The moment everything changed. (Image: Currier & Ives, 1865, on Wikipedia)
With April 14, 2015 marking the 150th anniversary of the audacious Lincoln assassination, museums across the country are taking the opportunity to exhibit their artifacts from that dark night in new and novel ways. Here’s where to find the remnants of a traumatic evening at Ford’s Theatre:
The deadly Derringer. (Photo: Tim Evanson on Flickr)
1. FORD’S THEATRE MUSEUM
Located at the site of the assassination, this museum is the jackpot for Lincoln relic hunters. Silent Witnesses: Artifacts of the Lincoln Assassination is the current exhibition at the museum’s Center for Education and Leadership. Items on display include the Derringer pistol John Wilkes Booth used to fire his lethal shot; the top hat the president wore to the theatre; the black velvet coat Mary Todd Lincoln wore to accompany him; the bloodied sleeve that actress Laura Keene wore as she cradled the president’s wounded head; and a playbill for Our American Cousin, the show interrupted by Booth’s shocking behavior.
2. NATIONAL MUSEUM OF HEALTH AND MEDICINE
Silver Spring, Maryland
The slug pulled from the President’s head during his autopsy is encased in a tiny glass orb at this institution. Also on display are fragments of Lincoln’s skull, the probe used to locate and retrieve the embedded bullet, and the blood-stained shirt cuffs of Dr. Edward Curtis, the assistant surgeon who performed the autopsy.
Lincoln’s last ride. (Photo: Derek Jensen on Wikipedia)
3. STUDEBAKER NATIONAL MUSEUM
South Bend, Indiana
Amid the old-timey automobiles at this museum is an even old-timier conveyance: the carriage that Lincoln rode in to get to Ford’s Theatre on what would end up being the last night of his life. The Lincoln carriage is currently on loan to the National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C., but returns to its home at the Studebaker museum in June, where it will be the centerpiece of an exhibit entitled Lincoln’s Final Journey: A Nation Mourns.
The president’s death bed. Too short for Lincoln, but that was the least of his worries. (Photo: Kevin Burkett on Flickr)
4. ABRAHAM LINCOLN PRESIDENTIAL MUSEUM
In the aftermath of the shooting, Lincoln was too weak to be transported by carriage over cobblestones. His attendees therefore gathered him up and took him across the street to Peterson House, where they laid him in a bed that was much too short for his six-foot-four frame. Lincoln therefore died diagonally. The bed on which he took his last breath is on display at this museum until February 2016, as part of the Undying Words exhibit focusing on Lincoln’s oratory prowess.
A rocker forever tarnished. (Photo: Shannon on Flickr)
5. HENRY FORD MUSEUM
The comfy rocking chair Lincoln sat in at Ford’s Theatre is now at this museum. Its plush but tattered red upholstery makes for a poignant sight, but don’t go thinking the stains at head-level are presidential blood. Museum workers recently told the Associated Press that the marks are oil from the hair of those who sat in the chair before Lincoln.
If you think you may gain an insight into John Wilkes Booth’s murderous ways by examining teeny bits of him, head to the Mutter Museum. There you will find a chunk of vertebrae swiped from the body of the assassin during his autopsy.