Abraham Lincoln Artifacts May Be Sold To Pay Back Presidential Library's Loan

Former U.S. President Abraham Lincoln's statue at the Lincoln Memorial is seen in Washington March 27, 2015. REUTERS/Gary Cameron

The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum may be forced to auction a few of the sixteenth president's artifacts due to financial hardship. The foundation that supports the museum may sell at least two key items to help pay back a loan it took out in 2007 to buy them.

A stovepipe hat believed to have belonged to Lincoln and the bloodstained gloves he wore the night he was assassinated are part of the Barry and Louise Taper Collection, which cost the presidential foundation $25 million. The foundation took out a $23 million loan to purchase the items, including $6.5 million for the beaver-fur top hat.

The Barry and Louise Taper Collection also includes an 1834 book that includes the first-known example of the former president's handwriting, as well as Lincoln's eyeglasses and a billfold. The foundation said in a statement it still owes about $9.7 million for the loan, which is up for renewal in October 2019.

"While the foundation's lender has been quite helpful, we now face significant uncertainty about whether the foundation's lender will be willing and able to refinance the loan at affordable terms," the statement said, according to ABC News.

The foundation could not secure any financial funding from the state when it met with Republican Governor Bruce Rauner last week, it said in the statement. It has repeatedly sought financial help from the Illinois Legislature, it added.

According to The Chicago Sun-Times, the state of Illinois operates and funds the museum, which is located in Springfield, but does not fund the fundation that supports it. The foundation vowed to continue trying to privately raise funds and will prepare "to discuss a financial plan that would include some state funding."

The governor's office could not be reached for comment, but a Rauner spokeswoman called the museum "a jewel for the state" in a statement to The Chicago Tribune.

"We are certainly interested in working with the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library Foundation as they work through their options," Patty Schuh said. "We are listening to their business plan."

If it is unable to raise the necessary funds, the foundation said it "will have no choice but to accelerate the possibility" of privately auctioning the items, "which would likely remove them from public view forever."

Questions regarding the top hat have plagued the presidental library and museum for some time. In 2013, members of the state historic panel that oversees the museum considered DNA testing to prove Lincoln wore the hat, The Chicago Sun-Times reported. The museum's curator was vehemently opposed to any forensic testing.

According to The Chicago Tribune, the museum is looking to potentially sell collection items that are not related to Lincoln, including a dress worn by 1950s Hollywood icon Marilyn Monroe. The state's rare copy of the Gettysburg Address, written by Lincoln himself, is not at risk of being sold.