Lincoln's Deathbed in Art and Memory

Harold Holzer and Frank J. Williams

in The Lincoln Assassination

Published by Fordham University Press

Published in print June 2010 | ISBN: 9780823232260
Published online March 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780823240784 | DOI:

Series: The North's Civil War

Lincoln's Deathbed in Art and Memory

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This chapter explores the iconography of Lincoln's death. It shows how artists of the day portrayed—and routinely exaggerated—the scene inside the small boarding house bedroom to which the president was carried to die after he was shot across the street at Ford's Theatre. Anxious to know and remember precisely how their president had breathed his last, Americans eagerly purchased these interpretations, however wildly exaggerated. For artists depicting the scene, the death supplied a grand opportunity to memorialize a great historical event (and sell pictures). As one after another of them worked to include more and more bedside mourners, the death chamber expanded to host them—creating a phenomenon modern historians now describe as the “rubber room.” And thus the supposed grandeur of Lincoln's rather plain final surroundings became enshrined in American memory.

Keywords: Abraham Lincoln; assassination; rubber room; iconography; death chamber

Chapter.  8518 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: History of the Americas

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