By ZEINAB NAJM
DEARBORN — Hundreds of visitors crowed the Henry Ford Museum for a chance to view one of the museum’s most prized artifacts up close.
Anticipation filled the air as visitors chatted while they awaited their turn to view the artifact.
On display was the rocking chair President Abraham Lincoln was assassinated in, but without its regular glass case.
The museum commemorated the 150 anniversary of Lincoln’s assassination with an open display for one day only on April 15.
Along with the chair, there were photos and a history lesson with facts displayed on large screens as visitors filled the Museum Plaza. A panel of experts from the museum held a discussion answering frequently asked questions about the Lincoln chair.
How did the chair end up at the museum? Is there really blood stains on the chair?
The line for the chair was wrapped around the museum filled with eager visitors. The rocking chair was sitting on an elevated circular stage surrounded by a gate, guards dressed in Civil War Union uniforms, and police officers.
Visitors were able to examine the chair closely and get a 360-degree view. They were able to look at the blood stains, hair grease stains and the original silk material.
Kerri Mendez was one of many in attendance, who brought her son to see the chair.
“He loves history and learning about new things about the past,” she said. “I think it’s great that the museum decided to do this. It’s a really cool idea.”
University of Michigan student Logan Hansen admitted he skipped class to make the trip to Dearborn to see the chair outside of its regular glass display case.
“I’m always reading about history and looking up historic dates,” he said. “Once I saw that today was the 150th anniversary I had to make the trip here to see the chair.”
The chair was at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, D.C., on April 14, 1865, for Lincoln to sit while he watched the play “Our American Cousin.” The president was shot by John Wilkes Booth during the performance and died the following day.
After the assassination, the chair was used as evidence during the investigation. It was than placed in storage at the Smithsonian in 1869.
Blanche Chapman Ford, the widow of theater manager Harry Clay Ford asked the Smithsonian in 1928 if she could have the chair.
A year later the chair was put on auction, selling for $2,400 to antique dealer Israel Sack who gifted it to auto pioneer Henry Ford.
Visitors also visited the museum to take advantage of the free museum admission. Greenfield Village opened for the season the same day.
Museum goers were able to tour the Logan County (Ill.) Courthouse, which is the building Lincoln practiced law during the 1840s.
Ford purchased the building in 1930 and brought it to Dearborn from Logan County.
(Zeinab Najm can be reached at [email protected].)