Kenneth W. Rendell

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Kenneth W. Rendell
Born 1943 (age 70–71)
Somerville, Massachusetts

Kenneth W. Rendell (born 1943) is an American dealer and expert in historical letters, manuscripts, and documents. He is president of Kenneth W. Rendell, Inc., in South Natick, Massachusetts, and the Kenneth W. Rendell Gallery in New York City. Rendell is also founder of the Museum of World War II in Natick, Massachusetts.

Forgery detection[edit]

Robert S. Gordon, the National Archivist of Canada, has stated in a review of Kenneth Rendell's book on the detection on forgeries that "Rendell is eminently qualified to deal with this subject. He has researched the field, written many articles, and presented numerous papers and lectures at meetings of professional groups. He developed sophisticated methodology and scientific techniques, and put them to practical use. Being a historian, manuscript dealer, and expert authenticator, he is continuously and actively detecting forgeries and unmasking their creators. Rendell's reputation is unrivalled on this continent."[1] His office in Massachusetts houses a reference library that is also unrivaled, as well the most sophisticated conservation and questioned documents laboratory in the field.

In 1983 Rendell was hired as a consultant by Newsweek and helped unmask the Hitler diaries, calling them "bad forgeries but a great hoax." He wrote the cover story, revealing them as forgeries. The hoax itself began two years earlier, when a reporter for the German magazine Der Stern got wind of the recovery of more than 50 diaries from a downed Nazi plane. They were purportedly in Hitler's hand. Rendell used forensic methods to analyze the handwriting, quickly concluding that the diaries were not particularly good fakes. At his trail, forger Konrad Kujau, a German dealer in military memorabilia openly admitted guilt and gladly signed Hitler "autographs" for those present.[2]

Rendell was caught up in the case of Mark Hofmann, who began by forging Mormonabilia and ended up by killing two people in Salt Lake City in an attempt to cover up his forgeries. Rendell examined one of the forgeries, the Salamander letter; he found that the ink, paper and postmark were all consistent with the period,[3] and he did not believe the letter was forged.[4]

A publicity brochure for The Diary of Jack the Ripper declared 7 October 1993 "the day the world's greatest murder mystery will be solved," and on hand were over 200,000 copies for advanced sales to fans of true-crime stories. This time, Kenneth Rendell was engaged by Time Warner to analyze the diary, which took more than 100 years to emerge even though the diary's author wrote, "I place this now in a place where it shall be found." In 1992, the Englishman Mike Barrett announced he had acquired the diary from a deceased friend and had deduced the identity of its author. In his analysis, Rendell was struck by the handwriting style, which seemed more 20th century than Victorian. Written in a genuine Victorian scrapbook, but with 20 pages at the front end torn out, it also gave the impression that the removed pages were used by the scrapbook's original owner. Rendell ruled the diary a fake, but the book was nevertheless released by the British publisher, with the diary's dubious authenticity noted on the dust jacket.[2]

Rendell has commented on the forged 'Black Diaries' of Sir. Roger Casement, the Irish rebel. In a survey of the Hitler Diaries, Mark Hofmann and other forgery cases, Kenneth W Rendell has stated that 'it can be an error to conclude from an examination of only a few factors that the writing is genuine or forged'. (26) It has reasonably been pointed out as well that a forensic document examiner with no official English or Irish connections would be in a better position to provide an objective analysis of Casement's diaries, and indeed the task is one which would appear to require the services of a team of specialists.[5]

Collection of Western Americana[edit]

Another of Rendell's interests is the American West, and in 2004–5 the Museum of Our National Heritage in Lexington, Massachusetts, mounted an exhibition of letters, diaries, artifacts and art from his collection, acquired over decades. The Grolier Club in New York City then displayed an abridged version of "The Western Pursuit of the American Dream," documenting "this national adventure through the actual words and artifacts of explorers, travelers, warriors, gold seekers, merchants, outlaws-dreamers all-who shaped the American frontier." The overview, which began with the Spanish in Mexico and ended with filmmakers in Hollywood, gave "a sense of the struggle to tame the gorgeous wilderness that stretched beyond the tidy civilizations of the East."[6] Among the highlights were letters of Davy Crockett and Wild Bill Hickok, Frank James's playing cards, and an extraordinarily rare first-edition map of Lewis and Clark's journey.[7]


  • With Weapons and Wits: Propaganda and Psychological Warfare in World War II. Privately published, 1992.
  • Forging History: The Detection of Fake Letters and Documents. University of Oklahoma Press, 1994.
  • History Comes to Life: Collecting Historical Letters and Documents. University of Oklahoma Press, 1995.
  • The Western Pursuit of the American Dream: Selections from the Collection of Kenneth W. Rendell. University of Oklahoma Press, 2004.
  • The World War II Collectors Vault. Whitman Publishing, 2009.

Rendell is also co-editor of two books:

  • Manuscript Society. Autographs and Manuscripts: A Collector's Manual. Charles Scribner's Sons, 1978.
  • Manuscript Society. Manuscripts: The First Twenty Years. Greenwood Press, 1984.


  1. ^ Gordon, Robert Stanley (May 1995). "Forging History—The Detection of Fake Letters and Documents" (PDF). Archivaria (Association of Canadian Archivists) (39): 160–2 pp. ISSN 0318-6954. 
  2. ^ a b "Famous Fakes". Nova: The Viking Deception. PBS. 2005-02-08. 
  3. ^ Steven Naifeh and Gregory White Smith, The Mormon Murders: A True Story of Forgery, Deceit, and Death (St. Martin's, 2005) 169-170.
  4. ^ Steven Naifeh and Gregory White Smith, The Mormon Murders: A True Story of Forgery, Deceit, and Death (St. Martin's, 2005) 338.
  5. ^ Kenneth W Rendell, Forging History: The Detection of Fake Letters and Documents, University of Oklahoma Press 1994, page iv.
  6. ^ Glueck, Grace (15 July 2005). "They Went West: Explorers, Traders, Miners, Thieves". The New York Times. 
  7. ^ "The Western Pursuit of the American Dream". The Grolier Club. 

External links[edit]