Abraham Lincoln lock of hair and historically important telegram sold for $81,250 at auction

Art Daily
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The hair was removed during his postmortem examination, measuring approximately 2″ long.
The hair was removed during his postmortem examination, measuring approximately 2″ long.

BOSTON, MASS.- A thick lock of Abraham Lincoln’s hair and a historically significant telegram sold for $81,250, according to Boston-based RR Auction.

The hair was removed during his postmortem examination, measuring approximately 2″ long, and was presented to Dr. Lyman Beecher Todd, a cousin of Mary Todd Lincoln.

The hair is mounted to an official War Department manuscript telegram sent to Dr. Todd by George H. Kinnear, his assistant in the Post Office at Lexington, Kentucky, received in Washington at 11 PM on April 14, 1865.

Dr. Lyman Beecher Todd’s own account of the autopsy, now preserved in an 1895 manuscript held in the Ida Tarbell collection of Lincoln papers at Allegheny College in Meadville, PA, differs slightly from his son’s, noting that he clipped the lock himself: “When all was over, General Hardin entered, and handed me a pair of scissors, requesting me to cut a few locks of hair for Mrs. Lincoln. I carefully cut and delivered them to General Hardin, and then secured one for myself which I have preserved as a sacred relic.”

In his 1937 work Why was Lincoln Murdered?, Otto Eisenschiml suggests that Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton plotted to kill Lincoln due to their political and personal differences, and claims that he took steps to disrupt military communications in Washington, thus allowing John Wilkes Booth to escape.

This telegram is of great historical significance, as it proves that military telegraph lines were up and running at 11 o’clock on the night of April 14. Edward Steers, Jr. cites this very telegram in refuting Eisenschmil’s theory in his book Blood on the Moon: The Assassination of Abraham Lincoln. This telegram and lock of hair was sold by Charles Hamilton through Hamilton Galleries in 1967.

“When you are dealing with samples of Lincoln’s hair, provenance is everything— and in this case, we know that this came from a family member who was at the President’s bedside,” said Bobby Livingston, Executive VP at RR Auction.

“Our annual Remarkable Rarities live sale typically generates a great deal of excitement— this year was no exception and we are thrilled at the results,” said Bobby Livingston, Executive VP at RR Auction.

Highlights from the sale include, but are not limited by:

• Albert Einstein vintage signed photograph considered one of the most famous photographs of the 20th Century sold for $75,000.

• Athens 1896 Olympic Bronze Winner’s Medal sold for $65,625.

• Edgar Allan Poe signed letter from 1864 sold for $62,500.

• Paul Cézanne signed letter with original sketches, written just three days before his death, sold for $59,375.

• Albert Einstein handwritten mathematical manuscript and typed letter to a fan sold for $38,125.

• “I Am A Man” poster made famous during the Memphis sanitation strike of 1968 sold for $12,500.

• Martin Luther King, Jr. signed photograph presented to Philadelphia’s first black deputy police commissioner sold for $11,250.

This year the Remarkable Rarities sale was hosted from RR Auction’s New Hampshire office. Online bidding began Friday, August 21, and was followed by a live sale on Saturday, September 12.

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