EXCLUSIVE: New Rochelle’s Thomas Paine Museum Seized by New York State Attorney General and Board of Regents

Written By: Robert Cox

DSC_0331.jpgThe New York State Attorney General and the New York State Board of Regents have seized control of the Thomas Paine Museum in New Rochelle and given temporary custody of the museum’s holdings to the New York Historical Society, Talk of the Sound has learned. Calls to the Attorney General’s office seeking comment were not returned. The museum itself is locked up, the electricity appears to have been shut off and there is a “final notice” taped to the door by the water company. Through the window, empty boxes are strewn across the floor, beneath a bust of Thomas Paine (see below for photos).

Historian Kenneth Burchell, former board member of the Thomas Paine Museum and author of the forthcoming 6 volume set, Thomas Paine and America, 1776–1809 recently spoke with Talk of the Sound about the declining fortunes of the Paine Musuem and ongoing efforts to protect the remaining assets of the now defunct TPNHA.

Burchell spoke with Talk of the Sound about his conversation with the Attorney General’s office in Manhattan. According to Burchell, the New York State Attorney General’s office is contemplating criminal and civil charges in the matter. Key points from that conversation are published on Burchell’s blog:

1). [Former TPNHA President] Brian McCartin is removed from the museum property and he is no longer associated in any capacity with the museum or the association.

2). The TPNHA administration was judged not competent to administer the museum’s holdings and no longer administers the Thomas Paine Museum or its contents.

3). The museum and its contents are presently subject to the authority of the Office of the Attorney General of the State of New York and the Regents of the University of the State of New York. The New York Historical Society has been been given temporary custody of the holdings.

4). The holdings of the museum are the subject of a 510/511 petition (see attachment) which, in my limited understanding, means they are to be disbursed to an established and professionally competent museum and no longer held in the Paine Museum.

5). The disposition of the museum property itself (ie. the building and real estate) is undecided at this time, the administration and disposition of that property to be largely decided by the Regents or their designees.

6). The fate of the TPNHA is unclear at this time, since its historic charter of fiduciary trust of the museum no longer exists and the exact nature and composition of the association is itself in question.

7). The next stage of investigation could involve potential criminal or civil liability.

Most of the TPNHA Board resigned in 2001-2001 to protest the conduct of the other board members including McCartin who was originally hired as a janitor, later placed on the board and installed as President. McCartin was allowed to live with his family rent-free in an apartment above the Museum for years. In addition to running the museum, McCartin worked as a bartender and bouncer at a local bar.

A group of former board members filed a formal complaint with then-New York State Attorney General Elliott Spitzer in 2005 when it was learned that the TPNHA, under McCartin’s leadership, were selling off priceless artifacts and documents from the museum including a First Edition of Thomas Paine’s “Common Sense”.

In 2005, The New York Times reported:

The attorney general’s inquiry is rooted in the association’s June sale of several Paine writings, for $289,000, to William Reese, a widely respected private book dealer in New Haven. The most valuable item, which commanded $125,000, was a rare first-edition, first-issue copy of ”Common Sense,” inscribed by Henry Wisner, a New York delegate to the Continental Congress. Other items in the sale included seven further copies of ”Common Sense,” three volumes of essays in Paine’s wartime series ”The Crisis,” a poem, a legislative document signed by Paine and two letters.

99A20C20-D6E1-40FF-8AC9-4A65455FD7AD.jpgThe Thomas Paine National Historical Association (TPNHA) has been the administrative body of the museum from its founding in 1925. Inventor Thomas Alva Edison served as an officer of the museum at its inception and was on hand for the groundbreaking ceremony (pictured left) for the museum which was built to “house priceless documents and artifact from Paine’s life”, according to the TPNHA web site which is still online.

Burchell is a respected historian who has recently completed a six-volume set of Paine’s works. According to the publisher’s web site, Burchell’s work, “a six-volume facsimile edition, brings together rare texts from books, periodicals and newspaper contributions to unearth the contemporary American response to Thomas Paine. Responses to Common Sense, Rights of Man, Age of Reason and Letter to George Washington are included.




8 thoughts on “EXCLUSIVE: New Rochelle’s Thomas Paine Museum Seized by New York State Attorney General and Board of Regents”

  1. Thomas Paine Museum
    I am saddened to learn that the Thomas Paine Museum is in disrepair and short of funding. I cannot agree with one commentary that this is old history and not worthy of conserving. We are all very familiar with Mr. Paine’s efforts which were greatly important to the founding of our country’s founding and along with Mr Jefferson’s contributions is WORTH saving. LET TRUTH BE TOLD HERE!

    Mr. Paine’s great friend in our country’s great freedom has been attacked by various individuals, foundations, the media and some members of academia because he owned slaves, however he did NOT father a slave child as mentioned in various publications. I commend Mr. Ken Burchell on his 6 volume, “Thomas Paine and America.” These men are our founders and we should protect their truths.

    There is a new book just out that every American should read, “In Defense of Thomas Jefferson, The Sally Hemings Sex Scandal.” May I suggest two web pages that fully explain this DNA FIASCO of 1998. I speak from knowledge….I assisted Dr Foster, I founded The Thomas Jefferson Heritage Society, I am a Jefferson Family Historian and I am an American proud of maintaining an American history and NOT political correctness as practiced by those ramming historical revisionism dow our throats. The public has been “CONNED”……….read this book and find out how, why and WHO is doing it.

    Herb Barger

  2. If I am Andrew Cuomo
    I would consider opening a office in New Rochelle because he could have a full time staff working on the amount of Impropriety in the New Rochelle Government,School System, not for profit ect.
    Now if the little tyrant would just take off his Political Hat and start doing his job the residents of NY State might just get what they are paying for.

    1. What has the New Rochelle School…
      system done illegal? What has the government done illegal!

      1. Your reply?
        If you are a product of the New Rochelle School, your writing skills border on criminally bad, so perhaps they are speaking of that?

  3. Finally the state took control of this thing..
    We can’t afford to pay for it anymore. It has become a huge burden on the city taxpayers. Thankfully the state has taken it. This will allow our city to do so much more. We really need to stop living in the past anyway. Thanks for reporting this cox! Some of your stories carry some weight. Others are complete bs.

    1. …’living in the past’…?
      I hope you are not an official of this city. It’s called HISTORY not ‘living in the past anyway’.

      As one of our founding fathers, Paine and this city deserved better than this sad story.

      Quoted by John F. Kennedy: “History, after all, is the memory of a nation.”
      I guess our 35th president was just ‘living in the past’ when he said that.

      1. The past is our guide to freedom and sovereignty!
        We as citizens of hopefully the country of America need to understand that if we were more pro-active in preserving the memories of how we received freedom from Great Britain back then, we might have a greater appreciation of what little we have left.

        The majority of the people have placed responsibility on the back of the “State” aka, government, and therefore creating a need for socialism. Ask ANYONE that has moved here from a socialistic society how much they like America. They all tell me that there is nothing like it in the world.

        So, here we have all these state run institutions that provide jobs and security to tens of millions of people around the country. This strengthens “government” and its authority over our lives. How can anyone complain? Not too many people are doing anything to change this behavior.

        The original and very simple idea of America was to be Sovereign. In other words, every man and woman must take responsibility for their own life and affairs being careful not to infringe on the rights of the people to do the same. American Society has blown it! We have failed!

        Bailouts are the end result of greed and lies. Capitalism is about providing goods and services to people without being deceitful and dangerously criminal.

        Whatever happened to Proud American Ingenuity? We used to be known for our inventions and ability to really work hard for our profit. We went home at the end of a hard day of sweating and breaking our backs to support our families. We loved this country.

        Now we have all these people criticizing governments. Criticizing never makes things better. It only promotes laziness and apathy. That’s why people do not vote. They have been encouraged to “Give UP” and that is what many have done.

        So, now it is time for everyone in the country to take a number and join the system. Does that sound good to you? Remember the crash of 1929. I have been told about it for forty five years. I am now fifty four. I really feel like I have lived it.

        But, I am an Optimist and I shall never lose faith in the ability of our people to rise from the ashes and once again, do it right.

        Independence Day is upon us and I ask every person that reads my half brain comment to remember people like Thomas Paine and the power that we still have to create change in this country that can last a very long time.

        Three steps to freedom:

        1. Eat more vegetables, fruit, starches and beans.
        You must take care of your body. Be sovereign in all your thinking. Take INDEPENDENCE seriously. Be healthy, exercise and live a long, happy life.

        2. Get involved in all the political affairs in your town, county and state. Trim the budget where you can. Stop asking for something you can acquire yourself. Make sure your politically chosen employees are being responsible in the decisions they make of your behalf. Remember that government should be by the people for the people.

        3. Get to really know your neighbors and work on projects together to build a better community. If we had no big government, we would HAVE TO DO IT OURSELVES! Claim your INDEPENDENCE and make a life that can count for today and the future of your community. If every community were happy and very productive, this country would be incredible! I believe this with all my heart and mind.

        In closing, I recall the words of Thomas Paine.
        “My mind is my own church.”

        Patrick Henry was willing face the truth and hear the bad news. He was willing to find solutions and not complain about the problems.

        I, Art Konstantino choose to believe in the people of America. I choose to help deliver us from the bondage of apathy. We shall create a new America that earns its place in this new world.

        July 2, 2009


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