Saturday, April 13, 2013

Replica of Lincoln’s Coffin to be on Display at Library

On Monday, May 20, 2013 until Saturday, May 25, 2013, the Huntington Downtown Main Public Library will be host to the President Abraham Lincoln Coffin exhibit and is being sponsored by Henson & Kitchen Family Funeral Home of Huntington, WV. Fred H. Kitchen, Owner & Funeral Director, and Amber Kitchen, Owner & Family Care Coordinator, from Henson & Kitchen, have coordinated with the library to make the exhibit possible.

The coffin is one of five replicas made 10 years ago by the Batesville Casket Company of Indiana.  The coffin was built using the only known surviving 1865 photograph of the one in which President Lincoln is shown lying in state.  Four of the five coffin replicas travel the nation for display at funeral homes and the fifth remains as part of the permanent collection at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield, Illinois.

President Lincoln’s coffin was the most elaborate of that time.  His coffin was constructed of solid walnut, lined with lead and completely covered in expensive black cloth.  It was 6 feet, 6 inches long and was decorated with sterling silver handles and sterling silver studs extending the entire length of its sides.  Though the coffin appears austere compared to modern caskets, the original was custom made for the president and featured a removable two-part top and a lead lining.  The replica does not contain lead.  The distinction between a coffin and a casket is that a coffin has six sides (diamond shaped) and a casket has four sides.

The coffin played prominently in a plot by thieves to steal the president’s body.  In 1876, when a counterfeiting ring’s top engraver was imprisoned, his gang decided to break into the tomb and steal the body.  They planned to hold Lincoln for a ransom of $200,000 in gold and the freedom of the engraver.  As the coffin was being removed from the tomb, the plot was foiled when lawmen made their move.

In 1900, President Lincoln’s son, Robert, was afraid that more attempts to steal the President’s body would be made.   He decided that the new burial chamber was inadequate and plans were made to permanently protect the President from any future attempts to enter the grave.  It was during this time of construction that the coffin of President Lincoln was opened.  A select few had the opportunity to view the body of President Lincoln one last time.  The reasoning for this was to ensure that previous attempts to steal the body of the President were not successful.  It was determined that the body in the coffin was indeed that of the President.  His appearance had not changed much since that of his original burial in 1865.

On September 26, 1901, President Lincoln was then permanently buried.  The coffin was placed in a cage 10 feet deep and encased in 4,000 pounds of concrete.  At last, President Lincoln was at rest. 

It is estimated that one million people viewed President Lincoln’s body from the time of his death until his burial in Springfield, Illinois.  His coffin was the most elaborate of that time.  President Lincoln also had the distinction of having the largest funeral throughout the world, until President John F. Kennedy’s death in 1963.

The coffin will be on display during regular library hours of 9AM to 8:30 PM on Monday, Tuesday & Wednesday, 9AM to 6PM Thursday and Friday, 9AM to 5PM on Saturday and 1PM to 5PM on Sunday.  For more information, contact the library at 304-528-5739 or at Henson & Kitchen Family Funeral Home at 304-736-8986.

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