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Lincoln’s bloody gloves to go on display at Lincoln Museum

Updated: September 24, 2012 6:25AM

SPRINGFIELD — The musty, thin leather gloves have turned from white to brown — but they are still stained with the blood of Abraham Lincoln.

The gloves that were in the 16th president’s left pocket when John Wilkes Booth changed history forever at Ford’s Theatre will be a monthlong featured display at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield, as the anniversary of Lincoln’s April 14, 1865, assassination approaches.

James Cornelius, the museum’s curator, said the gloves carried emotional significance for Mary Lincoln, who kept them as a way to cling to the memory of her husband.

“Mary held on to those because they were so personal,” Cornelius said. “They were holding hands when he got shot.”

Mary Lincoln probably sold the gloves in 1868 to Benjamin Richardson, a wealthy New Yorker who collected presidential memorabilia, out of fear the Lincoln estate was short on money — an unfounded fear, Cornelius said.

The gloves, which go on display Friday and will be shown through the month of April, passed through various private collectors until Louise Taper, a famed Lincoln collector, bought them roughly 15 years ago. The museum acquired Taper’s collection in 2007 for $27 million.

Lincoln, it turns out, didn’t like wearing the gloves because of an awkward fit. But he sported them at his wife’s urging, as it was a polite Washington practice at the time to wear gloves when greeting citizens.

“In some respects, they are Lincoln’s physical connection to a lot of people,” Cornelius said.

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