Lincoln Museum Items Saved From Auction Block

By Jeremy Coumbes on December 5, 2019 at 9:47am

Blood stained gloves worn by President Abraham Lincoln at Ford's Theater the night of his assassination. Photo credit Seth Perlman/AP Photo

More than 1,000 artifacts belonging to Abraham Lincoln that were in danger of heading to the auction block are now safely staying here in the “Land of Lincoln”.

The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum Foundation announced yesterday that it has completed a refinance of the 2007 loan, used to purchase 1,500 items from collector and former board member Louise Taper, according to the Associated Press.

The foundation voted last year to seek an auction house to prepare selling some of the items in the collection if it couldn’t pay off the $9.2 million remaining on the loan by this fall when the note came due. However the foundation has announced the negotiation of a three-year extension with Lake Forest Bank and Trust with a more favorable interest rate.

The foundation borrowed $23 million in 2007 to aquire the collection, which includes items such as the blood stained gloves Lincoln wore to Ford’s Theater the night he was assassinated, a stovepipe hat that is supposed to have been one of three owned by Lincoln, , the presidential seal still sitting on his White House desk, several papers and items belonging to Mary Todd Lincoln, and other items.

Several items not related to Lincoln were in the collection as well. A black dress owned by Marilyn Monroe sold for $50,000 at an auction earlier last year.

The foundation has paid $22 million of the debt that grew to $31 million with interest but fundraising had stagnated early last year when the foundation sought a contribution from the state, which was refused. The foundation had sought money from a tourism fund financed by hotel taxes because the items are housed in the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum.

Fundraising efforts had become stale for the museum over the last year after controversy over the possible auctioning of some or all of the collection and authenticity of the stove pipe hat being called into question.

Documents obtained by WBEZ in Chicago last September showed the FBI, Smithsonian National Museum of American History and Chicago History Museum could not authenticate that.

Sarah Phalen, foundation treasurer, said in a news release the group has “secured a viable path forward to allow us to retire the debt in its entirety.”

In the foundation’s annual report, Phalen wrote it concluded the most recent fiscal year “with a strong increase in net assets over last fiscal year.”