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Rose Mary
By Rosemary McKittrick
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Lock of Lincoln’s hair with orders assigning Townsend head of the Honor Guard, plus cloth that was part of shroud covering Lincoln’s body sold for $26,880. Photo courtesy of The Rail Splitter.
Abraham Lincoln awoke from a prophetic dream in 1864.

“There seemed to be a death-like stillness about me,” he said. “Then I heard subdued sobs, as if a number of people were weeping. I thought I left my bed and wandered downstairs…I kept on until I entered the East Room. There I met a sickening surprise.” In his dream Lincoln saw a corpse wrapped in funeral clothing and asked who it was. ‘The President,’ was the answer. ‘He was killed by an assassin!’ “Then came a loud burst of grief from the crowd, which awoke me…I slept no more that night,” Lincoln said.

After Lincoln’s assassination less than a year later, his wife Mary Todd Lincoln decided his final resting place should be Lincoln’s hometown in Springfield, Ill. His remains were placed on a black-shrouded train in Washington made up of eight coaches, six to carry invited mourners, one for the military honor guard, and one with the body.

During the 12-day, 1,700-mile trip from Washington, the train stopped for 10 services in cities along the way before it finally pulled into Springfield’s depot on May 3, 1865.

It was hot and muggy the following morning when the funeral procession lead by “Old Bob”, Lincoln’s horse labored to Oak Ridge Cemetery. After a final hymn, Lincoln’s casket was placed in the cemetery’s receiving vault.

“Now he belongs to the ages,” Edwin Stanton, Secretary of War, said.

Lincoln’s honor guard played an important role in maintaining order along the funeral procession. It turns out that an officer appointed to head Lincoln’s guards in Albany was a Col. Frederick Townsend. In the course of his duties, Townsend removed a lock of Lincoln’s hair as a relic.

That lock of hair along with orders assigning Townsend as head of the Honor Guard and biographical information related to Townsend, plus a piece of cloth that was part of the shroud covering Lincoln’s body sold at auction on Sept. 16 for $26,880. Rail Splitter’s Lincolniana and Civil War mail/telephone auction in New York City offered the items.

A lock of Lincoln’s hair may seem like a morbid keepsake. But, maybe your mother kept a lock of your hair. If so, it was something she held sacred.

Locks of hair from Lincoln, Beethoven, John F. Kennedy, Napoleon and John Lennon are not as unusual as you might think. For some collectors, it’s a powerful connection. The history is no different they say than the history of any historical relic. Theodore Roosevelt even wore a ring containing a lock of Lincoln’s hair to his inauguration.

In terms of legendary people and their hair, documentation is everything. Without a solid provenance, the value and importance is debatable. That’s why some collectors and dealers won’t get into this area of collecting.

Here are some other Lincoln highlights from the auction.


Lincoln miniature painting on ivory; French; late-19th century; 7 inches by 5 inches; $1,355.

Mourning badge; black silk ribbon; issued at the time of his assassination; pictures Lincoln; gold-stamped design inscribed “In Memorium” above an applied American flag; 3 inches by 8 1/2 inches; $1,805.

Honest Abe campaign ribbon; beardless portrait beneath an eagle flanked by two American flags; 1860; 2 1/2 inches by 7 inches; $2,464.

Autographed letter from Springfield; Lincoln gives his succinct opinion in a case regarding a disputed land title; “This is the whole story-The case can not be gained by much talking” signed, one-page; Aug. 17, 1850; $29,120.

Portrait flag; glazed cotton; Lincoln surrounded by 13 stars and printed Lincoln & Hamlin; 1860; 16 1/2 by 10 1/2 inches; $61,600.

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