Friday, July 22, 2016

Interest In Lincoln Comes to A Head

(Sorry -- couldn't resist.)


A locket and matching brooch, picturing log cabin scenes formed of hairs taken from President Abraham Lincoln's head by one of his doctors, Sabin Taft...

            while Lincoln lay dying April 14, 1865, the night of his visit to Ford Theatre.

He actually died early the morning of the 15th. Question: why is the brass plate dated the 14th?
    Is that because Dr. Taft left before the President actually expired? (Taft was at the autopsy.)



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Makes you wonder about the backstory.


, This item is currently being reviewed by our catalogers and photographers. A written description will be available along with high resolution images soon.


Next mystery:  The Mt. Vernon Association mentions a Dr. Charles S. Taft, and calls him Lincoln's "attending surgeon." (Is 'S' for Sabin?)

    According to David Osborn, 

"The 30-year-old army surgeon attended the performance of “Our American Cousin” at Ford’s Theatre in Washington on April 14, 1865, because he wanted to see the President. The Civil War had ended days earlier in Union victory...people wanted to share the great moment with the commander-in-chief, and word spread around town that the President would be at the theatre that night.

       'All went on pleasantly until half past ten o’clock, when, during the second scene of the third act, the sharp report of a pistol rang through the house,' Taft wrote the next day. 'The report seemed to proceed from behind the scenes on the right of the stage, and behind the President’s box. While it startled everyone in the audience, it was evidently accepted by all as an introductory effect preceding some new situation in the play, several of which had been introduced in the earlier part of the performance. A moment afterward a hatless and white-faced man leaped from the front of the President’s box down, twelve feet, to the stage. As he jumped, one of the spurs on his riding boots caught in the folks of the flag draped over the front, and caused him to fall partly on his hands and knees as he struck the stage. Springing quickly to his feel with the suppleness of an athlete, he faced the audience for a moment as he brandished in his right hand a long knife, and shouted, “sic sempter tyrannis.” Then, with a rapid stage stride, he crossed the stage and disappeared from view.
     'I leaped from the top of the orchestra railing in front of me upon the stage, and, announcing myself as an army surgeon, was immediately lifted up to the President’s box by several gentlemen who had collected beneath.' "
     (Read Taft's diary account of Lincoln's last hours by clicking here.)

     "He helped to diagnose the wound, declared to be mortal, and assisted in carrying Mr. Lincoln to a back room in a boardinghouse across the street," says Osborn. "Through the long night and vigil, in a small room filled with cabinet officers, Lincoln’s wife and son, and physicians, Dr. Taft assisted with various, almost hopeless medical procedures. In a famous painting of the deathbed scene, Dr. Taft is shown holding the President’s head."

('Assistant Surgeon' Taft is mentioned in another doctor's recounting of that night, as well. This account, by Lincoln's 'family doctor,' includes Lincoln's postmortem.)

     Taft continued to practice medicine in the Army until 1876, and eventually moved to Mount Vernon, NY in 1899. He died there of throat cancer in December 1900.

I could find no mention of Harding, KY in Taft's biography. (Admittedly, it is brief.) But he must have clipped quite a chunk -- at least one other locket exists, housing a lock of Lincoln's hair said to have cut by Dr. Taft. (Memorial and mourning artifacts using hair were very common in the Victorian period.)

This jewelry is part of the items in a memorabilia auction, "Lincoln and His Times," that will be hosted by Heritage Auctions Sept. 17 in Dallas.   More on these items here, with additional updates added soon.  General auction info is here; consignments include posters, banners, photos...and a life mask of our 16th president. Wish I could be there in person.

An iconic photograph of a bearded Abraham Lincoln showing his head and shoulders.
Mr. Lincoln, courtesy of Wikipedia



, This item is currently being reviewed by our catalogers and photographers. A written description will be available along with high resolution images soon.

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