At a 2015 New York Antique fair, the Wadsworth Athenium museum purchased a Civil War memorial secretary valued at $375,000, though the museum did not disclose what it had paid. However much it was though, it appears the museum may have been hoodwinked.
The secretary was made from maple and oak and was believed to have been made in around 1876 to commemorate Union infantryman John Bingham, who died in the American Civil War.
Recently though, a woodworker has come forward to confess that he had made the secretary, which he sold to antique dealer Allan Katz. The forger Harold Gordon said:
“I lied. I cheated. I stole.”
Gordon made the furniture in 2010 in his home. He is a self-taught woodworker and took months to turn an old secretary he had bought into a detailed piece. He then researched a story to attach to the furniture. He discovered details of John Bingham, killed in the Civil War aged 17. Gordon typed a note dated 1972. which he signed as a relative of Jon Bingham. The note, deliberately faded, was designed to convince people of the authenticity of the piece.
Although Gordon committed fraud, his forgery demonstrated great woodworking skill. As a result, experts, including the Wadsworth Athenium, were convinced that it was genuine.
Fortunately, forged antiques in the UK are rare. When looking for late Victorian furniture in Preston antique shops, if the dealer is a member of the Association of Art & Antiques Dealers, their code of practice makes sure that antique dealers thoroughly research the authenticity of antique furniture.
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