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Best Failed Caper

The Historical Society heist

Who should portray accused serial historic-document thief Barry H. Landau (“America’s Presidential Historian”) in the inevitable movie? One thinks of the late David Niven at his rakish best, or Michael Caine circa Dirty Rotten Scoundrels. Maybe throw in a sullen Brad Pitt as the “rough around the edges” sidekick, Jason Savedoff. The pair allegedly checked into the Maryland Historical Society on Monument Street and set about stealing precious documents in what’s now alleged to be their usual manner: Landau brought cupcakes for the staff. He allegedly had sport coats and overcoats made with big hidden pockets into which the papers could disappear while the younger Savedoff distracted curators. Baltimore’s Historical Society staff, perhaps more vigilant than those at Yale, the Smithsonian, and the many others Landau frequented in past decades, called the cops, who detained the men, searched their locker, and found 60 documents, including invitations to presidential inaugurations and papers signed by Abraham Lincoln. The two got to spend weeks in the city lockup before making bail. Investigations into the provenance of Landau’s vast collection continue. He and Savedoff have pleaded not guilty.

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