A piece of history from the 19th century has been on display at a local business this week.
Crumpler-Honeycutt Funeral Home placed a replica of the custom coffin built for President Abraham Lincoln’s in the chapel as part of a way to bring history to Clinton. This coffin is one of five replicas made 10 years ago by Batesville Casket Company of Indiana.
According to Kenneth Buffkin, one of the funeral directors at the local funeral home, the coffin was built based on the only known surviving 1865 photograph of the one President Lincoln was buried. Four of the five coffin replicas travel across the nation for display at funeral homes and the fifth remains as part of the permanent collection at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield, Ill.
“I have never seen anything like this in Clinton,” Buffkin said. “We thought it was something that would be interesting to the residents of Clinton and a way to bring history to life.”
The most elaborate for its time, Lincoln’s coffin was constructed of solid walnut, and lined with lead and completely covered in expensive black cloth. According to Buffkin, coffins were custom made during the 1800s, therefore Lincoln’s coffin measured 6 feet 6 inches and was decorated with sterling silver handles and sterling silver studs extending the entire length on its sides.
“The coffin may appear simple compared to the caskets used today, but it was custom made for the president,” Buffkin said. “They used coffins in the 1800s and we use caskets today. The difference is the number of sides.”
More than 100 people came through Crumpler-Honeycutt during the three days the coffin was on display. Buffkin said he made the request about three months ago for the coffin to be housed in the local funeral home for a few days. While Buffkin’s request was granted quickly, he said it does take up to a year to get the replica in some funeral homes.
The original coffin featured a removable two-part top and a lead lining. This replica does not contain lead. Coffins are six sided and shaped like a diamond and caskets are four sided and shaped like a rectangle.
Lincoln was killed April 1865 by John Wilkes Booth, who shot him while the president attended a performance at Ford’s Theater in Washington, D.C. The first public viewing of Lincoln was held April 18 in the White House and a funeral followed the next day. The coffin was transported to the Capital for another public viewing.
Buried in Springfield, Ill., a gang of people tried to break into the tomb and steal Lincoln’s body, but were foiled by lawmen. In 1900, Lincoln’s son, Robert, decided that a new burial chamber was needed for his father in hopes of keeping anyone else from attempting to steal his father’s body.
Lincoln’s body was permanently buried in 1901 and placed in a cage 10 fee deep and encased in 4,000 pounds of concrete.
It is estimated that one million people viewed Lincoln’s body from the time of his death until his burial in Springfield. Lincoln had the distinction of having the largest funeral throughout the world until President John F. Kennedy’s death in 1963.
Reach Kristy D. Carter at 910-592-8137, ext. 2588. Follow us on Twitter at @SampsonInd. Like us on Facebook.