LOCKPORT – The Will County Historical Museum and Research Center recently announced the discovery of a collection of flowers that were lain on the funeral bier of President Abraham Lincoln in Washington, D.C., in 1865.
Will County Historical Museum and Research Center President Sandy Vasko was the one who found the box of flowers as she and some volunteers were going through some of their many items at the museum in December.
Volunteer Al Smuskiewicz said that the box must have been lying around for about 50 years. He said it used to be at the Joliet Public Library and then somehow ended up at the museum, which has received thousands of donated historical items from all over the county throughout the years.
“It’s fascinating how it’s been lying around for all these years and it’s never really been discovered by anybody at the historical society,” Smuskiewicz said.
Smuskiewicz said the flowers were clipped off by a general related to the president’s wife, Mary Todd Lincoln, and then changed hands multiple times before eventually finding its way into the possession of the wife of former Joliet Mayor James Elwood.
A note by the box gives a short description of its history:
“Among the James G. Elwood collection this small box was found to contain a dried flower and a note on the back is written:
‘Flowers from the bier of President Lincoln, while the remains were lying in state at the capital in Washington, D.C. April 20, 1865. Presented by General J.S. Todd to General I.M. Haynie, and by him presented of Mrs. Jas. G. Elwood (nee Pearce).’
Dr. James Cornelius, Lincoln curator at the Abraham Lincoln Museum in Springfield, has determined they are genuine.”
To celebrate the discovery, the center will hold an unveiling on Saturday, Feb. 17, at 4 p.m. with limited tickets going for $50 a person. After the presentation, participants will be treated to a buffet dinner, silent auction and a speaker from an expert on Lincoln.
The Will County Historical Museum and Research Center is located at 803 S. State St. in Lockport.