If you haven’t seen it yet, check out the recent Opinionator post at the New York Times by Harold Holzer, who is the chairman of the Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Foundation. In his post, Holzer talks about the announcement the other day by the National Archives that an amateur historian named Thomas Lowry had confessed to doctoring a pardon penned by Abraham Lincoln.
Holzer’s post refers readers to an earlier Times article, which ran the following caption beneath the photo shown above-right: “Look closely: that 5 in the document was once a 4.”
Look closely? Really? Isn’t it obvious that the 5 is different from the other numbers? According to the Times article, Mitchell Yockelson, an investigator for the National Archives, says that Lowry admitting to using “a Pelikan pen” to change the date from 1864 to 1865. The alleged motivation was to tie a document of clemency and mercy to the last moments of Lincoln’s life—the president was assassinated later that day.
For his part, Lowry denies the charge, but I’m still stumped that no one thought to give the document a second glance when Lowry made his revelation back in 1999. Are historians really that hungry for a new story that they would turn a blind eye to what appears to be obvious hacking? It makes you wonder how many more “facts” there are out there that we routinely, and wrongly, embrace as the truth.