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Another Lincoln “artifact” called into question

Thursday, Jan 23, 2020

* We all know by now that the dubious Lincoln stovepipe hat was part of the $23 million purchase of the Louise Taper Lincoln “collection.” There’s another, less-known issue with that collection. A clock that was alleged to have been in Lincoln’s law office. Bruce Rushton at the Illinois Times did a bit of digging

The most solid proof appears to be a 1968 affidavit prepared by James Hickey, the same fellow who sold the hat to former foundation board member Louise Taper, who sold the hat, the clock, the fan and more than 1,000 other artifacts to the foundation. According to the affidavit, Hickey in 1967 bought three clocks from a descendant of William Herndon, Lincoln’s law partner. The affidavit, also signed by the seller, contains little detail: “3 clocks, property of William H. Herndon and used by him in his home and law office of Lincoln & Herndon.” That’s it – no physical descriptions, photographs or word on which clock, or clocks, were in Herndon’s office as opposed to his house, or when.

The clock in question is neither rare nor, when it was manufactured, expensive. Thousands were made in Connecticut. Despite its commonness and a paucity of provenance particulars in ALPLM files, former Lincoln curator James Cornelius, fired in 2018 for insubordination, told a cool story in 2011, when the clock was named Artifact of the Month by the museum. The foundation issued a press release. “Lincoln sometimes took his bumptious boys along when he played chess in his office on Sundays, to give Mary a rest,” the press release reads. ” ‘It seems that one of the boys rubbed off some of the artwork on the glass front of the clock,’ said Cornelius.”

Here’s what he says now.

“I learned, after the 2011 article, that the application of those decorations on the glass was done with a chemical that had naturally flaked off over time,” Cornelius says in a voicemail. He also says that the clock in question was made in England, given a depiction of Westminster Abbey on the front. However, ALPLM files, and a Google search, show that thousands of such clocks were manufactured in Connecticut. “There isn’t much dispute to its provenance, as far as I know,” Cornelius says. “It had an owner or two before Louise Taper got it.”

- Posted by Rich Miller        

26 Comments
  1. - Michelle Flaherty - Thursday, Jan 23, 20 @ 10:52 am:

    Next you’re gonna tell me Lincoln’s iPhone isn’t authentic either.


  2. - A Guy - Thursday, Jan 23, 20 @ 10:58 am:

    They may have to disinter his coffin to finally have anything that they can legitimately claim he owned.


  3. - Ron Burgundy - Thursday, Jan 23, 20 @ 11:00 am:

    I’m starting to get the impression that these people have no idea what they are doing. Also, it’s maddening that, as far as we know, they haven’t at least tried to seek recourse from Mrs. Taper.


  4. - lakeside - Thursday, Jan 23, 20 @ 11:13 am:

    Just so much professional malpractice going on at the museum. This is what it must feel like to be a lawyer watching people ‘lawyer’ on twitter. I *cannot* get my mind around this series of events happening. Ron, that impression seems very accurate.


  5. - Jibba - Thursday, Jan 23, 20 @ 11:14 am:

    ==at least tried to seek recourse from Mrs. Taper===

    This. Or at least let us know if someone is looking into it.


  6. - dbk - Thursday, Jan 23, 20 @ 11:15 am:

    Honest Abe would, I suspect, be appalled.


  7. - Bruce (no not him) - Thursday, Jan 23, 20 @ 11:16 am:

    If they find the warranty card with the serial number, and Lincoln’s signature, I’ll believe it’s his.


  8. - Oswego Willy - Thursday, Jan 23, 20 @ 11:16 am:

    At this rate more “Lincoln quotes” will be authentic than items found at the Lincoln Library and Museum

    “History will show authentic things in my life will be found on eBay, for all time”

    - A. Lincoln


  9. - don the legend - Thursday, Jan 23, 20 @ 11:16 am:

    ==former Lincoln curator James Cornelius==

    His more successful relative, Don, hosted Soul Train. /s


  10. - Give Me A Break - Thursday, Jan 23, 20 @ 11:17 am:

    The first clue should have been the clocks were digital and made in China.


  11. - Give Me A Break - Thursday, Jan 23, 20 @ 11:18 am:

    OK don the legend, you owe me a keyboard. LOL


  12. - Michelle Flaherty - Thursday, Jan 23, 20 @ 11:20 am:

    It all comes full circle …

    McKinney stakes out Louise Taper and Mike McClain at Chicago Cut


  13. - Candy Dogood - Thursday, Jan 23, 20 @ 11:23 am:

    ===The most solid proof appears to be a 1968 affidavit ===

    The real irony here is that in Springfield, Illinois — a place with a well established history of corruption — that a signed statement would be elevated to a level of truth.

    It’s 2020 and in my handful of years in the state the number of false statements or otherwise fabricated information I have been presented by public officials — with or without signature — is outstanding.

    We are probably at the point where a criminal investigation should be initiated — if not already done so — to determine to what extent the lack of due diligence on all parties was a willful and deliberate cash grab.

    For the love of pete, Bill Cellini was involved with the organization and regardless of what your feelings are on how things have operated in Springfield over the last several decades, how they’ve changed, and whether or not they’ve changed for the better, the Lincoln Museum enterprise was run by folks who literally enriched themselves in significant ways at the public expense through questionable means.

    I get it, some of y’all are friends with these folks, but millions of dollars went somewhere in order to pay out of the nose for antiques that have no connection to Lincoln.

    Unrelated, but hilarious, the detail and extent to which Bill Cellini’s wikipedia page has been expanded upon by a user that has only edited members of the Cellini family’s wikipedia pages is hilarious. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_F._Cellini


  14. - Lester Holt’s Mustache - Thursday, Jan 23, 20 @ 11:30 am:

    The main takeaways from this whole thing seems to be that Taper was a rube and Hickey was a con artist.


  15. - JudgeDavidDavis - Thursday, Jan 23, 20 @ 11:46 am:

    Provenance for historic items is EVERYTHING…


  16. - Cheswick - Thursday, Jan 23, 20 @ 11:50 am:

    A place is not corrupt, Candy.


  17. - Professor - Thursday, Jan 23, 20 @ 12:02 pm:

    Hickey is key to this whole mess.


  18. - Keyrock - Thursday, Jan 23, 20 @ 12:50 pm:

    Wasn’t it Lincoln who said “A sucker is born every minute?” /s


  19. - LTSW - Thursday, Jan 23, 20 @ 1:18 pm:

    Lester Holt’s Mustache hits the nail on the head. Someone needs to investigate what Taper did with the proceeds. Did anybody else get a cut?


  20. - Irma Gerd - Thursday, Jan 23, 20 @ 1:23 pm:

    Professor @ 12:02 pm is spot on; would also like to hear from the IL State Historian at the time of purchase: Thomas Schwartz; these questionable artifacts were acquired under his watch…is that why he left? Bruce should FOIA his email and electronic files to see what else can be gleaned.


  21. - Candy Dogood - Thursday, Jan 23, 20 @ 1:48 pm:

    ===A place is not corrupt, Candy.===

    Reading comprehension is a thing, Cheswick.


  22. - Rich Miller - Thursday, Jan 23, 20 @ 1:59 pm:

    Dogood again brings the heat


  23. - @misterjayem - Thursday, Jan 23, 20 @ 2:21 pm:

    Starting to wonder if five dollar bills are still legit.

    – MrJM


  24. - Hieronymus - Thursday, Jan 23, 20 @ 4:22 pm:

    “- @misterjayem - Thursday, Jan 23, 20 @ 2:21 pm:

    Starting to wonder if five dollar bills are still legit.”

    Are you sure that 5 wasn’t a 3 ??


  25. - Ron Burgundy - Thursday, Jan 23, 20 @ 4:51 pm:

    -Starting to wonder if five dollar bills are still legit.-

    I know where you can get an old hat that’s worth about five bucks.


  26. - RNUG - Thursday, Jan 23, 20 @ 6:02 pm:

    From the full article:

    == “I would also note that the clock has not been displayed at the museum for several years and is not included in our current plans for upcoming exhibits,” Wills writes.==

    Translation: we haven’t displayed it since the controversy and intend to keep it hidden away until everyone forgets about it.


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