Posts Tagged ‘documents’
Some of the thousands of historical documents stolen by collector, historian and presidential inauguration expert Barry Landau and his accomplice Jason Savedoff are making their way home to the museums, libraries and historical societies from which they were pilfered. After Landau and Savedoff were caught in the act by a staffer at the Maryland Historical Society on July 9th, 2011, the FBI found 10,194 stolen documents and ephemera in Landau’s New York City apartment.
By the time the thieves pled guilty and went to prison in February of 2012, researchers from the National Archives and Records Administration had traced 4,000 of the artifacts to 24 institutions nationwide burgled by Landau and Savedoff. Since then, the rest of the documents have been identified, but because they were evidence in a trial, the documents couldn’t be returned right away even after they were matched with their home institutions.
The return process has begun in earnest now. The Maryland Historical Society received 21 of the 60 pieces stolen on Monday, May 13th.
Among the items recently returned to the Maryland Historical Society on Monument Street were a 1920 Democratic National Convention ticket stub and admission passes to Andrew Johnson’s impeachment. Each document was encased by clear Mylar, carefully placed inside the envelopes and categorized by four-digit penciled numbers by investigators.
In a folder marked number 2977 from Box 22 and dated 8/12/11 was a small, index card-size ticket that read “Admit the bearer May 26th 1868,” to the gallery for Andrew Johnson’s impeachment. But on the back was a new mark, Savedoff’s small, penciled mark “W2,” which stood for “Weasel 2.” Landau referred to himself as “Weasel 1,” according to court documents.
Another folder held a narrow, white piece of paper with elegant cursive detailing Lincoln’s funeral procession in Vermont.
The oldest document stolen from the library by Landau and Savedoff was an invitation for the “Baltimore Assembly” dance, held on Nov. 5, 1793.
You can see video of the “W2″ Savedoff penciled on the back of the Johnson impeachment ticket in this news story. Weasel 1 and 2 also wrote “shoot” on the back of documents they intended to steal. The Maryland Historical Society has no intention of removing the thieves’ annotations. There are no conservation issues that would require the removal of a few pencil marks, and now they’ve become a part of the history of the documents. In the case of the MHS, where a staffer unimpressed by their gifts of cupcakes and smarmy bonhomie caught the Weasels in the act and finally stopped their reign of thievery, those pencil markings are a badge of honor.
Overall, authorities say about 20% of the stolen documents have been returned to their legitimate owners with the rest slated to be returned within the next few months. The Connecticut Historical Society in Hartford has received almost all of the several hundred documents and memorabilia stolen by Landau and Savedoff over four visits. It’s hard to be certain, however, because the ephemera collections are not inventoried in as much detail as the more important document archives. Their unique, historically significant pieces like a letter from George Washington to Treasury Secretary Oliver Wolcott, Jr. and a letter for Marie Antoinette were easier to trace and return than the tickets and programs and invitations.
It took a lot of research to identify the memorabilia. Some of the targeted museums were able to provide records and the Weasels both volunteered information as part of their plea bargains, but the National Archives and Records Administration had to dig deep to find the proper owners. Theme matching was helpful. Institutions known to have strong collections in certain areas were the likely sources for documents in that category. For instance, documents about former Philadelphia Mayor J. Hampton Moore were traced to the Historical Society of Pennsylvania which has a vast collection of Moore’s correspondence and papers.
Many of the institutions subjected to the Weasel depredations have revised their security policies in light of the thefts. Staffers at the Maryland Historical Society now check bags and notebooks for any pilfered documents before visitors are allowed to leave, and they’ve rearranged the chairs so visitors can’t hide away and steal their hearts out unseen by librarians. Even the National Archives has added layers of security, with searches of all people leaving the building and regular training for employees to introduce them to the ever-evolving ways thieves devise to steal stuff.
Landau is currently serving a seven year sentence for the thefts. Savedoff was sentenced to just one year.
Media relations professional, self-educated presidential historian, collector of inauguration memorabilia, pathological liar and thief Barry Landau pleaded guilty in federal court Tuesday to stealing thousands of historical documents from museums including (but not limited to) the Maryland Historical Society, the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, the Connecticut Historical Society, the University of Vermont, the New York Historical Society, and the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library.
According to the plea agreement (pdf), Landau and his Canadian accomplice Jason Savedoff researched their targets online and off, compiling lists of the most valuable documents in the collections. From December 2010 until July 2011, the two of them cut a swath through museum collections, distracting staff with cupcakes then stuffing documents into hidden coat pockets and folders. They also removed any “finding aids,” like card catalogue entries, to make it hard for the museum to realize a document was missing.
Prosecutors said the value of the stolen documents easily exceeded $1 million. One of 60 documents stolen from the Maryland Historical Society was an 1861 land grant signed by Abraham Lincoln to a former member of the Maryland militia who served in the War of 1812. It’s worth $100,000, prosecutors said.
The oldest pilfered document was penned 533 years ago by Lorenzo de Medici during the Italian Renaissance. Among the most revered were three inaugural addresses delivered by Franklin D. Roosevelt, with the president’s handwritten notes and corrections. [...]
Among the items taken from the Pennsylvania archives, prosecutors said, was a 1788 handwritten proclamation by John Hancock regarding the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. [...]
Federal prosecutors have described the scope of the thefts as “truly breathtaking,” with stolen documents that include an endorsement for a judge signed by George Washington, a letter written in French from Marie Antoinette, and an 1874 note from Karl Marx inquiring about the price of a book bearing his signature. [...]
Among the most valuable documents stolen was a letter written in 1780 from Benjamin Franklin to naval hero John Paul Jones about gunpowder deliveries from the French. It is worth several hundred thousand dollars, according to prosecutors.
The court documents filed Tuesday list stolen papers signed by luminaries from a broad swath of history: Susan B. Anthony, John Hancock, John Adams, Robert E. Lee, Sir Isaac Newton, Napoleon and Florence Nightingale. Another item was a letter from Charles Dickens to Edgar Allen Poe.
Back at the lair, they would remove any inventory markings or other institutional references on the document by scrubbing them off using sandpaper or other abrasives. They called this “performing surgery.” The surgeried documents were then either sold or kept in Landau’s apartment.
Landau and Savedoff were caught by a sharp-eyed part-time staffer at the Maryland Historical Society in Mount Vernon on July 9, 2011. David Angerhofer thought the pair were “too schmoozy for regular people,” so he spied on them from a balcony and saw them stuff historical documents under their own papers and called the cops. Savedoff was in the bathroom when the police arrived. They banged on the stall door until he came out. The historical society staffer saw pieces of old-looking paper floating in the toilet but wasn’t able to fish them out right away. When he returned, the toilet had been used and flushed by another visitor.
Landau and Savedoff were arrested and police found 70 documents hidden in a computer bag. Sixty of them belonged to the Maryland Historical Society, including that land grant signed by President Lincoln and presidential inaugural ball invitations worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. When the FBI searched Landau’s New York City apartment, they found 10,000 historical documents and ephemera. Experts from the National Archives and Records Administration have been able to trace 4,000 of them to the libraries and museums from whence they were stolen thus far.
Authorities think Landau has been stealing documents for years (President Bill Clinton’s secretary Betty Currie was sure he stole a signed book of the President’s speeches from her home in 2009) but the plea agreement only covers the thefts from December to July. Savedoff pleaded guilty last October to Conspiracy to Commit Theft of Major Artwork and Theft of Major Artwork. Now Landau has pleaded guilty to the same charges. He will be sentenced in May of this year.
This guy is such a despicable skeeze I can’t even. He spent years collecting presidential inauguration memorabilia, promoting himself as this huge expert with a collection that eclipsed even that of the Smithsonian. He was treated as the main expert on inaugurations by major media outlets, actors and film producers, plus a number of Presidents, First Ladies and Congress. Read this article from 2005, but keep a flight sickness bag handy because in hindsight it’s truly nauseating.
Four years ago, when the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies needed plates for the inaugural luncheon, it turned to Landau, who had a collection of china used at Thomas Jefferson’s inauguration in 1801. Presidents come and go, but traditions remain, and Landau is the keeper of traditions, the go-to guy.
“I have a letter from Jacqueline Kennedy,” Landau said, “and she wrote: ‘They should make you the Minister of Inaugurations.’ “
According to this article from the Telegraph, which appears to be drawing on a freedom of information request, there are 1,600 folders of documents missing from Britain’s National Archives. Documents relating to Henry VIII, Elizabeth I, Churchill and D-Day are all reported absent, many having not been seen since the early 1990s. Now, we’re probably not talking about theft here, as an Archives spokesmen said most of the papers are probably still in the Archives but on the wrong shelves or on loan somewhere.
The CIA is currently engaged in declassifying and rereleasing a mammoth amount of documentation, and among it are six of the oldest confidential documents that remained in the US archives. They relate to the diplomacy and espionage of the First World War, including how secrets and messages were sent between the powers. Obviously the US is the primary player in these files, but I’m mentioning it here because, according to this Telegraph article, the documents contain a French file which explained the formula for the German’s invisible ink (and thus the fact they could read some German communications.)
This article is on teaching the Korean War with documents, in this case, President Truman’s 1950 statement! Here is some of what the article says about this document:
Truman’s statement of June 27 illustrates his concern with communist aggression and expansion. In it, Truman argues that “communism has passed beyond the use of subversion to conquer independent nations and will now use armed invasion and war.” Truman’s statement suggests that he believed the attack by North Korea had been part of a larger plan by communist China and, by extension, the Soviet Union. The President believed that the Korean situation was similar to that of Greece in 1947. He informed his advisors that he believed the invasion was “very obviously inspired by the Soviet Union.” This gave America a moral imperative to act. “If we don’t put up a fight now,” Truman observed to his staff, there was “no telling what they’ll do.” His concern over the future of anticommunist governments in Asia showed in his public statement. Truman pledged to defend Formosa (Taiwan) from attack and to support French forces in Indochina, a conflict that would eventually escalate into the Vietnam War. Yet Truman had no wish to provoke a full-scale war with the Soviets. By blaming “communism” in the statement, as opposed to the Soviet Union, Dean Acheson later explained, the administration sought to give the Soviets a “graceful exit” and not provoke open confrontation with Russia.
Truman’s statement also reflected a new military order. Although the United States took the lead in the Korean action, it did so under the rubric of the United Nations. Truman made it clear that his actions fell within the measures recommended by the United Nations, and reminded “all members of the United Nations” to “consider carefully the consequences of this latest aggression in Korea” and that America “will continue to uphold the rule of law.”
I’m all for primary sources for my students, so I thought I’d share tha you can find a huge slew for both Eisenhower and Truman from their libraries through this project on the Korean War.