Abraham Lincoln’s assassination shocked the nation and instantly transformed him into a national martyr. Mass demonstrations of grief and respect attested to how deeply many Americans mourned their fallen leader. However, martyrdom also inspired a desire for direct personal connection, as admirers and collectors sought personal objects of Lincoln’s. The most coveted “relics” were those associated with his assassination, or even parts of his actual body.
These are two such relics. They both reportedly came from William T. Clark, the tenant of the room in the Petersen House where Lincoln died. The swatch of fabric is from a piece of cloth that was wrapped around Lincoln’s head to absorb blood, some of which is still visible. The hair is Lincoln’s, immediately shaved from the area directly around the bullet wound to ease access. They are grisly reminders of Lincoln’s terrible fate and immense legacy.