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    William McKinley: Beaver Top Hat with Leather Traveling Case. The top hat and the frock coat were articles of clothing most closely associated with the twenty-fifth president. This hat comes with a typed letter signed from President McKinley's secretary and confidante George Cortelyou. The letter written on June 1, 1917 in New York reads, "My dear Major Loef, / With regard to our personal conversation you should now have in your possession the formal hat of our slain President and mutual friend William McKinley. / I feel deeply giving it up but Mrs. Cortelyou and I agree it could not be in the care of a finer man. / Please note that I added the clipping inside the box and the executive card bearing his signature. Please call when you are in our city we always look forward to the special time we all share. / Mrs. Cortelyou and the family join me in saying congratulations and best wishes. / Very sincerely yours, / Geo. B. Cortelyou".

    The hat, in brushed beaver, is 6.25" high (approximately a size 6 7/8) with a grosgrain and velvet trim. The liner is white silk and the hatband is white kid leather marked "The Wedge" in gold. Affixed to the inside top of the hat is an Executive Mansion card signed by President McKinley. The hat come in its original brown leather travel case with the name "McKinley" stamped across the closing strap. The letters were once gold, but have oxidized. They are still bold and visible. The case has the original red cloth and paper liner. The case has a printed copy of the poem "McKinley Dead" by Richard Le Galhenne glued to the inside bottom. The hat shows light storage wear to the ribbon, else very fine. The travel case shows considerable drying to the leather and minor damp stains to the bottom.

    On September 6, 1901 George B. Cortelyou, as presidential secretary, advised McKinley to forego a planned public reception at the Pan-American Exposition's Temple of Music, fearing the gathering would pose a security risk. McKinley said, "Why should I? No one would wish to hurt me." That afternoon, Cortelyou's fears were realized when the president was shot twice by assassin, Leon Czolgosz. President McKinley was caught and supported by his secretary, he whispered, " My wife -- be careful, Cortelyou, how you tell her -- oh, be careful."

    The Major Loef, referred to in Cortelyou's letter, is undoubtedly Major Charles A. Loeffler, doorkeeper to the president at the White House. Loeffler served as doorkeeper for every president from Grant to Theodore Roosevelt. During the Civil War he was doorkeeper to Secretary of War Stanton. Accompanying the hat are five calling cards from various men requesting brief meetings with the president.

    Also included in this lot are two rare original photos related to his assassination. One shows him in a top hat seated in a carriage and carries an old label stating that it was taken thirty minutes before he was shot at the Pan American Exposition in Buffalo. The other shows him with dignitaries, annotation on verso indicates that it was taken by an 11-year-old boy on September 5, 1901, the day before McKinley was assassinated. Both snapshot size. Photos in excellent condition, with staining on the mounting board of the latter example.

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    December, 2008
    2nd-3rd Tuesday-Wednesday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 12
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
    Page Views: 2,160

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