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State historian: “No evidence” that infamous hat belonged to Lincoln

Friday, Sep 27, 2019

* $6.5 million down the drain

Illinois’ state historian says he can’t confirm whether a stovepipe hat that was once the crown jewel of Springfield’s Abraham Lincoln presidential museum actually belonged to the nation’s 16th president.

That previously undisclosed assessment by the now-fired executive director of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, Alan Lowe, was made in a June email with a senior aide to Democratic Gov. JB Pritzker.

The documents, recently obtained by WBEZ, shed the first light on the workings of state historian Samuel Wheeler, who last year was asked by Lowe to research the hat as questions mounted over its shaky tie to Lincoln.

State emails turned over by the Pritzker administration through an open records request show Wheeler and his associates pored through the vast collection of the Illinois State Archives and through the papers of the hat’s ex-owner, an early 20th century downstate lawmaker.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

20 Comments
  1. - Waffle Fries - Friday, Sep 27, 19 @ 9:54 am:

    sooo…does the Foundation still win?


  2. - Waffle Fries - Friday, Sep 27, 19 @ 9:55 am:

    so about the Foundation’s fundraising situation improving - what does that mean, I’m sure this helps, right?


  3. - lakeside - Friday, Sep 27, 19 @ 9:56 am:

    ==Lowe wrote that the foundation rejected an attempt to have a Virginia-based textile expert examine the hat to see if it was consistent with stovepipe hats of Lincoln’s era.==

    Why is even our presidential museum super dodgy? I’m not usually in a ‘beat up on Illinois’ mood, but this is just a potential artifact for a museum and there are too many twists and turns, guys.


  4. - Oswego Willy - Friday, Sep 27, 19 @ 10:01 am:

    “It was Lincoln’s hat. Michael Lincoln’s of Madeupville, Minnesota in 1913”

    - Historian, maybe.


  5. - ILPundit - Friday, Sep 27, 19 @ 10:03 am:

    So if I’m reading this correctly, Foundation freaks out because additional testing might prove hat is not Lincoln’s. And a few months later, the highly respected Museum Director trying to verify hat authenticity is fired.

    Oh, and former Governor Jim Edgar intervened with Gov’s office to get tests stopped.

    Meanwhile, Foundation says money is now rolling in, and no need to auction collection anymore.

    Oh, and we have a billionaire Governor who’s wife really likes the hat.

    This seems all on the up and up. Nothing to see here, folks. Move along.


  6. - Bruce (no not him) - Friday, Sep 27, 19 @ 10:13 am:

    So, if it isn’t real, can I borrow it for a Halloween costume?


  7. - RNUG - Friday, Sep 27, 19 @ 10:28 am:

    There were questions about the hat from day one. Hat was tied to the other artifacts, not available seperstely. Big rush to do it even as the questions swirled. Always looked questionable, like some kind of insider / self trading.

    Maybe the Foundation should be asking for a partial refund …


  8. - ILPundit - Friday, Sep 27, 19 @ 10:29 am:

    Another curiosity: why did the Pritzker administration sit on the report that the hat was fake for 4 months? Has anyone asked?


  9. - DuPage - Friday, Sep 27, 19 @ 10:58 am:

    Trying to prove a negative gets murky. Is there proof that it actually belonged to someone else?


  10. - Pick a Name - Friday, Sep 27, 19 @ 11:07 am:

    Would anyone pay $6.5 million for anything if it was not documented?

    Well, we think it was Lincoln’s hat, it may have belonged to him, ………

    Ok, sounds good, here is $6.5 mil.


  11. - Ron Burgundy - Friday, Sep 27, 19 @ 11:09 am:

    Maybe he was fired for other reasons, but from the outside it sure looks like the board and others are throwing roadblocks in the path of getting to the bottom of the hat’s provenance. It’s almost like they don’t want to know. And make no mistake, if they cannot establish it was Lincoln’s a hat without provenance is just about as worthless as a fake. And that would implicate the board’s judgment and duties owed to the Foundation. Sounds like we can’t have that…


  12. - SpfdNewb - Friday, Sep 27, 19 @ 12:00 pm:

    Ron Burgundy nailed it like he was reading from a teleprompter.


  13. - lakeside - Friday, Sep 27, 19 @ 12:55 pm:

    ==Is there proof that it actually belonged to someone else?==

    That’s not how provenance works; it’s about establishing the authenticity, origins and chain of custody of the item.

    Otherwise, you’re in the position of putting every stove pipe, bowler and fedora we can’t prove *wasn’t* Lincoln’s in the museum. And who has the storage space?


  14. - Jocko - Friday, Sep 27, 19 @ 12:56 pm:

    Is there no legal recourse? If not, I’m reminded of Mr. Brady telling Greg “Caveat Emptor”


  15. - VerySmallRocks - Friday, Sep 27, 19 @ 1:15 pm:

    Has Geraldo Rivera weighed in yet?


  16. - revvedup - Friday, Sep 27, 19 @ 1:16 pm:

    “Whether or not it is my hat makes no difference, so long as it fits Illinois. All I would ask is that when you are finished with it, that I might have it as a remembrance of our once great State”. —An Abe Lincoln lookalike, 2019


  17. - Say What? - Friday, Sep 27, 19 @ 1:55 pm:

    This just in . . . .the hat belonged to Slash of Guns N Roses fame . . . . .oops . . . .


  18. - Lucky Pierre - Friday, Sep 27, 19 @ 2:27 pm:

    Where is the US Attorney investigating fraud for 6.5 million dollars?

    Cui Bono?


  19. - SpfdNewb - Friday, Sep 27, 19 @ 2:38 pm:

    It’s a state matter LP, so Kwame would have to initiate the investigation.

    Say What, if Slash was found to have owned and worn the hat, it would still be worth some $, just not $6.5 million.


  20. - Ginhouse Tommy - Friday, Sep 27, 19 @ 3:41 pm:

    RNUG The same thing can be said about that loan that the foundation wants the state to foot the bill for. No transparency.


Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.


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