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No refund requested or expected for Lincoln’s hat

Monday, Jan 27, 2020

* John O’Connor at the Associated Press

In 2007, Springfield’s gleaming new shrine to Abraham Lincoln was open, but it lacked touchstone pieces to show off, so organizers paid $6.5 million for the most symbolic Lincoln artifact available: one of the 16th president’s stovepipe hats.

A dozen years and as many studies and hand-wringing public statements later, there’s no concrete evidence that the felted beaver-fur hat ever sat atop Lincoln’s 6-foot-4 frame.

Has anyone requested a refund?

No, and it doesn’t appear anyone will soon. The foundation that bought the hat as part of a 1,500-piece, $23 million deal with California collector Louise Taper is not considering action, vice chairman Nick Kalm said. It’s supporting further research directed last week by Ray LaHood, chairman of the newly organized trustees of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum. […]

He would not comment on the prospect of renegotiating with Taper, whom The Associated Press was unsuccessful in contacting for comment. Legal experts all but rule out successful court action, and while there’s the possibility of appealing to the seller through moral suasion, few are of a mind to do it.

Another option would be to use the hat to educate the public about blunders like this. Hey, if it drives traffic, go for it. We’re apparently stuck with the thing, so use this lemon to make lemonade.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

14 Comments
  1. - Keyrock - Monday, Jan 27, 20 @ 9:37 am:

    It doesn’t work as a cornerstone of the Lincoln Library. But it would be great on display when we get around to building the Illinois Corruption Museum. It would look great next to Paul Powell’s shoeboxes.


  2. - @misterjayem - Monday, Jan 27, 20 @ 9:42 am:

    You can fool all the people some of the time,
    and you can fool some of the people all the time,
    but it’s hard to believe that anyone was fooled by this hat.

    – MrJM


  3. - LakeCo - Monday, Jan 27, 20 @ 9:43 am:

    I’ll never understand why Tom Schwartz and Louise Taper weren’t subpoenaed over the hat. I hope they’re ashamed of themselves.


  4. - Ron Burgundy - Monday, Jan 27, 20 @ 9:43 am:

    -while there’s the possibility of appealing to the seller through moral suasion, few are of a mind to do it.-

    Well how about getting of a mind? Also perhaps not engage in any dealings with anyone involved again and maybe broadcast far and wide that the seller sold you misrepresented items?


  5. - 47th Ward - Monday, Jan 27, 20 @ 9:46 am:

    It makes you wonder how Louise Taper can sleep at night.

    And then you imagine she sleeps quite well on top of that giant pile of cash she got for swindling the Museum.

    And would it kill Nick Kalm to at least ask for the money back?


  6. - Chris - Monday, Jan 27, 20 @ 10:18 am:

    One of the keys to running this sort of con is to have your mark be so embarrassed about being seen as the mark of such a con that they won’t admit it and, indeed, will go to great lengths to convince themselves and everyone else that there was not actually a con.

    The other way to make it work–if the mark is spending OPM–is to pay them off, so they’re part of it.

    NOT suggesting that the second is the case, but there is some element of the first here, for sure.


  7. - Thomas Paine - Monday, Jan 27, 20 @ 10:34 am:

    We are going to prosecute Ammons over an $80 purse and let Taper walk off with $6.5 million, it really makes perfect sense.


  8. - Monadnock Pigeon - Monday, Jan 27, 20 @ 11:03 am:

    ==Another option would be to use the hat to educate the public about blunders like this. Hey, if it drives traffic, go for it. We’re apparently stuck with the thing, so use this lemon to make lemonade.==

    Brilliant idea (banned punctuation). No snark, this is very good idea.

    Will it happen? I doubt it, as it would involve admitting that certain folks were either incompetent or corrupt…


  9. - lakeside - Monday, Jan 27, 20 @ 11:03 am:

    And to think, all this could have been prevented by simply *not buying things from members of your board*. As a donation, this is an embarrassing lack of research and a useless hat. At $6.5 million, it’s absolute malpractice not to have verified the claims and established the provenance.

    But, as dumb as this entire thing is, you can’t go back and demand a refund. It’s been more than a decade, and the onus was completely on the museum to verify the chain of custody and the provenance, no matter what the donor/board member told them. People are sometimes wrong about the items they have (intentionally or unintentionally); that’s why museums have people who’s job it is to figure this stuff out. It’s awkward to do it for members of your board - which is why you *shouldn’t buy stuff from board members*.


  10. - Morningstar - Monday, Jan 27, 20 @ 11:12 am:

    Maybe it can be the centerpiece of the Illinois Suckers Museum.


  11. - Steve Rogers - Monday, Jan 27, 20 @ 11:13 am:

    Taper bought a document and noticed it was a forgery. She asked for and got her money back. The ALPLF bought a hat and has scant evidence it was Lincoln’s. Why can’t they ask for the money back?


  12. - Jibba - Monday, Jan 27, 20 @ 11:54 am:

    ==Well how about getting of a mind? ===

    Amen. If nothing else, bad publicity and public condemnation is a powerful force. Art dealers regularly refund money when provenance changes or previous assertions are found to be untrue. And like the Chicago casino, you never know until you try.


  13. - Candy Dogood - Monday, Jan 27, 20 @ 12:12 pm:

    ===Has anyone requested a refund?===

    The word we should be using is restitution.

    ===that’s why museums have people who’s job it is to figure this stuff out.===

    That’s why the term for this kind of thing could be ‘conspiracy to commit fraud.’

    I’m sure with all of that fancy bank paperwork for the loan there’s room for more charges.

    ===Illinois Suckers Museum.===

    This would only need on exhibit and probably not a whole lot of floor space unless it’s an especially large and fancy mirror.


  14. - Candy Dogood - Monday, Jan 27, 20 @ 12:12 pm:

    *This would only need one exhibit

    A typo on the zinger is the worst.


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