Presidential libraries have a niche audience. Few Americans are drawn to the institutions the way they are to other museums. That hasn’t stopped the libraries from trying, though. Lincoln’s library went out of their way to buy a top hat and gloves for use as a potential attraction. Now, though, they are having financial difficulties and the gloves and hat may end up on the auction block.
The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library Foundation borrowed to buy the hat and gloves.
“The foundation took out a $23 million loan in 2007 to purchase the Barry and Louise Taper Collection,” Fox notes. “It paid an additional $25 million of its own money but just this week it was revealed that the foundation still owes almost $10 million on the note, due in October 2019.”
While that’s more than a year away, the date looms large. If they have to sell, sell they will. The hat is one of those rare items instantly tied to Lincoln. While it isn’t the only top hat he owned, it has solid provenance.
The gloves are even more rare, as they are the ones he took with him to the theater on the night that he was assassinated.
The hat, as shown above, even has finger grooves worn in where he tipped his hat.
There’s also a book from 1824 that is the earlier example of his writing known to historians.
“We now face significant uncertainty about whether the foundation’s lender will be willing and able to refinance the loan at affordable terms,” the foundation said in a statement.
The library is currently looking for other funding sources. They’ve been working with Illinois Gov. Bruce, Rauner’s office but have yet to secure funding from the state. Instead, they are relying on private donations.
“If the foundation is not able to secure commitments in the very near future to retire most — if not all — of the remaining $9.7 million debt, it will have no choice but to accelerate the possibility of selling these unique artifacts on the private market — which would likely remove them from public view forever,” the Library said.
The Lincoln hat is one of a couple of hats attributed to Lincoln. The one he was wearing at the Ford Theater is in the Smithsonian. It has a huge “mourning band” around it, a sign of his sadness for the death of his son.