Thursday, April 23, 2015

150th Anniversary - Abraham Lincoln Funeral Train

Note: A version of this post originally appeared in June 2011 as one of a multi-part series on my visit to the National Museum of Funeral History in Houston, TX - it has been updated with a few additional photographs, some new links, and a book review.

"With the waiting depot, the arriving coffin,
and the sombre faces,
With dirges through the night,
with the thousand voices rising strong and solemn;"

- Walt Whitman, "When Lilacs Last in the Door-yard Bloom'd"

This week marks the 150th anniversary of the "Lincoln Funeral Train" - a journey from Washington, DC, to Springfield, IL, that stretched from April 21, 1865 to May 3, 1865.

Many towns along the original route are holding commemorations.

In 2011, I had the great privilege of visiting the National Museum of Funeral History in Houston, TX.

The museum has one of only three scale replicas of the Lincoln Funeral Train crafted by Dr. Wayne Wesolowski. You can learn about his funeral train replica project at "Abraham Lincoln Online" here and by reading his booklet, The Lincoln Train is Coming, which describes Lincoln's funeral arrangements and the trip from Washington to Springfield.

Photos of the scale model and period photos are below.

 In addition to Dr. Wesolowski's booklet, I recently added another related book to my collection: Lincoln's Funeral Train: The Epic Journey from Washington to Springfield (2014) by Robert M. Reed.

My review is below:

4 stars

This book is a really nice addition to my collection of Lincoln-related books, esp. those concerning his assassination and its aftermath. Very good production quality - loads of period photographs and engravings and interesting artifacts or ephemera, all very well re-produced on paper - lively, interesting, and well-documented narrative of the train's journey from beginning in Washington, DC, to its end in Springfield, IL. Will be of great interest to history enthusiasts and others in some of the major cities along the route which are well-documented in this book through newspaper or first-hand accounts. Really quite amazing that a nearly 2,000 mile journey with dozens and dozens of stops - major and minor - was able to stay on schedule. A few minor criticisms, but they do not detract from the overall quality of the book: a) could have used a better editor or proofreader's hand - there are some misspellings, grammar issues, etc., throughout; b) some of the photos or documents featured in the book are at best tangential to the funeral train; others have absolutely no place in the book; c) some of the featured items from auction houses such as Skinner include appraised values - found this disconcerting and wondered if the book was written to appeal to collectors of Lincolnia more than the average reader. All said, a really interesting and well-illustrated volume - a good companion for the 150th anniversary of this tragic event.

1 comment:

Mark said...

It's pretty amazing how much international press his funeral got as well, with people following its progress all over the world.