Harold Gordon, Maker of Fake Civil War Secretary, Pleads Guilty

January 29th, 2019

Harold Gordon, 69, of Templeton, Massachusetts, waived his right to be indicted and pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Connecticut on January 29 to one count of wire fraud.

As first reported in Maine Antique Digest, Gordon was the maker of a fake Civil War secretary that was sold by folk art dealer Allan Katz at the 2015 Winter Antiques Show to the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art in Hartford, Connecticut.

According to court documents, in October 2012, Gordon began communicating by phone and e-mail with Katz to induce him to buy the secretary. 

Gordon falsely represented that the desk was decorated by members of Connecticut’s 16th Volunteer Infantry, honoring brothers John and Wells Bingham of East Haddam, Connecticut, who fought at Antietam in 1862.

Gordon told Katz that other than cleaning the vintage clock, he had done nothing else to refurbish or decorate the desk, and that he had purchased the desk from a descendant of the Bingham family.


Photo courtesy John Banks.

In early March 2014, Katz examined the secretary at Gordon’s Massachusetts residence. Katz purchased the desk from Gordon for $64,500.

After completing the sale to the Wadsworth Atheneum, Katz sent Gordon an additional payment of $25,000 because he had “made a significant profit from the sale.” The secretary was tagged $375,000 at the Winter Antiques Show, but the purchase price was lower than that, according to Katz.

In February 2018, Maine Antique Digest published a story, stating that “the decorated secretary is a complete forgery,” made by Gordon. 

On February 24, 2018, Gordon told M.A.D., “I did it. I made it. I did the provenance, the whole bit. Allan fell for it, and to be honest with you, I want to make him whole. It was not fair what I did. It was a terrible thing, but I did it for the money—I didn’t do it for the glory.”

“He [Katz] believed it, as did the vetting committee, and as far as the Wadsworth Atheneum, there was never a problem. I hoped it would pass on into eternity, but it didn’t. I regret I didn’t leave it in my living room where it was for many years.... I did every piece on that: the figures, the engraving. I did it all. I desperately needed the money.”

When Katz was made aware of the forgery, he made full restitution to the Wadsworth Atheneum and took possession of the secretary.

Gordon is scheduled for sentencing on April 23. He faces a maximum term of imprisonment of 20 years.

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