Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Crazy about Lincoln

I read about this in the Washington POST!

Back in the days before computer-printout report cards, the pressure was always on for guys who didn't take the time to learn Spanish subjunctive verbs or the biological phyla, kingdoms and classes of the common earthworms, or the leading causes of World War I, to take their BIC pen and change that 'D' to a 'B'.  It happened all the time, and often, people who did such things were referred to psychiatrists to find out just why they couldn't be bothered to study.

So where do you want to send a psychiatrist who does things like that?  Check this out: this retired shrink, Thomas Lowry, 78, would hang around the National Archives in Washington, DC, and volunteer to sort out and file old documents.  He fancies himself to be quite the expert on the Civil War, which took place between 1861 and 1865, according to guys who did not have to fake their report cards.  In 1865, Honest Abe was shot by John Wilkes Booth, the most famous actor ever to hail from Harford County, MD.  April 14, 1865, in fact, was the date of that assassination.

So Dr Lowry, sorting through age-old sheets of paper, finds a pardon that Lincoln signed for some soldier on April 14, 1864.  And it must have occurred to him what a great piece of historical ephemera it would be, had Lincoln signed that pardon on April 14 of 1865...making it one of the last, if not the last, piece of paper upon which Abraham Lincoln scrawled his John Hancock.

Look fakey to you?
So what he did was, he brought in a fountain pen in 1998 and changed the date!  A volunteer! A psychiatrist!  With a fountain pen, he ruined a piece of history in his effort to become a famous historian, which he sort of was. He wrote a book called "Don't Shoot That Boy! Abraham Lincoln and Military Justice," in 1999, and has written other books since. 

 The people at the National Archives were vexed and miffed, not to mention irked, by all this.  And when they finally figured it out by checking the date of the pardon in another book, a couple of tough Archive Police showed up at the doc's home and grilled him til he sang like a canary, after first denying that he altered the document.  He even signed a confession, and probably would have waxed their unmarked car just to get them to leave.

You can look at this amazing metamorphosis as the '4' became a '5.' Real good work, Dr Lowry.  Next time, get a middle-school kid to show you how it's done.

But there will be no next time for Dr Lowry, who has been banned from the National Archives for life.  That will give him time to lie down on a sofa and talk to himself about why he does things like this.  I bet his mother never really nurtured him.

And now, in a related story, the people at the National Archives are questioning the authenticity of an iPod that someone claims was the personal property of George Washington.

No comments: