Indiana State Library to Display Historic Lincoln Funeral Cortege Treasures

Guest post by Bethany Fiechter

To commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Lincoln Funeral Train in Indianapolis, the Indiana State Capitol will host an exhibition of treasures from the Indiana State Library, Rare Books and Manuscripts Division during April 2015. A framed piece of ivy from the original ceremony will be part of the display along with many other historical artifacts rarely seen by the public.

The Rare Books and Manuscripts Division houses over 3 million manuscripts, ranging from the early 15th century to present day. Among the collection’s strengths are Civil War-era letters and diaries, family papers, and the records of many political figures from the Hoosier state. The following items within this post are a small sample from the collection.

This Indiana centennial postcard was created by M. R. Hyman Publishers in Indianapolis. According to newspaper accounts, buildings were draped with black cloth and streets were maintained to the finest degree. As you can see in the image below, the lavish decoration to honor President Abraham Lincoln’s life and career were remarkable.

(Image: Indiana State Library, Rare Books and Manuscripts Division, Photograph Collection, Indiana State House Old Exterior)

As stated in the Indianapolis Daily Journal on Monday, May 1, 1865:

“Had the weather been favorable, there can be no doubt that the display in the State of Indiana and the Capitol would have been of the most gorgeous description…

…Every Indianian may feel that the honor of the State has been rather brightened than compromised by their reception of the remains of President Lincoln, and that the State where he passed some years of his youth, has rendered her full quota of honor to him as the Savior of his Country.”

The broadside, “Funeral Honors on Reception of the Remains of Abraham Lincoln, Late President of the United States” describes the reception of President Abraham Lincoln’s remains at the Union Depot around 7 o’clock a.m. by relatives, military escort and State authorities.

(Image: Indiana State Library, Rare Books and Manuscripts Division, Broadside Collection, Funeral Honors on Reception of the Remains of Abraham Lincoln, Late President of the United States)

The Indianapolis Daily Journal further illustrates the scene:

“The work of visiting the body, where it lay in state, was a difficult and vexatious one. Far down the west side of Washington street, reaching in fact to Illinois, the sidewalk was closely packed with people, jealously holding on, frequently through great personal discomfort, to every inch of distance gained. Falling in at the feet of the line we press ahead, jostled, jammed, tread upon, soaked with rain, and defiled with mud, until we reach the entrance.“

This beautiful sketch by Christian Schrader (1842-1920) illustrates President Abraham Lincoln lying in the Old State Capitol on April 30, 1865. Schrader is well-known for sketching Indianapolis street-by-street and block-by-block, accounting for over 170 buildings total. In this drawing, Schrader includes two gentlemen peering over the rotunda’s second floor to catch a glimpse of the late President.

(Image: Indiana State Library, Rare Books and Manuscripts Division, Christian Schrader Collection)

From the Indianapolis Daily Journal:

“The coffin was tenderly lifted from the hearse, carried through the arch, into the State House, and deposited on the catafalque, to await the pilgrimage of thousands of saddened hearts, who will, during the day, come to pay the last tribute of respect to the loved and lost.”

The “Programme of Funeral Ceremonies in Honor of Pres’t Lincoln” is dated Thursday, May 4, 1865. This ceremony coincided with the burial of Lincoln in Springfield, Illinois. Reverend O. A. Burgess and Reverend F. C. Holliday read scripture, addressing a large crowd in Indianapolis.

(Image: Indiana State Library, Rare Books and Manuscripts Division, Programme of Funeral Ceremonies in Honor of Pres’t Lincoln, Broadside Collection)

For more information about the collection, please contact the Indiana State Library, Rare Books and Manuscripts Division at (317) 232-3671 or “Ask-A-Librarian” at http://www.in.gov/library/ask.htm.