Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Was it a lock of hair of President Lincoln?

While I was working at the Institute for Civil War Studies at Carroll College, a visitor came to show me a small rectangle of glass with a lock of hair inside and tied with a red ribbon. On a card on the opposite side was the note: "A lock of Lincoln's Hair." The relic had been found in an old trunk left at a Milwaukee hotel the family had operated long ago. It was discovered after the fellow living there, Charles King, the famous author, died and trunk was left. A quick comparison showed the handwriting on the note was similar to that of Charles King. He was the son of General Rufus King of the Iron Brigade and served as his father's "aide" early in the war. He was one of four cadets appointed to the U.S. Military Academy by President Lincoln. (Another of the four was William Upham of the Second Wisconsin after he was severely wounded at First Bull Run.) I asked the visitor for just a few hairs from the lock, but was turned down with a smile. For the record, the hair was dark brown and very coarse. Was it the real hair of Abraham Lincoln? I like to think so, but we will never know for sure.

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