The Newest Addition to our Collection
Believe It or Not!, Ripley’s is now the owner of a thick, two-inch tuft of hair clipped postmortem from the head of President Abraham Lincoln.
This historic item was purchased Saturday, September 12, 2020, at auction for more than $81,000. The buyer has been reported as anonymous… until now.
Now, Ripley’s is no stranger to presidential hair. Within our collection, we also have locks from leaders like George Washington and Ronald Reagan, plus the King of Rock himself, Elvis Presley. We even own two pieces of jewelry featuring log cabins crafted out of Abraham Lincoln’s hair.
So, if we already have some of Lincoln’s locks, why purchase these?
What Makes These Tresses Special?
First, we know exactly when they were cut: April 15, 1865—the day after Lincoln was assassinated. They were taken during a postmortem examination and given to Dr. Lyman Beecher Todd, First Lady Mary Todd Lincoln’s cousin and friend to the President. With nowhere else to safely keep the lock of hair, Dr. Todd wrapped it in a telegram in his pocket.
“The provenance of this piece is what is extremely important to us. If it is in Ripley’s collection, you can guarantee it is authentic—although it may be hard to believe, that’s what makes it a Believe It or Not!,” said Kurtis Moellmann, Ripley’s Exhibit Coordinator. “In the coming weeks, we hope to uncover and share this acquisition’s story more.”
The telegram itself has survived all these years and is yet another fascinating feature of this exhibit. It was an official War Department message sent to Dr. Todd the night of the President’s death.
There is a conspiracy theory around Lincoln’s death which states that the telegram system was down the night of the tragedy, which allowed Booth to escape. However, this telegram sent to Dr. Todd at 11 p.m. that night debunks that myth.
With a pencil, Dr. Todd wrote “Hair of A. Lincoln” on the telegram, placed the blood-stained locks within, and folded it into his pocket for safekeeping.
Accompanying the lock and telegram is a letter from Dr. Todd’s son detailing the story of the hair and telegram. Since that fateful night, it has remained in the family until it was passed on to famed Lincolniana collector, William H. Townsend 80 years after President Lincoln’s death.
Soon, 155 years after Abraham Lincoln’s death, Ripley’s fans will be able to view this amazingly preserved piece of history for themselves. In the meantime, history buffs and fans of the unusual alike can virtually peruse our Warehouse via the Ripley’s Rarities video series.
Could DNA be extracted from this hair for genealogical purposes?