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Lincoln Tomb, Springfield
Lincoln Tomb HighlightsJust as Abraham Lincoln's life and death are the stuff of drama, so is the history of his Springfield, Illinois, tomb. The events listed below provide a glimpse of its colorful past. Two days after his murder, Mary Lincoln gave her approval to bury Lincoln in Springfield. A local committee swung into action, and without her consent began constructing a tomb downtown. When she learned of the location she halted the work because she knew the president wanted to rest in some "quiet place." She insisted on burial at the new Oak Ridge Cemetery north of town, then a rural location.
Although the setting appears peaceful today, the site has been anything but quiet. The remains of Lincoln and his family were moved multiple times from 1865 to 1901, counterfeiters attempted to steal the president's body in 1876, the structure has required endless repairs, and millions of visitors have toured the building and grounds.
MAY 4, 1865
President Lincoln's burial service is held at Oak Ridge Cemetery, Springfield, Illinois, after a long train journey from Washington. Lincoln's eldest son Robert is the only immediate family member present; Mary Lincoln and her youngest son Thomas (Tad) remain temporarily in the White House. The coffins of Lincoln and his son William, who died during Lincoln's presidency at age 11, are placed in the public receiving vault.
MAY 5, 1865
Robert Todd Lincoln and Judge David Davis select the site of the permanent tomb.
MAY 11, 1865
Fifteen of Lincoln's Illinois friends create the National Lincoln Monument Association to develop a large tomb and start fund raising efforts. The plans call for constructing a tomb downtown, contrary to the stated wishes of the president's widow.
JUNE 5, 1865
Mary Lincoln sends a letter to Richard Oglesby, chairman of the monument association, saying that if the tomb is not built at Oak Ridge, she will move the president's remains to the U.S. Capitol crypt. Five days later she repeats this message.
JUNE 14, 1865
Members of the monument association reluctantly agree to the Oak Ridge site by a vote of 8-7.
DECEMBER 13, 1865
The remains of Lincoln's son Edward, who died in Springfield at age three, are moved from Hutchinson Cemetery to a temporary tomb near the Oak Ridge public receiving vault.
DECEMBER 21, 1865
Mary and Robert Lincoln visit the tomb, and President Lincoln and his son William also are moved to the temporary vault. Lincoln's body is identified by several friends.
JANUARY 2, 1868
The monument association announces a national design contest after raising most of the tomb funds and the Illinois legislature contributes $50,000.
SEPTEMBER 11, 1868
Sculptor Larkin G. Mead wins the tomb design competition, which includes a statue of Lincoln and four groups symbolizing Union military action in the Civil War.
SEPTEMBER 9, 1869
Officials break ground for the tomb construction.
JULY 17, 1871
Thomas (Tad) Lincoln, youngest of the four Lincoln sons, is buried in the partially constructed tomb after dying in Chicago at age 18.
SEPTEMBER 19, 1871
Lincoln and sons Edward and William are moved to the new tomb; the president's remains are identified again.
OCTOBER 1, 1871
The tomb is completed except for the Lincoln statue and four exterior military statuary groups.
OCTOBER 9, 1874
Lincoln's remains are identified again when he is moved to a cedar coffin with a lead lining and placed in a marble sarcophagus.
OCTOBER 15, 1874
The Lincoln tomb is dedicated before a large crowd; public speakers include Richard J. Oglesby and Ulysses S. Grant. The exterior Lincoln statue by Mead is unveiled.
OCTOBER 28, 1874
John Carroll Power becomes the first custodian of the tomb and unofficial guardian of Lincoln artifacts displayed inside.
NOVEMBER 7, 1876
Counterfeiters attempt to steal President Lincoln's remains and are apprehended 10 days later. Soon after, Power and monument association members hide Lincoln's coffin inside the building, leaving the sarcophagus empty.
NOVEMBER 21, 1878
Lincoln's coffin is reburied in shallow grave at yet another secret location within the tomb.
FEBRUARY 12, 1880
The Lincoln Guard of Honor is formed in Springfield on the anniversary of Lincoln's birth to protect his body.
JULY 19, 1882
Mary Lincoln is buried in the tomb after her death in Springfield at age 63. Afterward, her remains are secretly moved near her husband's.
APRIL 14, 1887
After an unstable tomb terrace is rebuilt, the remains of the Lincolns are moved to a new brick burial vault. Lincoln's coffin is opened again for identification.
NOVEMBER 8, 1890
Abraham Lincoln II (Jack), the president's only grandson, is buried in the tomb after his death in London at age 16.
JULY 9, 1895
The state of Illinois acquires the Lincoln tomb from the Lincoln Monument Association and the association is disbanded.
MARCH 9, 1899
The Governor of Illinois asks the state legislature for $100,000 to rebuild the deteriorating and unstable tomb.
MARCH 10, 1900
Lincoln's coffin is moved from the brick vault to an underground vault nearby the tomb structure.
APRIL 24, 1901
Lincoln's coffin is moved to the tomb sarcophagus from the underground vault. In July it is moved from the sarcophagus to a tomb crypt.
SEPTEMBER 26, 1901
After the tomb is reconstructed, Lincoln's final burial takes place. His remains are viewed for the last time and his coffin is secured in a concrete-and-steel reinforced chamber below the floor.
MAY 27, 1930
Mary Harlan Lincoln, Robert's widow, moves her son Abraham Lincoln II from the tomb to share a plot in Arlington National Cemetery with Robert, who died in 1926. However, Robert wished to be buried in the Lincoln tomb.
JUNE 17, 1931
After a second reconstruction and redesigned interior, the tomb is rededicated with President Herbert Hoover as the main speaker.
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