The state has long maintained Abraham Lincoln wore a size 7 1/8, i beg your pardon it stated matched the cap in Springfield. However the state chronicler measured the hat at 7 1/4, definition a much looser to the right if that truly to be Lincoln’s hat, WBEZ has actually learned.

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This beaver-skin stovepipe hat purportedly belonged come Abraham Lincoln, but its provenance is currently the object of fierce debate. The hat is pictured here at the Abraham Lincoln Library & Presidential Museum. Well-off Hein/Sun-Times
A 16-month state study has uncovered no brand-new evidence to authenticate the a multimillion-dollar stovepipe hat purportedly own by Abraham Lincoln and also once presented at his presidential museum actually belonged to America’s 16th president.

The report through Illinois State historian Samuel Wheeler uncovered the cap did not appear to enhance Lincoln’s cap size. It additionally found the hat was sold in the 1950s to a downstate neck shop for simply $1, and its apocryphal Lincoln link wasn’t also known to descendants of its original owners.

While Wheeler concluded much more study is warranted, his findings to water an also heavier dose of apprehension on claims that Lincoln as soon as owned the hat, which to be purchased from West shore collector Louise Taper for display screen at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and also Museum in Springfield.

Wheeler’s 54-page report, derived by WBEZ, focused on the museum’s absence of due diligence in researching the hat’s provenance prior to its purchase, amongst other things. “I believe the past have the right to be instructive, if us take the moment to examine it and also resolve never to repeat the same mistakes,” that wrote.

The hat, as soon as appraised in ~ $6.5 million, was the cornerstone that a $25 million draw of Lincoln artifacts bought in 2007 by the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library structure using exclusive donations.

At the time of the hat’s purchase, Taper — the seller — satellite on the foundation’s plank of directors.

A dubious gift to a farmer

The foundation’s official history of the hat, mimicked by past managements at the museum, organized that Lincoln provided the hat to a farmer, william Waller, throughout a visit come Washington, D.C., during the polite War. The gesture stood for a token of gratitude for acquisition up Lincoln’s pro-Union, Republican reason in heavily democratic southern Illinois during the war, officials have said.

That version of events is spelled out on a solitary piece of document that dates back to 1958. That’s when Waller’s daughter-in-law signed an affidavit search by a purchaser the the hat, James Hickey, a state employee charged with curating the state’s huge collection of Lincoln artifacts between the 1950s and also 1980s.

Hickey got the hat for an undisclosed price indigenous a downstate neck shop, where Waller’s daughter-in-law, Clara Waller, had sold that for simply $1 after the 1956 death of she husband, previous state Rep. Elbert Waller, according to Wheeler’s report.


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Now deceased, Hickey left his project in government in 1984 after concerns arose about the propriety of him being in regulate of state-owned Lincoln memorabilia while at the same time acquiring similar items for his own personal collection — a practice Wheeler defined in his report together “widely well-known today together unethical.”

Hickey would go on come loan the cap to the state on various occasions, consisting of the 1981 drawing in between former Republican Gov. Richard Ogilvie and former democratic Gov. Sam Shapiro to decide which party would regulate legislative redistricting throughout the 1980s. In 1988, previous Gov. James Thompson search to have actually the hat included in a travel exhibit the Lincoln artefacts bound because that Taiwan as part of an effort to recruit eastern businesses to Illinois. The cap was appraised then as being worth $15,000.

How the hat marketed for millions

Two year later, in 1990, Hickey marketed the cap to Taper for an undisclosed price. In 2007, Taper marketed the hat to the Lincoln foundation, which buys artefacts for the museum in Springfield.

One of the main behind-the-scenes brokers the the deal in between Taper and also the Lincoln structure was then-state chronicler Thomas Schwartz, a longtime girlfriend of Taper’s and Hickey’s hand-picked successor.

Schwartz has declined past interview inquiry by members the the news media but spoke v Wheeler during his study on the hat.

In the job leading approximately the sale, Schwartz travel to Taper’s California home to inventory all of the items comes to Springfield, which had things choose the blood-stained gloves mar Todd Lincoln wore in ~ Ford’s theatre on the night of she husband’s assassination.

“When his attention turned come the stovepipe hat, the centerpiece the the acquisition, Dr. Schwartz to be shocked to discover its provenance to be much an ext tenuous than he formerly believed,” Wheeler wrote.

The report claims Schwartz had assumed Hickey gained the cap from Lincoln’s great-grandson throughout a expedition to Vermont. However then he observed Clara Waller’s 1958 affidavit revealing the hat’s background was entirely based upon circumstantial evidence.

“Instead of alerting the the most an useful item in the arsenal would call for much an ext research, Dr. Schwartz dismissed his concerns,” Wheeler wrote. “Like Taper, Dr. Schwartz break up the hat need to be a real Lincoln artifact due to the fact that Hickey thought it to be so.”

So the cap became part of the $25 million trove of artifacts Taper offered the Lincoln foundation.

The structure has yet to fully repay every the money it obtained to acquire the arsenal from Taper. Recently, the foundation floated the idea the a taxpayer-supported bailout to repay the staying balance, however Gov. J.B. Pritzker rejected that idea.

Neither Schwartz no one Taper can be reached by WBEZ for comment.

A glossesweb.com Sun-Times story in 2012 first raised questions around the hat. The occurring fallout would have actually “immense effects for the repayment of the Taper debt,” Wheeler wrote.

In that story, once pressed because that proof that William Waller travel to Washington throughout the Civil battle to fulfill Lincoln, a top museum main acknowledged over there wasn’t any and that the institution had actually taken the “historic liberty” to readjust the story.

Instead the Lincoln offering it come Waller throughout the civil War, the museum contended it was much an ext plausible that the handoff developed during one 1858 debate between Lincoln and Stephen Douglas in southern Illinois — again, an assertion because that which no evidence existed.

Over the years, the structure took procedures to have the hat privately swabbed by the FBI for possible Lincoln DNA, which gave in no positive results.

More actions to authenticate cap — and new evidence

Fast-forward to august 2018, when Wheeler was ordered by former museum manager Alan Lowe to command his study. His report, exit by Pritzker’s administration, mirrors an exhaustive — however still fruitless — initiative to tie the cap to Lincoln.

Wheeler analyzed numerous pages of writings by Waller’s son, Elbert, the previous state legislator, hosted by archivists at southerly Illinois college in Carbondale.

But Wheeler uncovered not a single mention the the cap in any documents, i m sorry he referred to as “troubling.”

Wheeler also voiced skepticism about Clara Waller’s decision to part ways through a seemingly irreplaceable artifact quickly after her husband’s death.

Her “decision to offer the stovepipe hat to a neighborhood antique store for just $1 is concerning,” that wrote. “If the stovepipe cap was undoubtedly one of Elbert Waller’s prized possessions and was a tangible link connecting the Waller family to Abraham Lincoln, why did Clara not provide the cap to Elbert’s surviving kid ... Or his grandson, who resided in Kansas?”

Wheeler took the extraordinary step of interviewing some of the Wallers’ descendants. The spoke v multiple family members who had vivid storage of the couple, however none that them ever remembered the Wallers saying they owned a cap that as soon as belonged to Lincoln.

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an exhibit at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and also Museum. State the Illinois throughout the food of his research, Wheeler obtained — via Schwartz — two formerly unknown letters created by Clara Waller, consisting of one that alleged wilhelm Waller hosted “a position we would now contact (FBI).” That job led Waller to Washington, D.C., to satisfy with Lincoln throughout the Civil war where the two males “traded hats” after learning they had actually the same hat size, the letter claimed.

But Wheeler dismissed the paper as unverifiable.

One last area of emphasis for Wheeler to be a 2013 set of talk points produced by the state come “quell any kind of doubts about the stovepipe hat’s provenance.” Wheeler asserted that record contained numerous “untruths,” including a claim around the actual dimension of the hat.

The state has actually long preserved Lincoln wore a size 7 1/8, i m sorry it said matched the hat. Yet Wheeler found something else. “I supplied a tailor’s tape and tried to get an exact measurement that the hat,” that said. “I measure up the hat at 7 1/4” meaning a much looser to the right if the truly to be Lincoln’s hat.

The verdict? much more research needed

Despite the mountain of proof he presented indicating otherwise, Wheeler was not able to do a last determination regarding whether Lincoln ever before actually owned the hat.

Instead, he said more research is “abundantly warranted.” he recommends having costume specialists specializing in 19th century hats evaluate the inequalities involving the size, the absence of a paper storage area and also the markings top top the brim that the museum has actually presented to hundreds of museum travellers as worn locations from Lincoln’s fingerprints.

He likewise advised that any kind of future repurchase be preceded by a thorough assessment of the items’ provenance.

“No matter what the final determination proves to be on the stovepipe hat, it is clear the no one at conducted any type of research top top the object prior to it was got in 2007,” Wheeler said. Schwartz only relied ~ above “the word of his predecessor and mentor, James Hickey, who had actually a clean financial interest in claiming the stovepipe hat was Lincoln’s.”

Wheeler included the foundation should stop making future multimillion-dollar transactions v its plank members, as was the case with Louise Taper.

“By act so, the board invited criticism indigenous those who would case the transaction unfair benefited among its members,” he said.

What happens next isn’t totally clear; there doesn’t seem come be any serious effort to attempt to recoup the millions the foundation had obtained to buy the hat.

In a statement, Pritzker’s newly set up chairman of the presidential library board hinted at a ongoing presence of the cap at the museum, though its display screen was put on hiatus through the previous museum director.

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“Dr. Wheeler and other historians at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and also Museum have done vital work in do the efforts to track the background of this object,” said the chairman, previous federal transportation Secretary beam LaHood. “We look front to working through the structure to explore ongoing research and also ultimately decide just how the hat can best be supplied to educate museum visitors.”

Dave McKinney consists state politics and also government because that WBEZ. To read and also listen to much more of his work, walk to wbez.org.