Lincoln coffin replica in HowardTraveling display open to public today and Friday.
By: Anna Jauhola, The Daily Republic
HOWARD — Students received a hands-on history lesson Wednesday at Willoughby Funeral Home in Howard. They had the chance to see a replica of Abraham Lincoln’s coffin, which was quite elaborate for the time.
“The teachers are very excited,” said Elementary Principal Dr. Chris Noid. “When we asked if they wanted to take students, they said, ‘Absolutely we want to go over there.’ I think it’s a neat thing for the kids to experience.”
Terry Lee, funeral director at Willoughby Funeral Home, said the coffin is one of four that travel the country to be placed on display, typically at funeral homes. Lee said he had to make a request for the coffin to come to the funeral home. It will be on display for the public as well during an open house from 2 to 4 p.m. Friday.
Lee recently sold the funeral home to Ellsworth Funeral Home in Madison, but his facility will retain its name and Lee will continue as funeral director. The open house is a celebration of the new union.
Lee said anyone who can’t make it to the open house is welcome to call the funeral home ahead of time to view the coffin at another time today or Friday.
About 80 fourth-, fifth- and sixth-graders visited the funeral home to learn more about the first president to be assassinated, his history-changing decisions and his fascinating after-death story.
According to a brochure published by the Batesville Casket Company in Indiana, the company created five replica coffins 10 years ago, four of which now tour the country. The fifth coffin is on permanent display at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield, Ill. The design is based on the only known surviving photo of the coffin in which Lincoln lay in state. A copy of the photo is on display at Willoughby Funeral Home.
Lincoln was shot by John Wilkes Booth at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, D.C., on April 14, 1865. He died the following day. His coffin was designed to prevent any would-be grave robbers.
An estimated 1 million people viewed Lincoln’s body for 20 days as it was brought back to Illinois by train from the East Coast.
The coffin was made of solid walnut and lined with lead. It was covered with black cloth, had a satin inner lining and measured 6 feet, 6 inches long. It had sterling silver handles and studs. The replica does not contain lead.
There were plots to steal Lincoln’s body and multiple attempts to do so, the most famous of which was in 1876. An engraver working for a counterfeiting ring was imprisoned, and his gang tried to steal Lincoln’s body and hold it for ransom. The theft was foiled by lawmen.
Lincoln was so well preserved that when his coffin was opened in 1900 to ensure his body was never stolen, his appearance reportedly had not changed much since he died.
By 1901, Lincoln’s son, Robert, had a new burial chamber created for his father’s body to prevent further theft attempts. Lincoln and his coffin were placed in a cage 10 feet deep and encased in 4,000 pounds of concrete.