By Vern Hee – Special to the Pahrump Valley Times
Call it the case of the not-so-honest Abe.
On April 6, Major Robert Lloyd, coordinator of the Southern Nevada Salvation Army district, came to Pahrump to bestow upon the local museum a valuable gift.
Phil Huff, director of the museum’s Lincoln Room, had received a phone call a few days before letting him know that Lloyd intended to loan to the museum an important historical document bearing an actual signature from Abraham Lincoln, the 16th president of the United States.
Huff had no idea what document Lloyd had in his possession and only stated that he was excited. In a brief comment made before he took possession of the documents, Huff said “I am always asked if we have any property of Lincoln and we do not, and secondly I am asked if we have any signatures. I say no. This would be the first.”
When Lloyd arrived, he and Huff met in the lounge of the Salvation Army before the document was officially given to the museum. Huff eagerly gazed upon the framed documents that stated boldly in engraved letters, “United States Volunteer.” His eyes fell on the name of the recipient, “Private … Robert Mund,” and the date “1864.”
The two men then gathered in the church area where Channel 46 and other media gathered to watch the official handing over of the heirlooms. During the ceremony, Lloyd explained how he obtained the document.
Lloyd said, “The document was donated to the Salvation Army and is valued at $15,500. The donor did not want it sold. He wanted it displayed. In the back of my mind I was thinking that I had to find somebody. … Captain King of Pahrump told me the last time I chatted with him that there was a museum up here and so I Googled it and called Phil.”
Lloyd said the donor’s name was Meyer Mazon, who originally received the document from the great, great grandson of Robert Mund, who bears the same name.
Huff was then allowed to speak and said, “This is an important document for the museum because it is the first documents for the Lincoln room with an actual signature of Abe Lincoln. It is an important piece because it was done so late in the first term of President Lincoln in 1864. Usually a printed document is very important … his signature is fairly common but was done very regularly on just paper. Printed documents . . . were rare and something this big . . . I find interesting that it was signed to a private.”
Huff said he would do some further research and then get back to the Salvation Army on what Mund did to deserve the certificate.
This story might have ended here.
But on Monday, Huff was contacted to see what he found out about Mund. Huff said through some research he did online he had found some startling facts about the document.
The first thing he revealed was that the document was not in fact an actual signature of Lincoln.
On his computer, Huff Googled “Ohio Civil War Hundred Day Volunteer.” The site revealed to him that close to 80,000 of these certificates were produced for the volunteers, which was the U.S. Government nationalizing all of the national guardsmen in the North.
Huff also found out at this time that there was a period after the signature of Abraham Lincoln that indicated that the signature was printed and not an actual signature. He added Lincoln put the period there to let others know it was his printed signature.
Upon closer examination, Huff found the period after the signature on the donated certificate. He thus came to the conclusion the document was not worth anywhere near what Lloyd believed. The website that Huff found the information on also said that forgers regularly use this document to make fake signatures for Lincoln “artifacts.”
They do this by cutting off the period and then sell the signature as an original. The site reiterates that the documents are still historically valued but only between $50 and $150.
Cowan’s Auction House located in Cincinnati, Ohio, regularly deals in historical documents of this nature.
Patricia Tench, an expert in books and manuscripts for Cowan’s, said that one of the tell-tale signs that the document was not an original signature was it was on a certificate that was handed out to all volunteers, meaning Lincoln would have had to sign over 80,000 of them.
She said that during the war there were very few military documents that he did sign because he was so busy. And if he did, it would have been for a general or other high-ranking officer.
“Very often he would sign his signature with an ‘A;’ he never ever signed it Abe. He hated Abe. He occasionally signed it Abraham. There seems to be some dispute on the periods after his signature. Other sources say that is the secretarial mark. Secretaries marked it that way.”
After reviewing his findings, Huff quickly sent them off to Lloyd.
Lloyd was unable to comment due to his schedule but expressed that he deeply regretted the findings.
He also stressed that he went on the appraisal letters that accompanied the document and suggested that the donor may have been trying to get a large write-off from the IRS. Perhaps this is why he stipulated it not be sold.
When Huff was asked if the museum would still keep the document, he said, “Of course we would gladly continue to display the document. It is hanging still up in the Lincoln room at this very moment. We have learned so much from it. When I learned about the period after the signature I then located 15 other examples of this around the room on copies of Lincoln documents that we have.”