Rare Lincoln artifacts in SF for auction

February 12, 2009 7:47:29 PM PST
There was a rare chance in San Francisco Thursday to see an even rarer collection of artifacts related to President Lincoln, on what would have been his 200th birthday.

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"Every officer in the Civil War got a signed commission by Abraham Lincoln," Catherine Williamson said.

The items on display at Bonhams and Butterfield were just a part of the collection compiled by Williamson for an auction this weekend.

"I think people want to time travel," Williamson said.

The exhibit includes a number of items from Confederate General Robert E. Lee. There are clippings of his hair and a handwritten letter to troops at the end of the Civil War.

"Every officer got a copy of this message which said, 'thank you for four hard years, sorry you did not win, but we fought the good fight,'" Williamson said.

Of all the items, the most valuable may be a collection of books containing firsthand recollections of Lincoln. They are valued to be worth at least $25,000.

There are letters from soldiers, people who worked with him or who just watched Lincoln pass by. They are small details telling a greater story.

The most fascinating is an account of Lincoln's assassination from an actress on stage at Ford's Theater.

"She writes about hearing a pop, looking up, seeing John Wilkes Booth limping across the stage because he broke his leg," Williamson said.

It is all there, for the reading: presidential history, as fresh as the ink that has dried, but not faded.

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