Abraham Lincoln’s Connecticut Connections revealed in Connecticut Historical Society exhibit

April 9, 2015 · Collections ·

A lock of hair, a bloody bandage, a Treasury Guard flag

“A house divided against itself cannot stand. I believe this government cannot endure, permanently half slave and half free. I do not expect the Union to be dissolved — I do not expect the house to fall — but I do expect it will cease to be divided. It will become all one thing or all the other.” ― Abraham Lincoln 

HARTFORD, Conn., April 9, 2015 – One hundred fifty years ago on April 14 — five days after Confederacy general Robert E. Lee’s surrender at Appomattox Court House, ending the Civil War — the unthinkable happened. A well-known actor and Confederacy supporter, John Wilkes Booth, entered Ford’s Theater and shot President Abraham Lincoln as he was enjoying the play “Our American Cousin”. Lincoln died the next day, on April 15, 1865. 

To commemorate the 150th anniversary of Lincoln’s life and death, and to give visitors a glimpse into the fascinating links between our 16th president and some of Connecticut’s prominent residents, the Connecticut Historical Society (CHS) has combined several rare and fascinating Lincoln relics from its collection into a new exhibit, Connecticut Mourns Lincoln, on display now until June 20 at its 1 Elizabeth Street, Hartford location.

The Treasury Guard Flag

Treasury Guard Flag- Philadelphia, 1864

The Connecticut Historical Society is caretaker of one of the Treasury Guard flags that decorated President Lincoln’s viewing box that fateful night at Ford’s Theater. In 1907 Treasury Department security chief Henry A. Cobaugh gave the flag to Civil War veteran, avid collector, designer and White House confidant Edgar S. Yergason of Hartford. Yergason’s son, Dr. Robert M. Yergason, gave the flag to CHS in 1922. Now stabilized and painstakingly repaired through advanced textile conservation techniques, this historic flag can be enjoyed and appreciated by everyone. 

While American flags are normally displayed with the canton in the upper left corner, this flag is mounted in reverse because the eagle image canton provides more information about the flag’s history.

Lincoln Assassination Artifacts

April 14, 1865 program Lincoln mementos such as locks of hair, pieces of clothing, memorial prints and photographs were collected and preserved by a grieving nation after the President’s death.

Visitors to the Connecticut Historical Society’s Connecticut Mourns Lincoln exhibit will get a look at a fragment of a bandage, reportedly stained with Lincoln’s blood, which was used on his head the night of his assassination. Someone living in Lincoln’s house reportedly gave the bandage to a surgeon, Dr. E.W. Kellogg, who was then stationed in Washington, D.C. Kellogg’s great-great-granddaughter, Mrs. Welsey E. Needham, gave the bandage to CHS in 1981.

The exhibit displays a framed letter and a lock of Abraham Lincoln’s hair, donated to CHS in 1947 by Elizabeth D. Welling. The letter, which mourns the president’s death, was written by John Blair Smith Todd, a relative of Mary Todd Lincoln, to Elizabeth Dixon, wife of Connecticut Senator James Dixon.

The exhibit also features

  • A cotton and silk buttonhole, said to be from the vest that Lincoln was wearing when he was assassinated.
  • The April 14, 1865 program for the play “Our American Cousin” from Ford’s Theater, which announces Lincoln’s presence that evening.
  • A lithograph titled Assassination of President Lincoln, Ford’s Theater, Washington DC, April 14, 1865, and
  • A lithograph titled Death of Abraham Lincoln. Both lithographs were donated to CHS in 1865 by E.B. & E.C. Kellogg of Hartford)

“While some of the items in Connecticut Mourns Lincoln may seem odd or distasteful to us today, to those mourning the brutal assassination of President Lincoln, these mementos were the 1860’s equivalent of the Facebook, Snapchat or Instagram photos we might share of lost loved ones’ possessions,” said CHS Executive Director Jody Blankenship. “We are honored by the Connecticut residents who chose to preserve these valuable reminders of Abraham Lincoln, who fought to preserve our nation and bring freedom to all.”

About the Connecticut Historical Society

Established in Hartford in 1825, the Connecticut Historical Society is the official state historical society of Connecticut and one of the oldest historical societies in the nation.

Located at 1 Elizabeth Street in Hartford, CHS houses a nonprofit museum, library, archive and education center that is open to the public. The CHS campus houses a research center containing over 3.5 million manuscripts, graphics, books, artifacts and other historical materials.

CHS programs and exhibits help Connecticut residents connect with each other, have conversations that shape our communities and make informed decisions based on our past and present.

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