What Happened to Lincoln’s Deathbed? Where is it Now?

A tragedy befalls America in Apple TV+’s ‘Manhunt’ when the beloved President Abraham Lincoln is shot dead while watching a show at Ford’s Theatre. The first two episodes recreate the days preceding and following the assassination, giving us a glimpse into the plotting of John Wilkes Booth and his accomplices. After Lincoln is shot, he spends his final breaths on a bed that is covered in blood due to the nature of his wound. It is clear that nothing can be done about it except for the people around him to watch him take his last breaths. Even after Lincoln’s body is carried out of the house, the bed stained with his blood remains in the house. What happened to it?

Lincoln’s Deathbed is Now in the Chicago History Museum

President Lincoln was enjoying the comedy ‘Our American Cousin’ at Ford’s Theatre when John Wilkes Booth sneaked up behind him and took his shot. It was one bullet at a close range, and it inflicted the damage it was supposed to. The President was immediately carried out of the theatre and across the street to a boarding house run by a Swedish tailor by the name of William Petersen. He was taken to the room at the back of the house on the main floor, which was rented by William Clark, a 23-year-old US Army clerk who had also served in the Union Army. Clark was not at home that evening and didn’t know about the President occupying his room and breathing his last there until after the President’s dead body was taken back to the White House.

Image Credit: The Chicago History Museum

Clark’s bed was small to accommodate the 6’4’’ president, who had to be laid diagonally across the bed to make him comfortable. When he breathed his last the next morning, his body was removed from the Peterson house and taken back to the White House; the blood-stained bed was left behind. Julius Ulke, who boarded a room on the upper floor of the house and had spent the entire night getting hot water to the doctors who were looking after the President, later photographed the bedroom, capturing the image of the bed with the blood-soaked pillow on which Lincoln rested his head. The picture is now a part of the Meserve Collection.

The bed remained in the Peterson house until 1871, the year that the owners of the boarding house, William and Anna Peterson, died, and the furniture of the place was auctioned. The bed, along with some other stuff from the house, was purchased by a man named William H. Boyd for $80. The things he bought in the auction remained in the family until his death and were later sold by his son to a man named Charles Gunther, a wealthy businessman from Chicago who was also a passionate collector.

Being the site that marks the death of one of the most important figures in American history, the Peterson House, which went neglected for a while, was restored to the way it would have looked back in 1865. It is now a popular tourist site, but it does not display Lincoln’s deathbed anymore. The bed is now a part of the Chicago History Museum and is on display as a part of their Civil War-era exhibition, titled ‘A House Divided: America in the Age of Lincoln.’ It was bought by the museum in 1920, following the death of Charles Gunther, along with other items that the businessman had collected from the Peterson house. Reportedly, Mary Todd Lincoln’s cape from the night of the assassination, which also bears the marks of her husband’s blood, also belongs to the museum’s collection.

Read More: John Parker: What Happened to Abraham Lincoln’s Bodyguard?