Until recently, an elaborate secretary (i.e., a desk with drawers) built to honor a Union soldier, John Bingham, stood on display in the Wadsworth Atheneum in Hartford, Connecticut. A detail on the secretary’s front specified where Bingham had died—Antietam, Sept. 17, 1862—and a note from one of his descendants inside described how important it had been to the family.
But the museum had to remove it from display after it realized the desk was a fake, and an elaborate one at that (it includes a music box that plays “Yankee Doodle”). A woodworker named Harold Gordon has since taken responsibility for designing the piece of furniture and falsely linking it to Bingham, who was a real soldier during the Civil War.
Antique forgery is a common problem. But what makes Gordon’s case unusual is that he put so much time into crafting an authentic-seeming piece, says Linda Eaton, the director of collections and senior curator of textiles at the Winterthur Museum in Wilmington. “Most often,” she says, “you don’t find fakes for things that take a lot of time to make.”