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The Lincoln Flag

lincoln flag

Joseph E. Garrera, president of the Lincoln Group of New York, a historical society focused on studying the life of Abraham Lincoln, conducted a one year independent study in 1996 on what is known as "the Lincoln flag."

This 36-star flag was draped over the balustrade in the presidential box of Ford’s Theatre on Good Friday, April 14, 1865. On that night President Lincoln was there to see the play, "Our American Cousin." John Wilkes Booth, a former actor, assassinated President Lincoln in hopes of creating political chaos.

Laura Keene, starring actress in that night’s performance, was in the booth with Lincoln, and cradled his head in her lap. Doctors laid Lincoln on the floor, and Keene pulled down the large 36-star flag, placing it partially under his head. Lincoln died shortly after.

Thomas Gourlay, part-time stage manager and actor at Ford’s Theatre, was also present in the booth with Lincoln and Keene. Gourlay took the flag after Lincoln was moved across the street to Petersen House. He gave the flag to his daughter, Jeannie Gourlay Struthers, before his death in the 1880s. While living in Milford, Pennsylvania, she passed the flag on to her son, V. Paul Struthers, who donated it to the Pike County Historical Society in Milford, PA, in 1954. Paul Struthers donated other historical artifacts to the Pike County Historical Society as well, including an oral history of the chain of family ownership of the Lincoln flag. The Lincoln flag remains there to this day.

In the conclusion of his study, Garrera declares the Lincoln flag as “authentic.” The blood stains on the flag were tested twice, and both tests confirmed that the blood was human. He also found that the "contact stains" are consistent with the wound Lincoln sustained coming into contact with that flag. The governmental policies regarding the ceremonial use of American flags at the time, the materials used in the manufacture of the flag, and the disposition of the other flags in use at Ford’s Theatre also confirm the flag’s authenticity.

Other highly respected Lincoln scholars like Dr. Wayne Temple, Michael Maione, Dr. Edward Steers, Jr., Frank J. Williams and others agree with Garrera’s findings and believe the Lincoln flag to be authentic.


References "The Lincoln Flag" The Pike County Historical Society Located at The Columns in Milford, Pennsylvania. "Ford's Theatre National Historical Site" National Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior.

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