Want to be a Famous Historian? Just Change History

In 1998, Thomas Lowry was at the top of his game. He had discovered an important historical autograph, a pardon of a deserter in the hand of Abraham Lincoln.   President Lincoln’s autographs granting pardon are among the more common historical autographs you can find of the 16th president.  This one was apparently different, perhaps the final official act of the doomed President, whose pardon of accused Civil War deserter Patrick Murphy, newly discovered by Lowry, was dated within hours prior to the President’s assassination by John Wilkes Booth.

President Lincoln Pardons Patrick Murphy

More than a decade later, Lowry’s star does not shine quite as brightly.  Take a closer look at that date.  1865?  The National Archives thinks this Abraham Lincoln autograph has been tampered with.

1865 or 1864?

Archivists there say Lowry has admitted to changing the date from 1864 to 1865 to make his “find” seem more like a “discovery” and to write himself into the biography of Abraham Lincoln.  For a decade this stood.  This piece entered our books as history, stood on exhibit in the Rotunda, and was accepted as one of Lincoln’s final acts.  Well it seems Lowry’s luck has run out, and punishment approaches, right?  Well…

From the National Archives Press Release: “The Department of Justice informed the National Archives that the statute of limitations had expired, and therefore Lowry could not be prosecuted.”

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