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Thomas Lowry and the Ethics of Historical Research

Thomas Lowry and the Ethics of Historical Research

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Published by Warren Jason Street
An article about the historical forgery of Thomas P. Lowry.
An article about the historical forgery of Thomas P. Lowry.

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Categories:Types, Research, History
Published by: Warren Jason Street on Jan 25, 2011
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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 We should begin by puttingthis into perspective.Thomas P. Lowry is ahistorian who wasrecently caught by the National Archivesdoing somethingthat he shouldn't have done.It's a little more than a pieceof technical writing goneawry. It's a clumsy forgery , albeit, one that took a little too longto uncover.
In 1998, Mr. Lowry took an ink pen and changed the date on adocumentthat pardoned aUnion Army soldier for the crime of  desertion. Well, he did a little more than that. In order to comeup with a hook for a Civil War book that he now realized he could write, he changed the document to make it look like it was signedon the day of Lincoln's assassination, fundamentally altering thecontext of that day in American history .
Not only that, but Mr. Lowry went to the media with hisdiscovery. My question is, how did this glaringly obvious forgery slip past the archivists?
 As an example of forgery, it's clumsy. Holding up the documentreveals that.
There are also heat-imaging techniques that can spot forgeries. Idon't even know if you'd have to do that with this document,although the National Archives probably did so in order toensure that it wasn't going after Mr. Lowry for no good reason. Again, what took them so long? Why didn't anyone bother toinvestigate further when Mr. Lowry's book came out? Lincoln'slast day on Earth has probably been investigated anddocumented as much as any other significant day in Americanhistory. Why didn't someone cast a bit of doubt on this from the
 beginning? If there was some skeptical reaction, I cannot locatedan example of it.
In fact, there was this glowing (and rather less-than-skeptical)review fromthe Smithsonian Associates: I have captured the review as a full screen shot. These thingstend to disappear.
Look at how the review elevates Lowry and his wife (gee, was ither idea? Will he be a cad and roll over on his wife and blameher? I hope not) to the status of "professional" historians. Thereview implies that these amateurs went out and foundsomething wonderful. Well, so much for that. No amateurhistorian will be able to escape some measure of skepticism now.They "found" 543 original Lincoln notations or they "created"

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