Many people know that The Henry Ford has in its collection the rocking chair in which President Abraham Lincoln was sitting when he was assassinated. This chair is currently on display in Henry Ford Museum.
But our Lincoln-related collections encompass much more than this rocker. They include materials that relate to such topics as his two presidential campaigns, life before his Presidency, his efforts to preserve the Union during the Civil War, his assassination, the public mourning after his death, and the ways in which he has been remembered over time.
The 150th anniversary of President Lincoln’s assassination gave us the unique opportunity to assess, study and organize these collections into digital galleries we call “Expert Sets.” Links to these are included below, along with links to five essays written by curators that delve more deeply into some of these topics.
Nicholas H. Shepherd made the original daguerreotype for this image in Springfield, Illinois, shortly after Lincoln’s election to Congress in 1846. It is believed by many to be the earliest known image of Lincoln, who was 37 or 38 years old. At this time, Lincoln was a husband and father of two small boys and operated a successful law practice in Springfield.
This political cartoon for the 1860 presidential campaign depicts Abraham Lincoln, the fledgling Republican Party presidential candidate handily taking on two rival candidates while eating at the “Political Oyster House.” Lincoln faced three other presidential hopefuls in all during the 1860 presidential campaign. Northern Democrats turned to Stephen Douglas of Illinois, while Southern Democrats selected John C. Breckenridge of Kentucky. John Bell of Tennessee, was a third party choice.
Following the American Civil War, this print commemorated a crucial event and became popular for home and classroom display across the country. President Lincoln is shown in this hand-colored lithograph with a draft of the Emancipation Proclamation. Publicly announced by Lincoln in September 1862 to become law on January 1, 1863, it was the essential first legal step in eliminating slavery.
In 1864, incumbent President Lincoln and former Democrat Andrew Johnson ran on the National Union Party ticket—so named to attract War Democrats and Border State Unionists who would not vote Republican. After a gloomy summer of Union defeats and casualty lists, Lincoln’s re-election hopes seemed slim. But, finally, several Union victories gave him enough support to win the election.
Abraham Lincoln allowed two sculptors to make life masks of his face—first in 1860 and then in 1865. These life masks were reproduced and several sculptors used them as a basis for statues. Clark Mills made this cast of Lincoln’s face on February 11, 1865, sixty days before the President was assassinated. In 1867, Mills proposed using this life mask for a Lincoln memorial, but it was never made.
New York printmakers Currier and Ives were well known for producing inexpensive lithographic prints of landscapes, famous people, and scenes of everyday life. This was an affordable way for the middle classes to decorate their homes. This shocking scene of President Lincoln’s assassination was unusual for the firm and served to visually dramatize the event for a grieving nation.
This mourning badge was handmade from a small oval tintype portrait of President Lincoln. Set into a rope-twist brass frame, it is surrounded by a black crepe rosette and black and white ribbons. This would have been worn on clothing during the Spring of 1865 by the many American citizens who felt a strong bond with the martyred President.
President Lincoln's 1865 assassination produced an immediate outpouring of grief. His death linked him with the hundreds of thousands of Union soldiers who had sacrificed their lives during the Civil War. He also became a symbol of the ideal democratic American who, from humble beginnings, could make something of himself. The imagery on this memorial hooked rug reinforces this notion.
On February 12, 1909, virtually the entire nation turned out to honor Abraham Lincoln on the 100th anniversary of his birth. In city after city, Americans put aside their regional differences and sought national unity by venerating Lincoln as a “man of the people.” Postcards abounded as popular keepsakes, including this German-imported embossed example.
Check out these and many more of our Abraham Lincoln-related collections via the links below: