Ohio museum buys McKinley tiara from pawn shop

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CANTON -- A tiara that once belonged to President William McKinley's wife has gone on display at the McKinley Presidential Library and Museum in northeast Ohio after a hurried fundraising campaign to buy it from a Las Vegas pawn shop.

Relatives who had inherited Ida McKinley's diamond-accented headpiece sold it to the pawn shop featured in the History Channel show "Pawn Stars." When Gold & Silver Pawn co-owner Rick Harrison offered to sell the piece to the Canton museum for $43,000 -- the amount he paid for it -- the museum quickly scrambled to raise the money with the help of donors in 22 states, including Ohio.

About 200 donors lined up out the door to see the headpiece when it was unveiled at a special party this week, curator Kim Kenney told the Akron Beacon Journal.

"Everybody was saying, 'We did this. We got this back,'" Kenney said.

She said it is usually difficult to authenticate jewelry that belonged to presidents' wives, making the tiara special because there is proof of its provenance. The museum had previously borrowed the tiara from the family for special events.

Now it is on public display in its original velvet box, within a special case for extra security.

"I have not tried it on. I will not try it on," Kenney said, smiling. "That's a curatorial no-no."

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