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Acclaimed Presidential Historian Accused of Stealing Rare Documents


When police arrested Barry Landau, a well-known presidential historian and collector, and accused him of stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of historical documents on Saturday, it kind of makes you wonder about where he got the rest of his collection.

A recent CNN article describes Landau as "one of the foremost collectors of presidential artifacts and memorabilia. His collection comprises more than 26,000 invitations and menus."

An American Digest issue from more than three years ago calls Landau the owner of the largest private collection of presidential treasure in the country. He even owns an invitation to dine with President and Mrs. Washington -- a very rare and valuable national artifact.

It's incredible what he actually owns. Take a look at Landau showing off just a fraction of his collection in this CBS video from 2001:

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That's a huge collection! And this recent arrest unfortunately calls its history into question.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation is getting involved too. As of now, authorities haven't decided whether to categorize the alleged crime under state or federal law, a bureau spokesman in Baltimore explained in this New York Times article. The case gets a little hazy because of its scale and the nature of the allegedly stolen materials.

Here's the back story:

Landau's suspicious actions at the Maryland Historical Society on Saturday morning caught the attention of a society employee who called authorities after he saw Landau's accomplice conceal a document in a portfolio and walk it out of the library. The New York Times reports police later found a key in Landau's pocket which led them to a locker in a nearby building that contained 60 documents.

Among the documents were some signed by Abraham Lincoln, numerous inaugural ball invitations and programs worth about $500,000 and signed commemorations of the Statue of Liberty and the Washington Monument.

Landau is no stranger to Washington, these types of documents, or any holes in his personal stock. He's served nine presidents and worked with every White House since Lyndon Johnson to plan historic events. He's been a part of every Inaugural Committee since 1965.

He told CNN about working to cultivate and uphold President Ronald Reagan's image to the public saying:

"Ronald Reagan, a great patriot, was a natural flag-waving American, and First Lady Nancy Reagan, his most trusted aide, was always on hand to make certain that her husband was presented in the perfect picture with the flags properly positioned."

He's pictured here to the right of Nancy Reagan during former President Ronald Reagan's inaugural gala in 1985:

The courts denied Landau any bail. His attorney, Steven D. Silverman, called the denial unreasonable and filed for a bail review Wednesday.

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