Monday, April 25, 2016

The Lincoln Bed

For many people, whether or not said people are fans of Abraham Lincoln, the term "the Lincoln Bed" refers to the bed that has taken up residence in what is now called The Lincoln Bedroom in The White House.  Two things one should know:

First, Lincoln never slept in the Lincoln Bed.  It is a rosewood bed nearly 8 feet long and 6 feet wide, with an enormous headboard and large footboard decorated with carved grapes, grapevines, and birds.  It was purchased by First Lady Mary Todd Lincoln during her extensive redecorating efforts around 1861.  It was originally put in the Prince of Wales Guest Room, which is now the First Families' Private Dining Room.  Young Willie Lincoln died in the White House at age 11 in the bed on February 20, 1862.  But Lincoln himself never used it.

And second, Abraham Lincoln never slept in the Lincoln Bedroom.  It is a room on the second floor of the Executive Mansion that Lincoln used as an office (it is the most often seen room in Steven Spielberg's Lincoln).

The Lincoln (Death) Bed
Chicago History Museum
With that said, the term "the Lincoln Bed" means something completely different to me: it is the bed in which Abraham Lincoln died on April 15, 1865 inside the Petersen House on 10th Street in NW Washington, DC.  If you visit The Petersen House, across from Ford's Theater, you will see a well-made replica of the bed in the back bedroom where Lincoln drew his last breath at 7:22AM.  But it's not the actual bed in which he died.  THAT bed is currently on display at The Chicago History Museum.

And I recently just stood and stared at it for a long time!

The bed is part of the museum's "Lincoln's Undying Words" exhibit.  I had seen the bed once before when it was on display at Chicago History Museum many years ago.  Back then, Kevin and I were still a new couple and we were visiting the Museum when we came across the bed.  The display at that time was fairly rudimentary and I could have easily reached out to touch the bed.  But Kevin was nervous about me trying it, so I didn't do it (I was still trying to make a good impression).  I totally blame him for that missed opportunity and I have carried a heavy grudge about it ever since.  I almost didn't marry him because of it.  And I am totally lying.

The Chicago History Museum (one of my faves in the city) is also in possession of the sheets and bloody pillowcases (they had to be changed every time Mary visited her husband's bedside so that she wouldn't freak out any further due to Lincoln's substantial blood loss).  Someday I will get to see those, I'm sure of it.