Curt Bench (owner of Benchmark Books in Salt Lake City) knew Mark Hofmann very well, having purchased many artifacts and documents from him. Hofmann’s most famous forgery was known as the White Salamander Letter. The letter threatened to re-write Mormon history and fooled many experts in Mormon history.
It was just such a different take on the traditional story as one could imagine, and so he [Mark Hofmann] had claimed to have gotten it back east, a letter that came into his hands through a compatriot of his when actually later we find out that Mark created the document. It kind of turned Mormon history on its head and then you have people squaring up on each side, the scholars that are trying to make sense of it and others saying there’s no way that could be true.
Mark didn’t just fool Mormon experts. He actually tried to sell something to the Library of Congress and many of those experts were fooled as well.
Oath of a Free Man which was the first printed item in America that he tried to sell to the Library of Congress for $1 million to $1 million and a half. He completely created that. He has the plates made for it. He printed it and altered letters and kind of rubbed them down so they looked old. He did all kinds of things and the Library of Congress was doing tests on it, and the American Antiquarian Society was another that looked very closely at buying that, and that was a huge deal when that failed to sell because Mark owed so many people money because of his schemes and a lot of it was over the McLellin Collection which nobody ever saw but there was a lot of talk about and a lot of money that changed hands over it. Because that failed to sell, The Oath of a Free Man, Mark was in a world of hurt financially and had to come up with money.
It’s amazing the number of experts Hofmann was able to fool. Don’t forget to check out Part 1 of our conversation. What do you think?