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Follow the Lincoln Hat money

Thursday, Sep 27, 2018

* Bruce Rushton at the Illinois Times

The year was 2007, and the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library Foundation was drooling over a collection of Lincoln documents and artifacts, including a stovepipe hat that’s become famous for all the wrong reasons. The hat was owned by Louise Taper, a denizen of Beverly Hills and a foundation board member. “From the onset, when Louise talked to me in my kitchen some three years ago, the price of her total collection was $15 to $16 to $20 million to whatever,” Julie Cellini, foundation board secretary, wrote in an April 1 (yes, April Fool’s Day) email to T. Tolbert Chisum, a foundation board member. “The price bounced around. But the ‘must haves’ were always in the proposed sale we discussed.”

The “must have” to which Cellini referred was a copy of the Emancipation Proclamation signed by Lincoln. That iconic – and presumably authentic – document, despite Cellini’s insistence, wasn’t included in the final sale, but the price tag stayed at $23 million. Who’d make a deal like that? Someone with buyer’s fever, which appears to have been contagious back when the foundation agreed to buy Taper’s collection, which included a hat that Pawn Stars would reject as iffy.

Thanks to a report last week by WBEZ radio in Chicago, we know that neither the FBI nor historians from the Smithsonian and the Chicago History Museum could authenticate the hat. That’s somewhat old news. Dave McKinney, the same journalist who broke the WBEZ story, reported in 2012 that an affidavit from the 1950s, once considered proof, doesn’t hold water. That shouldn’t have been startling to either the foundation or the state, given that an appraiser hired before the 2007 sale sent an email to Tom Schwartz, then state historian, and Taper, questioning the provenance of the hat, as well as a clock that is said to have come from Lincoln’s law office, as well as a fan that Mary Todd Lincoln is supposed to have carried with her to Ford’s Theatre. The same appraiser, who was paid by the state, also spotted a fake Mary Todd Lincoln letter (it was a clerical copy) and questioned whether Lincoln had actually signed a photograph bearing his autograph and whether invitations to White House dinners really came from Mary.

That’s a fair number of flags. Nonetheless, the foundation closed the deal, thinking it would be able to raise $23 million to pay off a loan so that artifacts would forever grace display cases at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum.

And now the foundation can’t pay back the loan and wants a state bailout.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

19 Comments
  1. - Cheryl44 - Thursday, Sep 27, 18 @ 2:25 pm:

    No. I’d love to be sympathetic but no. It should come out of their own pockets


  2. - Matt Vernau - Thursday, Sep 27, 18 @ 2:25 pm:

    Buying frenzies are even easier with someone else’s money. The only recourse we the people have is to cut our losses.


  3. - Anonymous - Thursday, Sep 27, 18 @ 2:32 pm:

    Suckers got to pay for their own mistakes; don’t shift the cost to the taxpayers who have more, much more, important things to pay for….


  4. - cover - Thursday, Sep 27, 18 @ 2:33 pm:

    Another instance where well-dressed thieves will face no accountability…


  5. - Anonymous - Thursday, Sep 27, 18 @ 2:33 pm:

    What does Mr. Butler say to this bailout yelp?


  6. - wordslinger - Thursday, Sep 27, 18 @ 2:33 pm:

    No state bailout.

    I’d love to know who loaned them the money and how it was “secured.”

    Perhaps we’ll find out in the hearings.


  7. - Ron Burgundy - Thursday, Sep 27, 18 @ 2:48 pm:

    –The only recourse we the people have is to cut our losses.–

    And maybe see some people get locked up.


  8. - Taper Caper - Thursday, Sep 27, 18 @ 3:00 pm:

    No bailout - We can’t even bail out our consent decrees.


  9. - d.p.gumby - Thursday, Sep 27, 18 @ 3:00 pm:

    Hmm, Cellini…that name sounds familiar…


  10. - Precinct Captain - Thursday, Sep 27, 18 @ 3:20 pm:

    Is that infamous Cellini painting still there?


  11. - CentrIL - Thursday, Sep 27, 18 @ 3:46 pm:

    I wonder who was in charge of raising money for the foundation at the time?


  12. - wordslinger - Thursday, Sep 27, 18 @ 4:04 pm:

    –I wonder who was in charge of raising money for the foundation at the time?–

    I know I’m repeating a previous point, but I wonder how the loan was secured. Did any of the board members back a piece of it, personally?

    Who, exactly, would be getting “bailed out” if the state was crazy enough to do it.

    Please GA hearings, find out who made the loan and how it was secured. I can’t help but think that is the missing puzzle piece to this strange but obvious scam.


  13. - NorthsideNoMore - Thursday, Sep 27, 18 @ 4:13 pm:

    Pass the Hat around the rail during veto that ought to get a few bucks rolling in. Gotta start someplace. As for authentication call in the Beard of Knowlege from the aforementioned Pawn Stars. That should take care of that.


  14. - Question - Thursday, Sep 27, 18 @ 4:19 pm:

    Who has been the fundraiser for the foundation recently?


  15. - Nick Name - Thursday, Sep 27, 18 @ 7:26 pm:

    Ugh. Doris Kearns Goodwin might want to rethink her plans next month.

    https://preview.tinyurl.com/yaoyck26


  16. - Excessively Rabid - Thursday, Sep 27, 18 @ 9:07 pm:

    Noted plagiarist Doris Kearns Goodwin fits perfectly with this crowd. And the ALPLM Foundation is not the only group like this where something is rotten. Someone should take a hard look at the Dana-Thomas House Foundation.


  17. - wordslinger - Thursday, Sep 27, 18 @ 9:56 pm:

    –Someone should take a hard look at the Dana-Thomas House Foundation.–

    Go on. Don’t hide your light under a bushel.


  18. - Excessively Rabid - Thursday, Sep 27, 18 @ 10:34 pm:

    It’s in the audits, if you can get them.


  19. - hisgirlfriday - Thursday, Sep 27, 18 @ 11:14 pm:

    It’s a shame Sangamon County Republicans exist in a state with Chicago Democrats allowing their graft to operate so much under the radar.

    Really tired of my state tax dollars being used to bail out something with Lincoln’s name on it that was harmed by a dumb thing a Cellini did.


Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.


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