Abraham Lincoln
A document signed by Abraham Lincoln was one of many recovered from accused thieves. Image: Chacago Art Department/Flickr/CC BY

Famed historian Barry Landau, one of the country’s foremost experts on American presidents, has been arrested. Landau and an accomplice are accused of stealing millions of dollars worth of valuable historical documents.

Employee noticed suspicious behavior

Landau, 63, and his accomplice, Jason Savedoff, 24, were both charged with theft Saturday. They are accused of stealing from the Maryland Historical Society museum in Baltimore. An employee at the museum watched the pair when he found their behavior suspicious. He called the police after he said he witnessed Savedoff put a document in a portfolio and leave the building.

Documents found in a locker

The police later searched a locker used by Savedoff and found 60 other valuable documents, including papers signed by Abraham Lincoln, presidential inaugural ball invitations and others worth millions. The FBI is launching an investigation into the matter under a federal statute involving museum thefts.

Documents signed out by Landau

The museum has strict rules about viewing the documents in its collection. A signature is required at each visit, and only one set of documents can be checked out at a time to be viewed  within the museum building. In addition, a first-time viewer is required to fill out a registration form and present current photo identification. Many of the recovered documents had been signed out by Landau.

A media-friendly expert

Landau is one of the most visible experts on American presidential trivia. He is also known as a collector of valuable presidential inaugural memorabilia. He authored a book in 2007 called “The Presidential Table: Two Hundred Years of Dining and Diplomacy.” The book was intended to be the first part of a trilogy.

Interviewed on July 4

Landau has been interviewed many times by the national media. Most recently he was interviewed by CNN on July 4, deriding American citizens for not paying enough respect to the American flag.

‘Would have been a huge loss’

Burt Kummerow, president of the Maryland Historical Society, expressed to CNN reporters how grateful he was that the papers had been retrieved. “It would have been a huge loss because then (the documents) are no longer in the public record and then they’re no longer available.”

Sources

Huffington Post: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/07/12/barry-landau-_n_895452.html
NY Daily News: http://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/2011/07/12/2011-07-12_presidential_historian_barry_landau_charged_with_stealing_millions_of_dollars_wo.html
Village Voice: http://blogs.villagevoice.com/runninscared/2011/07/barry_landau_pr.php

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