Friday, May 1, 2015

150 Years Ago: May 1

On the morning of May 1, 1865, the funeral train, bound to Chicago, stopped in Michigan City, Indiana, at 8:25 a.m., under an elaborate memorial arch that had been erected over the tracks. The train was expected to stop only briefly, but it had to wait for an hour for the arrival of a special train carrying a committee of officials from Chicago who were to escort the funeral train into the city. While the train was waiting, it was decided that the coffin would be opened to allow the people of Michigan City pay their last respects.

After the unexpectedly long stop in Michigan City, the funeral train arrived in Chicago at 11 a.m. The train did not go all the way to Union Station but instead stopped on a trestle that carried the tracks out over Lake Michigan. The coffin was taken to a platform that rested beneath a grand Gothic arch, which was reported to have cost the city $15,000. 

The procession to the Cook County Courthouse, where Lincoln's remains would lie in state, rivaled the procession that took place in New York City in both size and grandeur. The route went down Michigan Avenue, then Lake Street, and then Clark Street to Courthouse Square. Chicago is reported to have spent half what was spent for Lincoln's entire funeral in Washington, D.C. A contemporary chronicler of the funeral train, J. C. Power described the procession in Chicago:
It was a wilderness of banners and flags, with their mottoes and inscriptions. The estimated number of persons in line was 37,000, and there were three times as many more who witnessed the procession by crowding into the streets bordering on the line of march, making about 150,000 who were on the streets of Chicago that day, to add their tribute of respect to the memory of Abraham Lincoln.
At 6 p.m., the coffin, resting on a catafalque, was opened for public viewing in the Cook County Courthouse. Thousands of mourners passed by the coffin through the night and during the next day.



  1. Fabulous! Thank you for all this. Amazing images. His long journey home was an unparalleled one, I'm sure.

  2. Carole, a superb, fascinating, and moving evocation of of a pivotal event in US history. Many thanks for doing it for us. --B