Lincoln papers found in closet
The house was a nondescript, three-bedroom, Silver Spring rancher that had been vacant for 10 years. It was filled with dust bunnies and old pocketbooks. And Laurie Zook, who prepares such houses for sale, didn't expect much more.
But when she opened an old scrapbook that was stacked amid a pile of other volumes in a bedroom closet, she found links to a painful, bygone time, and a rare ticket to one of the nation's greatest tragedies.
Pasted among the pages was a small, black-bordered card that read: "admit the bearer" to the White House on Wednesday, April 19, 1865, the day of Abraham Lincoln's funeral service there.
It is believed to be one of only 600 such tickets printed, was highly sought at the time and may be one of the few still in existence.
Also among the pages were two brief notes from Lincoln that seemed to be pardons of a soldier for some unknown offense, inked with the distinctive "A.Lincoln" signature.
The documents are now available for sale via an online auction that started Thursday and ends Saturday. The auction site is MEARSonlineauctions.com.
Zook, who heads a Frederick-based business, "Mission: Transition," said the house was owned by descendants of an old Washington socialite family that once had been acquainted with the Lincolns. She declined to identify the family for privacy reasons.
With the agreement of the owners, she cleaned out the house several months ago, took boxes of items to her home and then began examining them, Zook said. There were old photographs, letters and the tattered leather-bound scrapbook.
"I'm a skeptic," she said, and when she saw the Lincoln notes, "deep inside me I said, 'These can't be real.' But they are. . . . I consider this some kind of cosmic miracle."
One of the Lincoln notes, dated Aug. 28, 1864, orders the suspension of the sentence in the case of a "Col. Law," for offenses that are not indicated. The other, dated January 1865, appears to order the pardon and return to duty for a soldier who may be the same man.
Troy R. Kinunen, president of the South Milwaukee-based auction firm, said he authenticated the written Lincoln items.
"They were all in [Lincoln's] hand," he said. Plus, they're "fresh to the hobby," he said. "Collectors like things that haven't been circulated. This is the first time they have been presented."