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Study Has Bad News About Lincoln Museum's Famous Hat

Finds no evidence that it actually belonged to Abe
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Dec 24, 2019 5:05 PM CST

(Newser) – A new study has found no evidence to corroborate that a beaver-skin stovepipe hat—for years a centerpiece of Illinois' Abraham Lincoln museum—ever actually belonged to the 16th president, per the AP. Among the findings spelled out in a 54-page report was that the hat, once appraised at $6.5 million, didn't appear to be Lincoln's size and that descendants of the original collectors weren't aware of the claim Lincoln had owned it, reports WBEZ. The 16-month study also criticized a lack of due diligence to verify any link between the hat and Lincoln before it was purchased in 2007 and went on display at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield. The study by Illinois State Historian Samuel Wheeler does not definitively rule out the possibility that it was Abe's hat, but it raises serious doubts.

Evidence that the hat sat atop Lincoln's head rested on a claim by a southern Illinois farmer, William Waller, who said Lincoln gave him the hat in friendship. A 1958 affidavit from a descendant of Waller's claimed the gift came when the farmer visited Lincoln in Washington after 1861. The hat was later purchased in 2007 by the private Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library Foundation from collector Louise Taper for display at the Springfield museum. With secret doubts of their own, the private foundation sought to authenticate the hat over recent years, including a failed attempt to match DNA on the hat to Lincoln. The museum asked Wheeler to conduct the latest study. Among the red flags: Waller's widow sold the hat for a mere $1 in the 1950s instead of passing it on to her son or grandson, which seems odd if it were indeed such an heirloom.

(Read more Abraham Lincoln stories.)

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