Saturday, December 08, 2007

Texas (Finally) Nixes Crockett Letter Purchase

The Crockett Contretemps is winding down, with news yesterday that the Texas Historical Commission has taken the long-awaited and inevitable step of announcing that it will not pay $550,000 for a letter purportedly (but clearly not) written by Davy Crockett before his death at the Alamo. The Houston Chronicle and Austin American-Statesman both have reports today on this latest update.

A report on the forensic analysis of the letter performed by Federal Forensic Associates, Inc. of Raleigh, NC was received by the THC yesterday, said spokeswoman Debbi Head, and upon receipt of that report the Commission decided it was best to return the letter to its seller (Ray Simpson III of Simpson Galleries in Houston). The full contents of the report have not yet been released, but will be made public next week, Head said. No handwriting analysis of the letter was done, although several experts reportedly offered to donate their services.

THC head John Nau defended how the Commission handled the Contretemps, saying "The contract was set up to provide the state time to determine whether or not we would go forward with the purchase. For the taxpayers and for the Texas archives, it unfolded the best way it could. It is a disappointment that it didn't turn out in a different fashion." Texas Governor Rick Perry also issued a statement yesterday afternoon: "Our hope and belief was this would prove to be a rare, historic acquisition for the state of Texas. Although that proved not to be the case, the Texas Historical Commission acted appropriately and followed the proper channels of due diligence after pursuing the potential purchase of the letter."

Bookseller Kevin Mac Donnell, who was one of the first to notice that the letter looked "off" told the American-Statesman that he's still not satisfied. "The way they handled it in providing information about the deal leaves a very bad smell. They owe the people of Texas some kind of answer. They were going to spend half a million dollars all in a hurry, they need to explain why."

Meanwhile, Ray Simpson III continues to have visions of dollar signs dancing in his head. "We are still hoping that it is the real deal. If not, we need to find out where it came from and exactly what it is," he told the Chronicle. He said that while he hadn't yet seen the report, Nau had told him "that it determined the letter's ink and paper match the period it is dated. 'If paper's right and the ink's right, then there has to be something else we don't know about it and why the state decided not to go through with the purchase.'"

Uh, yes, it's that the handwriting, grammar and penmanship are - obviously and entirely - not right. I'm glad Texas finally saw the handwriting (ahem, not Davy Crockett's) on the wall and put the kibosh on this deal.