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Sabato Donates Rare Lincoln Funeral Artifact to Center for Politics


On the 146th anniversary of the funeral of President Abraham Lincoln, University Professor Larry J. Sabato has acquired and donated to the U.Va. Center for Politics a certified, original entrance pass required for invited guests to attend the Wednesday, April 19, 1865 funeral in the East Room of the White House. According to official accounts and newspaper reports at the time, only about 600 such passes were issued and were required for each of the distinguished guests who attended the ceremony.

The pass was discovered in 2010, preserved between the pages of an old scrapbook in the bedroom closet of a home near Silver Spring, Md., owned by descendants of a prominent Washington socialite family with connections to President Lincoln. Of the original 600 printed, this pass has been preserved in exceptional condition and is one of only a half-dozen known to have survived to present day. Professor Sabato acquired the Lincoln funeral artifact when it was auctioned by Mears earlier this year.

Following the Lincoln assassination, the general public was allowed to view President Lincoln's remains beginning at 9:30 a.m. on Tuesday, April 18, 1865 while he lay in state in the East Room of the White House. The invitation-only funeral took place the following day.

The small, black-bordered pass reads: "Admit the Bearer to the Executive Mansion Wednesday, April 19, 1865" with the word "South" across the top, likely to indicate either a White House entrance location and/or to direct the bearer to a specific section of the East Room.

At the time, journalist Noah Brooks described the setting of the Lincoln funeral and the placement of guests in a published article, and again in 1895 in his acclaimed biography of President Lincoln, Washington in Lincoln's Time:

"When the funeral exercises took place, the floor of the East Room had been transformed into something like an amphitheater by the erection of an inclined platform, broken into steps and filling all but the entrance side of the apartment and the area about the catafalque. This platform was covered in black cloth, and upon it stood the various persons designated as participants in the ceremonies, no seats being provided," wrote Brooks. "In the northwest corner were the pall-bearers...at the extreme southern end of the room were the governors of the States; and on the east side of the coffin…stood Andrew Johnson, President of the United States…Behind [President Johnson] were Chief Justice Chase and his associates on the Supreme Bench, and near them were the members of the cabinet and their wives…On the right of the cabinet officers, at the northern end of the room, were the diplomatic corps…The members of the Senate and House of Representatives were disposed about the room and adjoining apartments, and at the foot of the catafalque was a little semicircle of chairs for the family and friends. Robert T. Lincoln, son of the President, was the only one of the family present..."

The funeral pass will be displayed at the University of Virginia Center for Politics.