The hat may never have landed on Lincoln’s head, but it will hang around his home in the eponymous Grand Emancipator’s museum in Springfield – for now at least.
More than a year after issuing a warning cry that dire financial difficulties could force them to sell the precious stovepipe hat that allegedly – but questionably – belonged to the 16th President, officials at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library Foundation announced on Wednesday that they had entered into a new loan agreement which means that the organization “no longer needs to consider auctioning off one of the artifacts.
“Selling these unique artifacts was clearly something no one wanted to do,” Foundation chairman Ray McCaskey said in a statement. “From now on, this important collection will remain accessible to all who visit the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum. “
The foundation borrowed $ 23 million in 2007 to purchase the Taper Collection, a treasure trove of more than a thousand items, including the bloodstained gloves Lincoln had with him on the night of his assassination and, most notably, the famous beaver fur hat.
The historic headgear was originally valued at around $ 6.5 million, although a senior museum official acknowledged earlier this year that historians “found no evidence confirming that the hat belonged to President Lincoln.
Interest and fees inflated the loan into $ 31 million in debt, nearly bringing the foundation to the brink of collapse in May 2018, when officials announced they would have to consider selling Taper treasury items to join the two ends.
They even resorted to passing the hat through an ill-fated online crowdfunding effort to help close a $ 9.7 million gap on the loan, eventually unplugging. on a campaign that only raised around $ 35,000.
But a slight increase in private fundraising earlier this year allowed the foundation to make “a larger-than-normal principal payment,” and they struck a loan extension deal with Lake Forest Bank & Trust which now matures on October 31, 2022, and “includes a lower interest rate”.
The financial hat trick “will ensure that the collection remains accessible to the public until 2022,” but the foundation is still responsible for the remainder of the loan and “must continue to raise funds for the collection,” officials said.
They have paid off over $ 22 million in debt of $ 31 million.
“We are very grateful to the Lake Forest Bank team for supporting us from the start and for their willingness to negotiate this important extension as we continue to repay the debt,” Foundation Treasurer Sarah Phalen said in a statement. communicated. “By working with the ALPLF finance committee, I think we have found a viable way forward for us to pay off the debt in full. “
The improved financial forecast is good news for a museum that grabbed national headlines last month with revelations that former director Alan Lowe bypassed museum protocols when he loaned a handwritten copy ” priceless’ from the Gettysburg address – and shipped it via FedEx – to curatorial expert Glenn Beck’s nonprofit, whose declared mission is “centered on the restoration of the human spirit”.
Lowe was fired by Governor JB Pritzker in September, although the reason for his ousting was not given until November 22 with the release of a report by a state watchdog. The museum is a separate entity from the foundation, which is responsible for fundraising.