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1930s & Earlier / 1901 Exhumation of Abraham Lincoln
Here's a weird factoid: Since his assassination in 1865, Abraham Lincoln's remains have been exhumed or disinterred 17 times--and his coffin has been opened five times. Some of the exhumations have been totally understandable. His body was moved in and out of several temporary vaults while awaiting "permanent" burial. One unplanned exhumation happened in 1876. Lincoln's coffin was removed from its marble sarcophagus by a group of grave robbers who were caught almost immediately. Other times the Lincoln Tomb fell into a state of disrepair because the ground in was built upon was too soft. Thus Lincoln's body was removed and shabbily stored in the structure's basement pending the reconstruction work. Each time the coffin itself was actually disturbed, the guardians insisted on opening the casket to ensure Lincoln's remains were actually still inside. The last time this occurred was in 1901 when more renovations were done on Lincoln's deteriorating tomb to make the location more visitor friendly. Lincoln's coffin--which had been encased in a steel cage and buried beneath 10 feet of concrete as a means of discouraging grave robbers--was once more exhumed during the renovations. About 23 workers were on hand to see Lincoln re-interred one last time on September 26, 1901. Out of curiosity they checked the coffin once more to see if Abe was still there. He was. Although his face had turned a chalky white color, the corpse was remarkably well preserved after more than 36 years. Witnesses said that Lincoln's eyebrows were missing and the gloves upon his hands had rotted. Otherwise the face was instantly recognizable to anyone who had ever seen a photo of the famous president. It still bore the famous whiskers, mole, and a full head of wiry hair. The suit Lincoln was buried in--the same one he had worn to his 1865 inauguration--was still intact although it was covered in a fine yellow mold. There were also shreds of a disintegrated American flag upon the corpse. The last living person to have seen Lincoln's corpse was a 14-year-old boy named Fleetwood Lindley. Lindley's father had been one of the construction workers and had urged him to leave school early that day and go to Lincoln's Tomb to see something he would never forget. The boy was also permitted to hold one of the straps that lowered Lincoln's coffin back into its concrete cocoon. Interviewed by the Chicago Tribune about the experience in 1962, Lindley said seeing Lincoln's corpse did not bother him at first, but he said he had trouble sleeping for months afterward. Lindley died in February 1963 at the age of 75 just a few days after giving a final interview on the subject.