The final significant pieces of Lincoln memorabilia that we have displayed in the Lincoln Room are newspapers associated with the assassination, the funeral in New York City, and ultimately the final re-entombment in 1901 in Oak Ridge Cemetery in Springfield.
The story of the assassination in the first paper had been cut so the actual issue cannot be determined. It was probably a morning edition from April 15, 1865 since Lincoln died at 7:22 a.m. and this edition described him as mortally wounded but that he had not yet died.
The largest newspaper we have was a full April 15, 1865 issue of the Boston Daily Evening Traveller (yes, that is the spelling). The entire front page with the exception of the far left column is devoted to the story of the assassination and the attempted assassination of Secretary of State, William Seward. (The left column is an advertisement for Dr. Poland’s White Pine Compound which could cure gravel (kidney stones) and all sorts of kidney ailments.)
John Wilkes booth is mentioned in both papers as is the attack on Secretary Seward who was stabbed several times by an unknown assailant who attacked him at his home. Both papers described the vicious wounds and neither expected him to recover, although he did. The assailant was later identified as Lewis Powell. He was captured several days later at Mary Surratt’s boarding house and was executed on July 7, 1865 along with Mrs. Surratt, David Herold who was with Powell, and George Atzerodt, who was supposed to assassinate Vice-President Andrew Johnson but lost his nerve and fled.
Some of the news came in the form of dispatches released by Secretary of War, Edwin Stanton, who stepped up to take charge of the manhunt for Booth. Factually, there seems to be little exaggeration from what I read in the papers. The oft told true story of General Grant supposedly being the Lincoln’s guest is mentioned in the papers, also. One wonders what would have happened had he been present.
Another issue in our collection is the April 25, 1865 edition of the New York Daily News. The entire page gives a detailed description of the funeral that was held on April 25 in New York. The train arrived in new Jersey on the morning of April 24 and the coffin and hearse along with son, Willie’s coffin were transported across the river to the city. His body was taken to the rotunda of city hall where it was on display the rest of the 24th up to 2 pm on the 25th. Over a half million mourners waited to see him, but the line moved too slowly to allow all to see him. Hundreds of thousands lined the parade route for the funeral procession that took four hours and included over a hundred bands, 11,000 soldiers and approximately 75,000 other participants. The plans for that day’s funeral procession is painstakingly recorded in minute detail in the Daily News. The custom built ‘hearse’ (more of a pavilion on wheels) took 16 horses to pull it due to its large size. Following the procession, Lincoln and Willie were put back on the train for the trip to Albany, New York and the next funeral.
The final newspaper, which has been on display in the men’s room for over a decade, is the September 27, 1901 edition of the Chicago Daily News. The headline stated, “See Face of Lincoln” with subheadlines, “Casket of Great Emancipator opened for Last Time in Springfield” and “Is Against Son’s Wishes.” According to a Life Magazine article from February 1963, Lincoln’s casket was moved 17 times before finally being laid to rest on September 26, 1901 when after a lengthy rehabilitation of his tomb at Oak Ridge Cemetery. Most of the moves were due to some sort of repair to the tomb. Robert Lincoln, concerned following an 1876 attempt to break in and steal the red cedar coffin, determined that the final entombment would be 10 feet below the surface of the ground, placed in a white marble sarcophagus, and surrounded by 4000 pounds of poured concrete.
Lincoln’s casket was opened five times after his initial burial (my first blog relates that the casket was open for all of his funerals as it was carried from Washington to Springfield). This final time was not without some controversy as Robert Lincoln did not want it opened. But others prevailed, mainly due to rumors that Lincoln was not actually in his coffin. The coffin, lined with led, required two plumbers to chisel an oblong hole above where his face was. According to the Daily News, 18 people viewed the body and his features were in excellent condition with his signature beard and wart all easily recognizable. The Life article claimed that 23 people saw Lincoln. Only a bit of mildew on his face and clothing marred his features. J.C. Thompson, was quoted in the Life article, “Anyone who had ever seen his pictures would have known it was him. His features had not decayed. He looked like a statue of himself lying there.
The hole was resealed, and the final entombment took place. No pictures were taken, and the only verified surviving picture of Lincoln in his coffin was one taken while his body was at the rotunda at New York City Hall.
A few final pieces include an engraving by Thomas Chubbuck of Springfield, Massachusetts of “The Home of Lincoln”, that was included in the 1866 biography by Josiah Gilbert Holland, Holland’s Life of Lincoln, an undated postcard of Lincoln’s funeral train car that held the coffin, an 1869 certificate recognizing Ella (last name unreadable) for donating 50 cents to the construction of the Lincoln tomb at Oak Ridge, a reproduction of a Currier and Ives print of “The Death of Lincoln” and a reproduction of a letter Lincoln wrote to a young girl about his facial hair.
Part of the purpose of telling these stories is to let people know that they are welcome to view this collection, funeral ceremonies permitting, during normal business hours. If a current family is using the chapel for a visitation or service, we would hope you would be able to return at a more convenient time. Lincoln had quite a relationship with Quincy, Illinois, and we are only too happy to share a bit of memorabilia associated with this great President.