Bloodstained fabric swatch from the head bandage of President Abraham Lincoln, which was obtained by Henry S. Safford, a 25-year-old War Department employee and tenant at William Petersen’s boardinghouse, where Lincoln was transported and died following his assassination at Ford's Theatre on April 14, 1865. The swatch, 2.5″ x 2″, set against a fabric 42-star American flag, includes a one-page ALS from Safford, signed “H. S. Safford,” penned on Ordnance Office, War Department letterhead, dated May 3, 1865, and addressed to T. J. Deuscher. The letter reads: “I send you enclosed a piece of cloth stained with the blood of our late President Abraham Lincoln. It is a piece of the bandage that was placed around his head. I procured it from the room in which he died. I reside in the same house. I'm sorry I cannot send you a bigger piece.” Both items are matted and framed with the letter’s original mailing cover, a dried floral element, and a portrait of Abraham Lincoln to an overall size of 25″ x 15″. In fine condition, with some irregular light toning to the matted display.
Henry S. Safford (1839-1917) worked in the War Department during the Civil War and was lodging at the Petersen House in 1865 at the time of the assassination. Numerous accounts indicate it was Safford who, upon seeing the chaos in the street, offered one of the Petersen's bedrooms to the fading Lincoln. A lithograph by Albert Berghaus titled ‘The Dying Moments of President Lincoln, at Washington, Saturday Morning, April 15,’ depicts Safford as one of the onlookers at Lincoln's deathbed.
From Bill O’Reilly’s 2012 book Lincoln's Last Days: The Shocking Assassination that Changed America Forever: ‘[Dr. Charles] Leale and the men carrying Lincoln make their way down Ford's granite front steps and onto the muddy road, still not knowing where they are going. ‘Bring him in here,’ a voice shouts above the madness. Henry S. Safford is a twenty-five-year-old War Department employee. He has toasted the Union victory every night since Monday, and tonight he felt so worn out that he stayed in his rented room in William Petersen's boardinghouse to rest. He was alone in his parlor, reading, when the streets below him exploded in confusion.
When Safford stuck his head on the window to see what was happening, someone shouted the news that Lincoln had been shot. Safford raced downstairs and out into the crowd, but ‘finding it impossible to go further, as everyone acted crazy or mad,’ he retreated. Safford stood on the porch and watched in amazement as Lincoln's body was carried out of Ford's. He saw Leale lift his head, scanning the street, searching for someplace to bring Lincoln. Now Safford wants to help. ‘Put him in here,’ he shouts again. Dr. Leale was actually aiming for the house next door, but a soldier had tried and found it locked. So they turn toward Safford. Leale and his stretcher bearers carry Lincoln up nine short, curved steps to the front door. ‘Take us to your best room,’ he orders Safford.’