The display and sale of a John Wilkes Booth bobblehead doll at the Gettysburg Museum and Visitors Center gift shop has ended but the controversy the doll caused has not. The $20, 7-inch-tall doll, holding a gun, had been displayed next to one of President Abraham Lincoln until a reporter from The Evening Sun in Hanover, Pa., began to ask questions about it last week. It was pulled on Saturday.
Bobblehead dolls feature an oversized, springy head that bobs with the slightest touch. They are sometimes displayed in the rear windows of cars.
The museum and visitors center is the place most tourists go to begin their visit of the Gettysburg battlefield, the most visited of all the national Civil War parks. Many also go to see where Lincoln stood on Nov. 19, 1863 when he gave what has become his most remembered address at the dedication of the national cemetery.
Well-known Lincoln expert and author Harold Holzer said the doll portraying Booth, Lincoln’s assassin, was an insult to the memory of the 16th President. “I know and appreciate that there is a reluctance to apply censorship to the marketplace, but here is one case in which ‘regulation’ might be a good thing. The Booth doll is tasteless, sadistic and an insult to a hero who helped made Gettysburg into the Civil War’s most iconic destination.”
Michael Burlingame, author of more than a dozen books on Lincoln, said the sale of the Booth dolls at Gettysburg was appalling. “Imagine bobbleheads of James Earl Ray for sale at the soon-to-be-built National Museum of African American History or bobbleheads of Lee Harvey Oswald for sale at the Kennedy Museum outside of Boston.”
According to an on-line ad for the doll, made by Kansas City, Mo., manufacturer Bobblehead LLC, it is the only one on the market. The ad goes on to tell the potential buyer that Booth was the assassin of Lincoln and he is shown holding the gun in his hand that killed Lincoln. It comes in a collector’s full color box which resembles the inside of Ford’s Theatre where Lincoln was killed.
Holzer said the Gettysburg museum gift shop did the right thing in pulling the Booth doll. “I’m glad that wiser bobbleheads have prevailed and the stock has been shipped off to a more appropriate venue—whatever that might be.”