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On April 14, 1865, President Abraham Lincoln was shot and mortally wounded by assassin John Wilkes Booth while sitting in a chair at Ford’s Theatre. This week, 150 years later, The Henry Ford is holding events to commemorate the fallen leader. As part of this effort, we’ve digitized a substantial amount of material from our Lincoln-related collections, going beyond the well-known chair and the Logan County Courthouse (where a young Lincoln practiced law).  One newly digitized item is this copy negative showing the presidential box at Ford’s Theatre the day after the assassination, but visit our collections website to browse all our curators’ selections.  The topically arranged sets cover the Logan County Courthouse, the Lincolns in Springfield, preserving the Union, the Lincolns in the White House, Lincoln’s 1864 reelection, the assassination, the Lincoln rocker, mourning the slain president, remembrances of Lincoln, Lincoln portraits, and Henry Ford’s interest in Lincoln.

Ellice Engdahl is Digital Collections & Content Manager at The Henry Ford.

20th century, 19th century, presidents, digital collections, by Ellice Engdahl, Abraham Lincoln

Portrait of Abraham Lincoln, by Alexander Gardner, November 8, 1863. THF 99129

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. Continue Reading

Washington DC, Illinois, presidents, Civil War, by Donna R. Braden, Abraham Lincoln, 20th century, 19th century


If you watched Episode 10 of The Henry Ford’s Innovation Nation, you may have learned a bit about the Logan County Courthouse, where a young Abraham Lincoln practiced law. Though the building now resides in Greenfield Village, we’ve just digitized about 70 images of the interior and exterior of the Courthouse on its original site, as well as related people, including this group posed outside the building. Visit our collections website to see all our digitized collections related to the Logan County Courthouse.

Ellice Engdahl is Digital Collections & Content Manager at The Henry Ford.

digital collections, Logan County Courthouse, Abraham Lincoln, Greenfield Village buildings, Greenfield Village, by Ellice Engdahl, The Henry Ford's Innovation Nation


On this week’s episode of The Henry Ford’s Innovation Nation you’ll learn about Abraham Lincoln. Want to learn even more? Take a look below.


Abraham Lincoln Flickr Set


John and Barney Litogot: Henry Ford’s Uncles in the Civil War

Abraham Lincoln, presidents, The Henry Ford's Innovation Nation

Lithograph, "Mr. Lincoln, Residence and Horse As They Appeared On His Return from the Campaign with Senator Douglas," 1858. THF8178

It is fascinating to connect with objects that were a part of Abraham Lincoln’s world. The Henry Ford owns a number of furnishings from Abraham and Mary Lincoln’s home in Springfield, Illinois, where they lived before Lincoln was elected president.

The Lincoln furniture from their Springfield home tells us about the tastes of the Lincolns in the decades before Lincoln’s election to the presidency in 1860.  Stylistically, the furniture represents the middle-class, early Victorian aesthetic of the 1840s and early 1850s.  The Lincolns selected sturdy and comfortable, yet stylish furnishings for their home. Continue Reading

Illinois, presidents, home life, furnishings, decorative arts, by Charles Sable, Abraham Lincoln, 19th century


Abraham Lincoln as President

At the time of his assassination in April 1865, Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865) was considered by a majority of northerners as a competent president. Yet, this was not always the case. Lincoln was elected president at a critical time when the nation was at a breaking point over issues of states’ rights and slavery. As a direct result of his election, eleven states left the Union before his inauguration in 1861, touching off the Civil War.

During much of his first term of office, Lincoln was viewed by many as lacking the skills necessary for the role of President of the United States. He was lampooned as unsophisticated and criticized for tolerating ineffective generals. Lincoln, however, was a skilled politician—wise, tenacious, and perceptive—and learned from his mistakes.

Abraham Lincoln was committed to preserving the Union. He believed that the United States was more than an ordinary nation—it was the testing ground for a unique form of democracy. Many, including Lincoln himself, described one of his greatest achievements as the Emancipation Proclamation of 1863, which shifted the goal of the war from a fight to preserve the Union to one of freeing the enslaved. With Lee’s surrender at Appomattox, Lincoln’s vision of an indivisible Union—and a more perfect one—was fulfilled. Continue Reading

Henry Ford, Civil War, Washington DC, 1860s, 19th century, decorative arts, presidents, furnishings, by Charles Sable, Abraham Lincoln

An early daguerreotype image of Abraham Lincoln originally taken by Nicholas H. Shepherd in Springfield, Illinois in 1846-1847. Early 20th-century print from a 19th-century copy negative. ID.00.1334.112

Take a look at images from The Henry Ford’s wonderful, eclectic collection of Lincoln-related photographs.  These images span the years from Lincoln’s career as an Illinois legislator during the 1840s to his tragic death in 1865.

The original daguerreotype of this image of Abraham Lincoln was taken by Nicholas H. Shepherd in Springfield, Illinois, shortly after Lincoln’s election in 1846 to the U.S. House of Representatives.  It is believed by many to be the earliest known image of Lincoln, who was 37 or 38 years old when it was taken.  At this time, Lincoln was a husband and father of two small boys, had a successful law practice in Springfield, and had just become a junior member of Congress.

Daguerreotypes like this one are one-of-a-kind photographs made on silver-coated copper plates.  In order to make photographic prints, copy negatives had to be made from the original daguerreotypes.  This photographic print was made in the early 20th century from a 19th-century copy negative.  In 1902, Frederick Hill Meserve, an early collector of photography, found glass negatives from Mathew Brady’s Washington, D.C., studio in a Hoboken, New Jersey warehouse.  Meserve carefully preserved the negatives and made the later photographic prints of the earlier images--including this photographic print in our collection. Continue Reading

Washington DC, Illinois, Civil War, 1860s, 1850s, 1840s, 19th century, presidents, photography, by Cynthia Read Miller, Abraham Lincoln

Earlier this week, we had the wonderful opportunity to host a most historic document: the Emancipation Proclamation.

Guests viewing EP - photo by Bob Brodbeck

This document, which was issued and signed by President Abraham Lincoln, formally proclaimed freedom for all slaves and invited black men to join the Union Army and Navy, resulting in the enlistment of approximately 200,000 freed slaves and free black people before the Civil War's end. (For more details on the document, and why it can only be displayed for 36 hours at a time, check out the National Archives' Prologue blog post on the Emancipation Proclamation's visit to our museum.)

As word spread about the document's visit, the excitement and anticipation began to build across the Metro Detroit area - and when it was all said and done, an astonishing 21,015 people streamed past this historic document at Henry Ford Museum in 36 hours.

Lines for EP - photo by Bob Brodbeck

Line to DCW exhibit - photo by Bob Brodbeck

Line under DC3 - photo by Bob Brodbeck

Just before the Emancipation Proclamation was made available for public viewing, our opening ceremony welcomed visitors and set the stage for this exciting event with remarks by our chairman of the board, Evan Weiner; our president, Patricia Mooradian; and U.S. Court of Appeals Judge Damon Keith, whose maternal and paternal grandparents were slaves.

Evan Weiner speaking - photo by Bob Brodbeck

Patricia Mooradian speaking - photo by Bob Brodbeck

Judge Damon Keith speaking - photo by Bob Brodbeck

Afterwards, groups like the Mosaic Youth Theatre of Detroit performed both solemn and rousing gospel songs for the rapidly-growing crowd.

Mosaic Youth Theatre of Detroit - photo by Bob Brodbeck

The wait to see this historic document was long at times - up to eight hours - but most guests remained in high spirits, enjoying the performances on the stage near the exhibit, participating in hands-on activities like "enlisting" in the Army or taking breaks to check out artifacts throughout the museum, which was also completely open and free of charge during this timeframe.

Guests looking at Reagan car during EP line wait - photo by Bob Brodbeck

Choir performance for EP - photo by Bob Brodbeck

Enlisting in the Army - photo by Bob Brodbeck

And an honor guard - comprised of the Headquarters Guard, 5th U.S. Colored Troops, Company C and 102nd U.S. Colored Troops - stood at rapt attention near the document at all times.

Honor guard - photo by Bob Brodbeck

Once again, we wish to send a huge thank you to everyone who turned out to see this important part of American history. We were truly honored to be able to host the Emancipation Proclamation, and humbled to see the response by our fellow Metro Detroiters. This was an experience we'll never forget, and we hope you won't, either!

Civil War, presidents, Abraham Lincoln, events, Henry Ford Museum, African American history