This Thursday, February 12th we commemorate the birth of our 16th US President, Abraham Lincoln. As one of America’s most respected presidents, Lincoln led the United States through its Civil War—its bloodiest war and its greatest moral, constitutional and political crisis. In doing so, he preserved the Union, abolished slavery, strengthened the federal government, and modernized the economy.
President Lincoln was assassinated early into his second term as president on April 14, 1865. While attending a performance of the play “Our American Cousin” at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, D.C., along with the First Lady, and head Union general Ulysses S. Grant, Lincoln was mortally shot in the back of the head by John Wilkes Booth, a well-known actor and a Confederate spy from Maryland. President Lincoln passed away after nine hours in a coma, at 7:22 AM on April 15, 1865. After a twelve-day manhunt, Booth was shot and killed by Union Army Sergeant Boston Corbett.
As part of its vast holdings related to American history, the McFarlin Library’s Department of Special Collections and University Archives has the privilege of holding two invaluable items related to that fateful day in 1865. One is a forgery of the broadside playbill for “Our American Cousin” on the night of Lincoln’s assassination printed a few days after the event. The genuine playbill did not mention Abraham Lincoln’s attendance, since it was only announced on the same day. This forgery was probably created in order to extort money from unwitting collectors.
Additionally, our department holds a piece of the wallpaper that adorned the walls of the balcony on which President Lincoln was assassinated. This artifact is framed along with a manuscript inscription that reads “A piece of paper hangings detached from the box in which our President was assassinated. F.L. President Lincoln.”
Our patrons may also enjoy looking at the texts from the James Alexander Veasey Library. This personal library contains numerous volumes on the history of President Lincoln, the Civil War, and President Ulysses S. Grant. One of the most interesting books found in this library is a 1868 first edition of the history of the United State Secret Service.
McFarlin Library’s Department of Special Collections and University Archives invites our students, faculty and general public to take a look at these pieces of American history.