* 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.”