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    John Wilkes Booth: A Lock of the Assassin's Hair, cut from the top of his head on April 27, 1865, the day of his post-mortem examination aboard the monitor Montauk - with impeccable provenance. A lock of John Wilkes Booth's raven black hair with a substantial number of strands, housed in a circular 1.5"-diameter, 0.5" high, sealed case. In a worn 2.5" x 1.75" x 0.75" box, penned on cover: "A Lock / of / John Wilkes / Booth's / hair / Grandpa Peddicord," by his grandson Dr. John Chapman Watson.

    Accompanied by a Typed Letter Signed "Katherine W. Byrne," one page, 8.5" x 11". Mrs. Byrne is the great-great granddaughter of Dr. John M. B. Peddicord who cut the hair from the top of Booth's head, "To whom it may concern," She quotes from "the narrative, as told by my Grandfather," published in full in the article which appeared in numerous newspapers in 1903.

    A photocopy of the article about Dr. Peddicord which appeared in the June 14, 1903, edition of The Washington Post, headlined "It Was Booth's Body," with a subhead "He Clipped Lock of Hair from Head," is present as is the same article from The Evening Herald, Ottawa, Kansas, June 22, 1903; it was republished in many newspapers.

    The article identifies Dr. John M. B. Peddicord as "a well known dentist, who was a participant in the somber tragedy which stirred the nation more than a third of a century ago. Dr. Peddicord was at that time serving under the federal government as sergeant of marines on board the United States monitor Montauk lying in the Potomac, off Washington. A few days after the assassination of President Lincoln Dr. Peddicord was one of a detail of forty picked men sent to guard the prisoners on the monitor Montauk, supposed to be in danger of mob violence."

    The lengthy remainder of the article quotes Dr. Peddicord describing in detail his initial duties regarding four prisoners, conspirators Lewis Payne, Michael O'Lauglin, George Atzerodt, and Edman Spangler. In part, "...Capt. Monroe came to me with a number of canvas hoods. My orders were to put one on the head of each prisoner and tie them down, thus shutting out all sight of surrounding objects ... One evening I noticed the officers were watching for something to come up the river ... I was called by Sergt. Hartley, who said, 'I have something for you.' I turned out on deck and went alongside him, where lay the body of a man on a carpenter's bench, the body being wrapped in a soldier's blanket.

    "My order was to take charge of the body and allow no one to touch it without orders from Col. Becker. It was the body of the assassin, John Wilkes Booth ... At breakfast when relieved by Hartley, and while eating, we unwrapped the face and compared it with a photograph, and I also remember the letters in India ink on the back of the hand: in pale straggling characters, 'J.W.B.' as a boy would have done it.

    "Being still in charge of the body I was quite close during the examination ... Surgeon Barnes first removed the bandage from the broken leg, laying the strips and pins carefully on the center of the body, and when an officer took up one of the pins he took it out of his hand with the remark: 'Gentlemen, you will please not take anything from the body.' As this did not include myself who was only a sergeant of marines, I made up my mind then to take something away.

    "From an examination of the broken leg, they went to the wound which had caused his death, and traced the course of the ball. After this the officers stood apart and held a consultation. While the steward wiped the instruments and replaced them in the case I picked up the scissors and cut from about the top of Booth's head a lock of hair. Gen. Barnes heard the grating of the scissors and turned sharply around, but I evaded him by attempting to drive some sailors back who had crowded too close out of curiosity. The steward who saw me clip the lock of hair kept his own council and I have that grim memento unto this day. It is a lock of fine raven black hair, cut with my own hands from the head of the assassin of President Lincoln and it is the only memento of his miserable body that I know of, except that which is in the Army Medical Museum in Washington, D.C."

    Katherine W. Byrne, great-great granddaughter of Dr. Peddicord, continues the unbroken line of provenance in her letter. In part, "The lock of Booth's hair stayed with John Peddicord for the rest of his life ... Peddicord had three daughters, the lock of hair was passed to Patience Leigh who was my Great Grandmother. She marred Everett E. Watson and had one son, my dear Grandfather Dr. John Chapman Watson. Dr. Watson also enjoyed the story of the hair and treasured the lock amongst his many civil war collectables ... The lock ... along with Peddicord's diary and hymn book were given to me and I have cherished them for many years. The lock of Booth's hair is complete and undisturbed for over 150 years. [Neither] I nor any other family members have retained any other strands..."

    Included with the lot is Dr. Peddicord's diary, his "Journal," 7" x 8". 1865-1866. In ink and pencil, signed a few times by Peddicord.

    Peddicord writes, in part, "New York Harbor Nov 16th 1865. On this day I came on the U.S. Sloop of War 'Monongahela' for an indefinite period and having sufficient leisure I concluded to keep the following Journal less as a narrative than to preserve dates and incidents ... I have been but three weeks ashore, my last Cruise being in the Flag Ship 'Malvern' I went aboard of her the 12th of May 1865 from Head Quarters where I had been for almost nine months and was heartily tired. The 'Malvern' was the Flag Ship of acting Rear Admiral Radford, and her cruise was down the Coast for the purpose of breaking up the then existing two Atlantic Squadrons or rather consolidating and reducing the two into one of but twelve or fifteen vessels. Whereas there had ben a much larger number during the war blockading the numerous southern Ports and engaged in the great Naval operations which had been carried on during the past four years..." Towards the end of his journal, in pencil, Dr. Peddicord has quotes two poems, 14 pages of music (some with lyrics). Regrettably Peddicord's detailed journal was not begun until some months after his encounter with the corpse of Booth.

    After receiving bow repairs, U.S.S. Monongahela remained on duty with the West Gulf Squadron until the end of the Civil War, and then was assigned to the West Indies Squadron.

    Heritage has been able to identify only one other auction appearance of a lock of Booth's hair; in a September 12, 2000 auction at Christie's East in New York, a hair lock along with some paper ephemera was sold for $35,250. This lock was also clipped from Booth's head while he was aboard the Montauk being autopsied. More recently, a lock of hair from another noteworthy "villain" brought a more remarkable price at auction. On October 5th, 2007, Heritage auctioned hair from Marxist revolutionary Che Guevara for a staggering $119,500.

    Interestingly, the provenance of that lock was that it was obtained by the brother of Mary Crowninshield, who was the captain of the Montauk. Apparently the rule against taking souvenirs laid down by the surgeon in charge of the autopsy did not apply to the captain!

    Over the years, Heritage has offered many hair locks from noteworthy personalities, famous and infamous. However, none is more evocative or historic than this well-documented hair from Lincoln's assassin. Unless the lock sold back in 2000 resurfaces, this may well be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the serious collector of Lincoln assassination relics.

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    September, 2016
    17th Saturday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 3
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
    Page Views: 4,548

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