LINCOLN, Abraham. A lock of hair from Lincoln's head, evidently obtained by Secretary of War Edwin Stanton for Mrs. Gideon Welles, wife of the Secretary of the Navy, displayed in an oval mourning wreath. [Washington, D.C., ca. 15 April 1865].
[With:] STANTON, Edwin M., Secretary of War. Autograph signature ("Edwin M. Stanton") and inscription ("For Mrs. Welles"), on the front of a small envelope (2¾ x 5 1/8 in.), with a pencil note in another hand : "Lock of Lincoln's hair. April 15, 1865. M.J.W."
The lock of Lincoln's hair measuring 1¾ in. in length, comprising approximately 100 strands, neatly tied with a white silk ribbon and mounted at the base of an OVAL MOURNING COMPOSITION: a wreath of dried leaves and flowers (some now defective or missing) mounted on thick card; in the center of the oval, written in an ornate calligraphic hand with scrolling penwork is the legend: "Sacred to the Memory of Abraham Lincoln 16th President of the United States Born, February 12th 1809 Died, April 15th"; glazed within two concentric brass frames (the inner 4¾ x 3¾ in., the outer 7 x 6 in.); verso with label (of the framer?) Rintoule and Rockwood, Photographers, New York.
A LOCK OF HAIR FROM LINCOLN'S HEAD, OBTAINED BY STANTON FOR MRS. GIDEON WELLES, WITH FLOWERS FROM LINCOLN'S COFFIN PRESENTED BY THE PRESIDENT'S WIDOW
A lock of hair with an intriguing provenance linking it to several key members of Lincoln's cabinet, in an attractive mourning display featuring dried flowers and leaves from Lincoln's coffin, according to a pencilled note on the verso of the original oval backing: "These flowers are from Lincoln's coffin and were presented to Mrs. Gideon Welles by Mary Lincoln. Alice B. Welles 1917..." While it is difficult to precisely date the mourning display created from the leaves and the lock of the murdered President's hair, the style of the calligraphy and the design itself strongly suggest that it was assembled not long after 1865, at a time when such Victorian funerary compositions were still an active practice.
Provenance: Apparently collected by Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton; Mrs. Gideon Welles, gift of the preceding; "Uncle Herbert Welles," ink signature on back or original mount; Alice B. Welles, 1917, pencil inscription on back of original mount.