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Lot #3013
Abraham Lincoln Lock of Hair and 'Bloody' Assassination Telegram

Thick lock of Lincoln's hair, with historically significant blood-stained telegram

Estimate: $75000+
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Thick lock of Lincoln's hair, with historically significant blood-stained telegram

Thick lock of Abraham Lincoln's hair removed during his postmortem examination, measuring approximately 2″ long, presented to Dr. Lyman Beecher Todd, a cousin of Mary Todd Lincoln. The hair is mounted to an official War Department manuscript telegram sent to Dr. Todd by George H. Kinnear, his assistant in the Post Office at Lexington, Kentucky, received in Washington at 11 PM on April 14, 1865; a typed caption prepared by Dr. Todd's son reads, in part: "The above telegram…arrived in Washington a few minutes after Abraham Lincoln was shot. Next day, at the postmortem, when a lock of hair, clipped from near the President's left temple, was given to Dr. Todd—finding no other paper in his pocket—he wrapped the lock, stained with blood or brain fluid, in this telegram and hastily wrote on it in pencil: 'Hair of A. Lincoln.'"

The telegram is impressively matted and framed alongside a letter from Dr. Todd's son, James A. Todd, and images of Lincoln, Dr. Lyman Beecher Todd, and James A. Todd, to an overall size of 25 x 31. The letter from James A. Todd, dated February 12, 1945, in part: "My father, Dr. Lyman Beecher Todd, was a cousin of Mary Todd Lincoln. He became intimately acquainted with Abraham Lincoln during the years preceding the Civil War, when the Lincolns visited Lexington. When Lincoln became President in 1861, he appointed my father Post Master at Lexington, which position he occupied until 1869. At the time of President Lincoln's assassination, my father was in Washington visiting his kinsman, Col. Thomas M. Vincent, who was on the staff of the Adjutant General. Shortly after the shooting at Ford's Theatre, Secretary Stanton ordered Col. Vincent to take charge of the Peterson residence where Mr. Lincoln had been taken. My father went with Col. Vincent to the President's bedside and they remained there until his death next morning, except for a short interval when Col. Vincent and my father obtained a carriage and went for Rev. Dr. Gurley. Dr. Todd, following the President's death, accompanied his body to the White House, was present at the postmortem examination that afternoon, attended the funeral in the East Room of the Executive Mansion and also the interment ceremonies at Springfield, Illinois. The lock of Abraham Lincoln's hair, which I have presented to you for your collection of Lincolniana, was cut from his head and given to my father during the performance of the postmortem and has remained entirely in the custody of our family since that time."

Dr. Lyman Beecher Todd's own account of the autopsy, now preserved in an 1895 manuscript held in the Ida Tarbell collection of Lincoln papers at Allegheny College in Meadville, PA, differs slightly from his son's, noting that he clipped the lock himself: "When all was over, General Hardin entered, and handed me a pair of scissors, requesting me to cut a few locks of hair for Mrs. Lincoln. I carefully cut and delivered them to General Hardin, and then secured one for myself which I have preserved as a sacred relic." A photocopy of Dr. Todd's typed manuscript is included.

In his 1937 work Why was Lincoln Murdered?, Otto Eisenschiml suggests that Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton plotted to kill Lincoln due to their political and personal differences, and claims that he took steps to disrupt military communications in Washington, thus allowing John Wilkes Booth to escape. This telegram is of great historical significance, as it proves that military telegraph lines were up and running at 11 o'clock on the night of April 14th. Edward Steers, Jr. cites this very telegram in refuting Eisenschmil's theory in his book Blood on the Moon: The Assassination of Abraham Lincoln. This telegram and lock of hair was sold by Charles Hamilton through Hamilton Galleries in 1967, and it is depicted on page 81 of Hamilton's book Auction Madness. Boasting excellent provenance from Lincoln's family, this is a one-of-a-kind piece of history. In fine condition.

Auction Info

  • Auction Title: Remarkable Rarities
  • Dates: #592 - Ended September 11, 2020