TR at Abraham Lincoln’s Funeral
A remarkable photograph was taken this spring date in 1865. That event was mere weeks after the Civil War and just days after the slaying of Abraham Lincoln.
Much of the nation’s mood was draped in the pall of mourning for the assassinated president. Lincoln had died 10 days before from wounds inflicted by John Wilkes Booth at Ford’s Theatre. The body of the slain president had made many journeys since then to various cities so people could pay their last respects to the fallen Commander in Chief.
During one such occasion in New York City, after having lain in state at City Hall, the horse-drawn casket made its way through the city. Accompanied by army troops and thousands of onlookers dressed in black, the funeral cortege passed a tall brick building on the corner of Union Square and Broadway on its way to the funeral train to Illinois.. The building was home to Theodore Roosevelt’s grandfather, Cornelius Van Schaack Roosevelt.
Throngs of mourners and attendants filled the streets. A photographer on the opposite side of the street captured an image of the procession, and the photograph held a secret that wasn’t discovered for nearly a century. Unnoticed in a second floor window of the Roosevelt house, overlooking the procession, were barely visible heads of two little boys.
In the late 1950s, historian Stephan Lorant was researching information for a Roosevelt book – an oversize volume of pictures and text. When he discovered the photograph of the home on the corner of Union Square and Broadway, he was seemingly the first to realize its significance. The boys in the window were six year old Theodore and his brother Elliott. Lorant had the rare opportunity to speak with TR’s widow Edith. He discovered that Edith Carow, TR’s second wife and childhood friend had been with the boys. But frightened by the street’s black draperies and the crowds, she had begun to cry. The Roosevelt boys, annoyed by her behavior, had locked her in a back room eliminating her opportunity to be captured in the historic setting.
During his presidency, Lincoln had appointed the first Dakota territorial governor and created the Transcontinental Railroad Act. TR would later famously travel to Dakota Territory on the Northern Pacific Railroad and famously enjoy a ranching and cowboy experience in the Badlands. Lincoln was Roosevelt’s favorite president and their images are forever carved into Dakota legend, Mount Rushmore, and the memories of the American people.
Dakota Datebook written by Steve Stark
Lorant, Stefan, 1959, Doubleday and Co. The Life and Times of Theodore Roosevelt.