Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Ida McKinley's diamond tiara is NOW ON DISPLAY!

The tiara as it appeared in its special spot for last night's "first viewing" party for our donors.
It's here!

Ida McKinley's diamond tiara went on view to the public this morning in its permanent home in the McKinley Gallery!  We are beyond excited to share this gorgeous artifact with our visitors.

Last night we had a wonderful "first viewing" party for all of our donors.  We had more than 200 people come to see it!  For the event it was displayed in the second floor lobby in a case we normally use in the Keller Gallery.  Before our guests arrived, the sun was shining on it, making it sparkle.  I tried to capture it in a video:

After the donor event, we stayed late to move it into its new home in the McKinley Gallery.  It is now on view in the first case on the left, when you enter from the north side of the gallery.

This morning before we opened we hosted a media event for local journalists to come get a peek at it.  Many of them had helped us spread the word about our fundraising efforts, so they were very much a part of our success.

Me speaking with M.L. Schultze from WKSU.

Director Joyce Yut and me posing in front of the case where there tiara is now on permanent display.

We can hardly believe it's finally here!  It was a wonderful community effort and we couldn't be more proud of the way everyone came together to make this happen.

The following information was supplied to the media in a Press Kit for this morning's event.  It contains information regarding the campaign, donation details, and a history of the tiara.

We hope you come see it in person soon!


The Backstory

Ida McKinley’s diamond tiara was passed down through the family of Ida’s sister Mary “Pina” Saxton Barber.  It was sold earlier this year on the television show “Pawn Stars.”  Curator Kim Kenney contacted Rick Harrison, co-owner of the Gold & Silver Pawn Shop in Las Vegas, and asked if it would be possible for the Museum to acquire the tiara.  Harrison had purchased the tiara with the intention of using it to raise money for the National Epilepsy Foundation, for which he is the national spokesperson.  Harrison felt a connection to Mrs. McKinley because they both suffered from epilepsy.  He agreed to sell it to the Museum for the price he paid for it -- $43,000.  He gave the Museum a deadline of three months to raise the money.  (March 24 – June 24, 2014)

As a private non-profit that is not part of the National Archives system of federally-funded presidential libraries, the Museum does not have an acquisitions budget.  The only way the Museum could raise that kind of money was through the generosity of our community.  We immediately began a fundraising campaign.

Our success would not have been possible if the tiara had not appeared on a national television program.  Its appearance on “Pawn Stars” raised its profile considerably, and the story became worthy of national media attention.


Once the story about the tiara went out on the AP wire, the campaign really took off.  We began receiving donations from around the country.  Many included a note wishing us good luck in reaching our goal, and some included a news clipping from their local paper.

We regularly posted updates on the Museum’s website, Facebook page, Pinterest account, and Kim Kenney’s blog Curator’s Corner.  Each time we reached $1000 in donations, we would fill in a diamond on our chart and post it.  We also colored in a larger version of the chart in our lobby.

Meeting the Goal

We reached our goal on June 5 at “An Evening of Civil War Music with Steve Ball.”  The last four guests to arrive at the door pushed us beyond our $43,000 goal by $18.95!  We were able to announce to a full crowd that we had raised enough money to bring the tiara home.  

Steve Ball is a well-known musician from Columbus who contacted us early in our campaign to offer his services at no charge to hold a concert as a fundraiser.  He heard about the tiara on the Museum’s Facebook page.
Donation Details

A total of 374 individuals and groups donated to the campaign.  The highest individual donation was $5000.  Two donors gave $2000, and nine donors gave $1000.  Most donations were between $25 and $100 each, and some donated $200-$500.  We also collected $600 at our Dollars for Diamonds event and $261 from a donation jar at the Admissions Window. “An Evening of Civil War Music with Steve Ball” raised $1475.

Donations came from 21 states outside of Ohio, including:  Iowa, Pennsylvania, Texas, Nevada, Montana, Florida, Tennessee, Georgia, California, Wisconsin, New York, West Virginia, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Jersey, Minnesota, Kansas, Utah, Virginia, Alaska, and Michigan, plus Washington DC.

Groups and organizations also donated, including cub scouts, local historical societies, a DAR chapter, a YMCA senior group, the Eastern Star, Ruritans, Robertsville Grange, school groups, and local chapters of archeological and genealogical societies.  The Ohio Pawnbrokers Association appealed to their membership, raising almost $2000.

The Museum kept detailed records of each donor.  In the event that we did not reach our goal by the deadline, our intention was to return 100% of the donations made to the Ida McKinley Tiara Fund.  Happily, we did not have to return anyone’s donation!


After raising the funds, the Museum sent a check to the Gold & Silver Pawn Shop.  The tiara was shipped to Canton from Las Vegas.  The Museum was not charged for shipping.  We believe Rick Harrison plans to donate the funds raised to purchase the tiara to the National Epilepsy Foundation, accomplishing his original goal to make a donation to that organization. 

The tiara will be on display in the McKinley Gallery beginning JULY 2.  It will be exhibited with the photo of Mrs. McKinley wearing it, as well as a history of how the Museum acquired it, which is now part of its provenance.  A complete list of donors will be included in the display.

The Tiara’s History and Design Details

The tiara was made by J. Dreicer & Son.  Its custom made case lists the company’s address as 292 Fifth Avenue in New York City.  They operated at that location from 1885 to 1906, which is during the timeframe when Ida would have purchased the tiara.

Although Dreicer is not as recognized today as Tiffany or Cartier, it was considered “among the finest jewelers in the world” from the late 19th century through the 1920s, according to Sotheby's.

The tiara has been evaluated locally by Fred Craig, who confirmed that it was of the correct age and quality consistent with what a First Lady would have selected.  It consists of approximately 200 diamonds, 100 on each wing.  There is a thin sheet of platinum between the gold base and the diamonds which was a common practice in jewelry design at the time.

The wings are detachable and can be worn separately as matching brooches.  Women would have worn them on their collar or lapel, or possibly on a fabric belt.  There is a small screw mechanism on the back of each wing which allows it to be attached to the pin base or the plain gold tiara band.
The band has a small circle at each end.  The tiara would have been fastened to the hair of the wearer through these small holes, or it would have been secured with a band across the back of the head. 
According to Craig, the tiara would have been among Mrs. McKinley’s finest jewels, to be worn at the most special of special occasions.

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