State historian unable to link stovepipe hat to Lincoln

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SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (WCIA) — In 2007, the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library Foundation bought a collection of artifacts related to Abraham Lincoln. 

The centerpiece of the collection was a stovepipe hat that once belonged to Lincoln — or so they thought.

The authenticity of the hat was questioned for years. The state government held hearings to debate what should be done about the hat. Finally, the museum decided to take matters into its own hands. 

Former Executive Director of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum Alan Lowe had the state historian, Samuel Wheeler, try to authenticate the hat. The process started earlier this year. 

In an email to Deputy Governor Jesse Ruiz in June, Lowe said the historian could not connect the hat to President Lincoln

“It appears from my discussions with the historian that he and his team have found no evidence confirming the hat belonged to President Lincoln,” Lowe said in the email. 

The entire collection — including the hat — was purchased with private foundation funding. The hat alone was valued at 6.5 million dollars. The foundation is still paying off the loan it took out to pay for the collection. 

State Representative Tim Butler sat in on multiple hearings regarding what to do with the hat last year, and said that he hopes that the museum and the foundation use this as a learning experience. 

“I wouldn’t give up hope on it yet. certainly as it looks today, they can’t prove that it isn’t Abraham Lincoln’s hat but you certainly can’t disprove it either,” Butler said. “My hope moving forward is that you see much more collaboration moving forward between the foundation and the museum on the state side.”

Earlier this week Governor Pritzker appointed several members to a new board meant to increase collaboration between the state-run museum and the private foundation. 

Further tests can still be conducted on the hat, and the museum is still holding out hope that they can find some evidence connecting the hat to Lincoln.

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