News Column

First lady's tiara goes on display at McKinley Museum in Canton

July 2, 2014

By Mary Beth Breckenridge, The Akron Beacon Journal



July 02--CANTON -- A bit of historically significant bling has come home to Canton.

A tiara that wended its way from a first lady to the TV series Pawn Stars is now on display at the McKinley Presidential Library & Museum.

The tiara, which originally graced the head of first lady Ida McKinley, was launched into the national spotlight when it turned up on the History Channel series in March. Series star Rick Harrison, who owns the Las Vegas pawn shop where the show is set, was shown buying the headpiece from relatives who had inherited it.

Museum Curator Kim Kenney immediately contacted Harrison, who offered to sell the tiara for the $43,000 he had paid for it -- if the museum could come up with the money by June 24. The museum scrambled to put together a fundraising campaign, took in donations from 22 states including Ohio and surpassed the goal at a June 5 benefit concert with $18.95 to spare.

The tiara arrived by FedEx a couple of weeks ago and was unveiled Tuesday evening at a party for donors, about 200 of whom lined up out the door to see it, Kenney said. Wednesday morning, it went on display to the general public in its original velvet box, contained in a special case within a larger display case for added security.

"I have not tried it on. I will not try it on," Kenney said with a smile. "That's a curatorial no-no."

Kenney said authenticating jewelry that belonged to first ladies is often difficult, so the tiara is especially valuable because the museum has proof of its provenance. The museum knew of the tiara's existence before the Pawn Stars episode and had borrowed it from the family a couple of times to display at events, she said.

The tiara was made by J. Dreicer & Son, an exclusive New York City jeweler in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. It's a platinum headband with two detachable diamond wings, which could be worn instead as brooches when attached to a pair of accompanying pin bases.

Bruce and Kathy Clapper were among the first visitors to ogle the tiara Wednesday morning. They were planning a visit to the museum anyway, they said, and were happy for a chance to view the jewelry piece they'd first seen by happenstance when they were watching Pawn Stars one evening.

"We were sitting there saying, 'Wouldn't it be neat if it was down here?' " Kathy Clapper recalled. "And now it is."

Kenney and the museum's director, Joyce Yut, were especially pleased at the grass-roots nature of the fundraising campaign, which in a smaller-scale way mimicked the effort to raise money for the McKinley Monument's construction in the early 1900s. Once news stories about the tiara effort spread across the country, checks started coming in, many for $25 and some for $10, Kenney said. Yut said some of the donors enclosed newspaper clippings.

"We knew people here would care a lot about it," Kenney said, "but for people in other states to care a lot about it was surprising."

At Tuesday's donor party, the sense of accomplishment was evident, Kenney said. "Everybody was saying, 'We did this. We got this back.' "

The museum and its visitors aren't the only ones who will benefit from the transaction. Kenney said Harrison, the Pawn Stars star, had bought the tiara with the intention of using it to raise money for the Epilepsy Foundation, an organization built around a disorder he shares with the late Ida McKinley. She said it's her understanding that Harrison intends to donate proceeds from its sale to the foundation.

The tiara is on permanent display in the museum's McKinley Gallery.

Mary Beth Breckenridge can be reached at 330-996-3756 or mbrecken@thebeaconjournal.com. You can also become a fan on Facebook at www.facebook.com/MBBreckABJ, follow her on Twitter @MBBreckABJ and read her blog at www.ohio.com/blogs/mary-beth.

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(c)2014 the Akron Beacon Journal (Akron, Ohio)

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Source: Akron Beacon Journal (OH)


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