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On April 14 in 1865, president Abraham Lincoln was assassinated by John Wilkes Booth while attending a production of Our American Cousin at Ford’s Theatre. (The Reader‘s Michael Miner saw the play in 2015, and claims it’s actually quite funny.) The anniversary of this tragedy is Saturday, and none are more aware than Daniel Weinberg, who has owned the Abraham Lincoln Book Shop for 34 years.
The Reader‘s Anne Ford profiled Weinberg and the shop in 2004, and learned the depth of Weinberg’s obsession with our 16th president:
At one time or another he’s seen a Lincoln family bed, a desk from the courthouse where Lee surrendered to Grant, and the original document ordering the execution of the people convicted of conspiring in the president’s assassination. He’s even held a scrap of cloth stained with Lincoln’s blood—a remnant from the dress of the woman who cradled the president’s head in her lap as he lay dying on the floor of Ford’s Theatre.
The Abraham Lincoln Book Shop, located at 824 W. Superior, specializes in high-end Lincolniana. According to its website, the store currently offers 150 items under the category “Lincoln.” There’s an additional 126 up for grabs in the Civil War section, and plenty more where those came from. An illustrated envelope from Lincoln’s 1860 campaign, for example, is priced at $1,750—and that’s one of the cheaper pieces available. The bloodied piece of cloth was valued at more than $25,000, and was snatched up pretty quickly.
To ensure clients get what they pay for, Weinberg tells Ford, he pores over each piece, searching for signs of forgery:
Much of Weinberg’s work consists of authenticating the items brought to him for sale. “There are forgers out there, and fairly good ones,” he says. Over the years he’s accumulated a small number of items that turned out to be fake. One of them was made by Joseph Cosey, an early-20th-century forger who acquired a stash of paper similar to the kind Lincoln wrote on and used it to create documents that he then sold or traded for liquor. “He would go to a dealer, dressed shabbily, saying, ‘I’ve been settling my aunt’s estate. These aren’t real, are they?'” Weinberg says, laughing.
Weinberg loves all of the items in his shop, but has a special affinity for a particular piece. It’s a typo of sorts.
There’s one item Weinberg says he’ll never sell—a Lincoln signature in which the president accidentally transposed the o and the n: Linclon. “It’s the only known instance of Lincoln misspelling his name,” Weinberg says. “I mean, I’ve done that before. It brings him closer to me. Or me closer to him.”
To love something is to accept its imperfections.