Monday, April 7, 2008

Pennsylvania Museum Displays Lincoln Assassination Relic

The main goal of this blog is to help educate people about the nation's 16th president, Abraham Lincoln. I never cease to be surprised by just how much additional knowledge I have personally gained about him since I started the blog back in November 2007. The learning continues. Just today, I stumbled upon the story of the "Abraham Lincoln Flag," which supposedly was used at Ford's Theater to cradle Lincoln's head after he was shot on April 14, 1865. I had never heard of this flag, which is on display at the obscure Pike County Historical Society in Millford, Pennsylvania. Here is the story behind the flag.

After the shooting, pandemonium reigned in the theater. Doctors rushed to Lincoln's side to tend his fatal injury, but there were also others present in the presidential box. One was Miss Laura Keene, the star of that night's play, "Our American Cousin." Keene cradled Lincoln's head in her lap for a few minutes in an attempt to at least provide him with some comfort. But then the doctors wanted Lincoln laid flat on the floor of the box so they could examine his wound. This is where the Lincoln Flag comes into the story.

It seems that a gentleman named Thomas Gourlay, an actor with the theater and a part-time stage manager reached over the presidential box, grabbed one of the American flags, and placed it under Lincoln's head. After Lincoln was moved to the Petersen House across the street, where he died the next morning at 7:22 a.m., Gourlay kept the flag until his death in the 1880's. He passed it on to his daughter, who in turn passed it on to her son, who finally donated it to the Pike County Historical Society in 1954.

The flag was basically unknown to the "outside" world until the 1960's when famous Lincoln scholar Edward Steers (author of "Blood On The Moon" among many other books about Lincoln) happened to stop at the museum and learned about the legend of the flag. He in turn wrote an article about it and the flag became famous, at least within the Lincoln community.

Scientific research done in 1996 seemingly confirmed the authenticity of the flag. The red dye is natural, not synthetic, for example. Synthetic dyes were not invented until the 20th century. The blood stain still visible on the flag is in a pattern of coming into contact with a bleeding human. If it had been forged, the forger most likely would've splattered blood on it.

The reader may click on the link in the opening paragraph of this posting to read more about the history of this flag. An additional article here talks about how interest in the flag is increasing with the approaching bicentennial of Lincoln's birth. The Lincoln Flag is still on display at the museum.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

i have studied abraham lincoln exclusively over 25 years. I have never heard or read any information regarding anyone in the box that evening holding Pres LINCOLN HEAD IN A FLAG. The Treasury Flags draping the box dissapeared for over 50 years until recovered in storage. I own the collar cut from his shirt so the attending physicians could examine him, found when the derringer was recovered later that night by accident. I own the inkwell which sat on his desk in the White House and given to Thomas Crook his bodyguard by the family after his murder. I also just looked at another museum with an Our American Cousin broadside indicating it was authentic. Also a reprint, the original did not mention that the Lincolns would be in attendance.

 
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