchl.)
Post: #28
RE: Lincoln Presidential Library Owes Big $$$
I was just in Peoria this past weekend for a baseball tournament when I heard the news about the new Go Fund Me.

https://www.gofundme.com/help-save-the-lincoln-museum

" Any man who thinks he can be happy and prosperous by letting the American Government take care of him; better take a closer look at the American Indian." - Henry Ford
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05-22-2018, 09:34 AM
Post: #29
RE: Lincoln Presidential Library Owes Big $$$
Has the Lincoln hat with the bullet hole that Laurie mentioned ever turned up anywhere? Somehow I thought Lincoln had it disposed of to not alarm Mary.

Bill Nash
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05-22-2018, 11:01 AM
Post: #30
RE: Lincoln Presidential Library Owes Big $$$
(05-22-2018 06:17 AM)RJNorton Wrote:  Steve, I just wrote Dave McKinney about this. He is the former Chicago Sun-Times Springfield bureau chief. If I receive a reply, I shall post.

"Over the years, every scrap of paper on which Abe Lincoln scribbled is preserved and analyzed. But when William Waller got that hat, be it in Illinois or Washington, Abe Lincoln was on the edge of failure — losing a senatorial campaign or a civil war — not the kind of fame that got his face carved into mountainsides."

This paragraph from the NPR report that I posted earlier seems pretty definite that Waller received the hat around the time of the 1864 re-election battle. Am I correct in assuming that Lincoln did not campaign in Illinois at that time? Did Waller per chance come to D.C. for the inauguration after having been a solid supporter of Lincoln (finally) in his second campaign?
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