Wet with Blood: The Investigation of Mary Todd Lincoln’s Cloak

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On April 14, 1865, just five days after the close of the Civil War, Elizabeth Keckly, a former slave and confidante of Mary Todd Lincoln, retold the story from the night of Lincoln’s assassination, remembering how the First Lady’s cloak was wet with blood.

“The story of Lincoln’s assassination fascinated an American public steeped in the sensationalism and sentimentalism of the Civil War era,” and that fascination continues today. One of the Chicago Historical Society’s prize artifacts is Mary Todd Lincoln’s alleged cloak from the night of her husband’s death. Is it really her cloak and is it really covered in Abraham Lincoln’s blood? Together with Academic Technologies at Northwestern University the Chicago Historical Society has created Wet with Blood, an interactive website that explores the mysteries of Mary Todd Lincoln’s cloak.

This interactive website reads much the way a physical book would, complete with a table of contents to guide the user through the night of the murder, the artifacts, and the investigation into their authenticity. The Chicago Historical Society obtained most of these artifacts from Charles Gunther’s 19th-century Libby Prison Civil War Museum, which housed relics from not only Lincoln’s assassination, but also artifacts and archival records that capture stories from America and Chicago during the 1890s.

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