As Confederate statues topple across the nation, these past few months have highlighted how far we as a nation still have to go in the pursuit of racial equity. The contextualizing of previously celebrated figures exposes those who rise above the crowd in their successes. In those regards, few stand taller than Abraham Lincoln.
Now, Ripley’s Entertainment is working to ensure future generations can connect with the sixteenth U.S. president in a very personal way.
On September 12, a thick, two-inch tuft of Lincoln’s hair was sold to a mystery buyer for $81,000. Rampant speculation in the days after was finally put to rest when the Orlando-based company came forward as the buyer.
Better known for their collection of taxidermied oddities and folk art made from unusual objects, Ripley’s collection of more than 30,000 does include numerous historical artifacts. Still, few are as sought after as this latest acquisition. Lincoln’s blood-stained locks join a budding compilation of famous hair that Ripley’s now owns, including locks from Elvis Presley, Ronald Reagan, and George Washington.
In another nod to the conspiracy theory-laden political climate that we’re now living through, an accompanying item to the hair helps debunk one a conspiracy theory surrounding President Lincoln’s assignation.
On the night on Lincoln’s assignation, a telegram was sent to First Lady Mary Todd Lincoln’s cousin and friend to the President, Dr. Lyman Beecher Todd. The lock of hair was given to Dr. Todd, who then wrapped it in the telegram, an official War Department message, for safekeeping, and then wrote on the telegram “Hair of A. Lincoln.”
The telegram debunks a conspiracy theory that the telegram system was down the night of the assignation, which assisted Booth in his escape. A letter from Dr. Todd’s son details the story of his father’s telegram and Lincoln’s hair.
“The provenance of this piece is what is extremely important to us. If it is in Ripley’s collection, you can guarantee it is authentic—although it may be hard to believe, that’s what makes it a Believe It or Not!,” said Kurtis Moellmann, Ripley’s Exhibit Coordinator. “In the coming weeks, we hope to uncover and share this acquisition’s story more.”
Ripley’s, who operates more than 100 attractions in nearly a dozen countries, has yet to confirm when or how it will display these timely pieces but stated
the pieces will be on display “soon.”