Abraham Lincoln’s Opera Glasses


For another eight hours you can bid on the actual opera glasses that were in his possession the night he was assassinated on April 14, 1865 at Ford’s Theatre in Washington D.C. It will cost you dearly for this piece of history; bidding is currently at $277,841.

President Lincoln brought these German-made glasses to assist in his enjoyment of the show, a light-hearted farce entitled ”Our American Cousin” starring Laura Keene. During the third scene in the second act, John Wilkes Booth gained entry to the Presidential Box where Lincoln was seated beside his wife, and fired his Philadelphia Derringer pistol into the back of Lincoln’s head behind his left ear. Booth managed to escape the chaotic scene, and Lincoln, unconscious, was carried out of the theater and across 10th Street to a nearby boarding house by a huddle of doctors, soldiers and guards. Among them was a Captain James M. McCamly, an on-duty Washington City Guard and 70th New York Volunteer Infantry veteran. McCamly noticed the glasses had fallen from Lincoln’s body, picked them up off of the ground and put them in his pocket. Abraham Lincoln died the next morning, and McCamly served as commander of the honor guard that was part of the Lincoln funeral procession to his burial in Springfield. Along with the actual pistol that fired the fatal shot, The Ford’s Theatre National Park Collection houses the carrying case into which these glasses fit ”precisely,” according to a 1968 letter from the Chief Curator of the National Park Service, Harold L. Peterson. A copy of this letter is included, as is an affidavit from the McCamly family, in whose possession the glasses remained for generations before being bought by the Malcolm Forbes estate. Black enameled Gebruder Strausshof Optiker, Berlin opera glasses measure 1.5” high, 4” across at their widest point, and 3.75” in length when fully extended. Each ocular tube contains a pair of glass lenses measuring .5” and 1.5” in diameter with a late-turned threaded eyepiece. Central spindle contains focus adjustment wheel. Gilt metal throughout. One of the small lenses is chipped from the inside. Functional and beautiful artifact from one of the most fateful nights in American history. In addition to the provenance stated, sales history of the glasses will be provided.

Nate D. Sanders is auctioning off the opera glasses. To bid or see additional pictures, including documentation go here.


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