Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Prizes from Years of Lincoln Collecting Went to Auction Last Month

Over Thanksgiving weekend, an Ohio man downsized his extensive Lincoln memorabilia collection.

Eighty-five year old Georg Hoffman of Delaware, Ohio has a collection that includes stacks of old photographs, paintings and other works of art, but the star of his collection is a funeral wreath that lay on the casket of President Abraham Lincoln while he lay in state at the Ohio statehouse in Columbia.

The story is that the town of Piqua, Ohio, held a funeral before the train even arrived. One of the speakers at the service was Dr. Godwin Volney Dorsey, a well-respected area physician and one who was known for his oratory skills.

When Lincoln's casket was placed in the Columbus Statehouse, it was covered by funeral wreaths, one of which was purchased by Dr. Dorsey. Once the funeral train continued its journey, Dorsey reclaimed his wreath and it was passed on within the family for generations until 1975 when George Hoffman's family acquired it.

Dr. Dorsey had the wreath encased in a wooden shadow box frame and the paper backing reads "This Wreath lay upon the Breast of Abraham Lincoln while his body was lying in State at Columbus, O. April 29, 1865." Auctioneers were hoping to get $5,000 to $10,000 for the wreath, but it's been difficult to find published word on what the final purchase price was.

There was a photo of the Statehouse in Columbus taken while Lincoln lay in state there. Whether that's Dr. Dorsey's wreath visible in the picture we don't know. But we happened to have a copy of this photo in our files because of the painting above the coffin.

It depicts Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry leading the Battle of Lake Erie during the War of 1812. Perry was assisted by a group of Ashtabula, Ohio, settlers known as the "old grey men," one of which supposedly was Benjamin Napier. Benjamin was the older brother of Joseph Naper who went on to found the town of Naperville in Illinois and of Amy Naper who was the mother of the main character in Kate's book Ruth by Lake and Prairie. One story has it that the meaty white-shirted oarsman in the picture is actually Benjamin Napier.

Experts at the Put-In-Bay historical museum say that nearly every family with a connection claims to have an ancestor in the painting, so the research is ongoing!

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