Barry H. Landau (born c. 1948) is a noted thief of presidential artifacts, collector of presidential artifacts, author, and "self-styled 'America's Presidential Historian'". In July 2011, Landau's associate, 24-year-old Jason Savedoff, was seen taking a document out of a library. After investigation and searches, he and Savedoff were "charged with stealing valuable historical documents from the Maryland Historical Society and conspiring to steal documents from other archives." After pleading guilty, Landau was sentenced to seven years imprisonment in June 2012.
Landau stated his interest in the presidency began at the age of 10, when his mother took him to see then President Dwight D. Eisenhower; he claimed to have spoken with both the president and First Lady Mamie Eisenhower at that time. The Wall Street Journal, however, reported that he wrote a letter to the president and received a card in reply.
He worked as a press agent in New York in the 1970s and 1980s. He also claimed "he was a protocol officer under President Gerald R. Ford and that he once traveled to Moscow with President Richard M. Nixon", though the presidential libraries can find no supporting evidence.
He amassed such a large collection of presidential memorabilia that, in 2005, Larry Bird, a curator of the National Museum of American History, stated that he possessed "the most extensive collection of inaugural memorabilia outside the Smithsonian, the National Archives or the presidential libraries." Landau's collection was reported to consist of over one million presidential artifacts.
For the 2001 inauguration of George W. Bush, the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies turned to him for china plates for the inaugural luncheon.
In 2007, Landau wrote a book titled The President's Table and showed off some prized pieces of his collection on The Martha Stewart Show. He also served as a commentator on CNN and NBC's Today Show.
The staff of the Maryland Historical Society became suspicious of the behavior of frequent visitors Landau and 24-year-old Jason Savedoff, whom Landau had identified as his nephew, though they are not related. Landau "certainly was very personable; he had class. He knew how to conduct himself in a research library, but Savedoff, of whom little is known, was 'rough around the edges' and 'repeatedly asked naive questions,' he said".
On July 9, 2011, a staff member saw Savedoff take a document out of the society's library in Baltimore and police were called. They found sixty documents hidden in Savedoff's laptop case in a locker, several of them having been signed out by Landau. Multiple searches of Landau's West 57th Street apartment by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) turned up thousands more documents, 200 of which have been traced back to such institutions as Yale University, the University of Cambridge, the New York Public Library, and the Library of Congress. Other institutions robbed were the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, the University of Vermont, the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library Swarthmore College, the Smithsonian Institution, Columbia University, Vassar College. and the Connecticut Historical Society.
Papers on file in federal court in Maryland show that the FBI also recovered documents stolen from historical societies or museums in Connecticut and Vermont. In total, more than ten thousand items were taken. Their worth has been estimated as high as US$ 2.5 million.
Items stolen included letters by Marie Antoinette, Napoleon Bonaparte, Benjamin Franklin, John Hancock, Francis Scott Key, Karl Marx, Thomas Paine, Edgar Allan Poe and George Washington. Seven signed 'reading copies' of speeches by President Franklin D. Roosevelt (the actual copies of the speeches Roosevelt read from, including his handwritten edits and additions) were also taken. These included the reading copy of Roosevelt's inaugural address. Landau sold four of these speeches to a collector for $35,000. All were recovered.
Landau and Savedoff were jailed in Baltimore and indicted by a federal grand jury in late July 2011. Landau was released with GPS monitoring. Savedoff surrendered his American and Canadian passports, and was released on $250,000 bail.
Both defendants pleaded guilty, Savedoff in October 2011 and Landau in February 2012. On June 27, 2012, Landau was sentenced to seven years in prison. He also had to pay restitution of $46,525 to dealers who unwittingly purchased stolen documents from him.
Return of documents
The rightful owners of all the stolen documents recovered have been identified. As of May 2013[update], only twenty percent of the documents have been returned to them. The remainder should be returned in coming months.
- Hermann, Peter; Kilar, Steve; Bishop, Tricia (February 7, 2012). "Disgraced collector pleads guilty to stealing historical documents". The Baltimore Sun. Retrieved October 26, 2012.
- Timothy Dwyer (January 14, 2005). "Inaugural Treasure Hunter". Washington Post.
- "Barry H. Landau". HarperCollinsCanada. Retrieved December 4, 2011.
- Justin Jouvenal (July 26, 2011). "Barry Landau: As document-theft probe of historian grows, so do questions on who he is". Washington Post.
- Adam Clark Estes (July 13, 2011). "Barry H. Landau: Cupcake Enthusiast, Alleged Paper Purloiner". The Atlantic Wire.
- "Historian in theft plot seeks to sell off assets". CBS News. September 26, 2011. Retrieved December 4, 2011.
- Ellen Gamerman (September 30, 2011). "The Case of the Disappearing Documents". Wall Street Journal.
- "Presidential historian and collector 'attempted to steal historical worth over a million dollars'". Daily Mail. July 12, 2011.
- Landau, Barry H. (October 30, 2007). "The President's Table: Two Hundred Years of Dining and Diplomacy" (Hardcover). Harper. ISBN 978-0060899103. Retrieved July 15, 2013.
- "Presidential Memorabilia". marthastewart.com. November 2007. Retrieved December 4, 2011.
- Anderson, Jessica (May 27, 2013). "Stolen documents return to the Maryland Historical Society". The Baltimore Sun. p. 1. Retrieved July 15, 2013.
- Edmund H. Mahony (November 13, 2012). "Stolen Letters From George Washington, Napoleon, Coming Back To Connecticut". The Hartford Courant.
- Bishop, Tricia (June 27, 2012). "Thief of historic documents sentenced to prison". The Baltimore Sun. Retrieved July 15, 2013.
- "Barry Landau Sentenced to 7 Years for Thefts From National Archives, Other Institutions". National Archives. June 27, 2012. Retrieved June 28, 2012.
- Sarah Brumfield (February 7, 2012). "Barry Landau, Presidential Historian, Expected To Plead Guilty In Theft Case". The Huffington Post.
- "Documents stolen by collector returned to museums" thehistoryblog.com