Tuesday, November 24, 2020

The Hunt for Lincoln’s DNA

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Michael Whyte
Crime Scene Officer and Fingerprint Expert with over 12 years experience in Crime Scene Investigation and Latent Print Analysis. The opinions or assertions contained on this site are the private views of the author and are not to be construed as those of any professional organisation or policing body.
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A bedspread that may have covered Abraham Lincoln as he lay dying will be tested for his blood in Wisconsin on Tuesday, 150 years to the day after the 16th U.S. president was fatally shot while watching a play in Washington.

University of Wisconsin textile expert Majid Sarmadi will test the cotton bedspread to determine if human blood is on the Wisconsin Historical Society artefact.

“It is the most exciting thing to work on,” Sarmadi said on Monday. “It gives me goosebumps. … There is no single president in history that I regard more than Lincoln.”

Lincoln was shot by John Wilkes Booth as he watched a play in Ford’s Theatre on April 14, 1865, five days after Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrendered his army to Union General Ulysses S. Grant, effectively ending the Civil War.

Daniel J. Campbell (left), forensic scientist supervisor-DNA at the State Crime Laboratory, swabs for possible blood stains as University of Wisconsin-Madison professor of textile science Majid Sarmadi examines a cotton bedspread that may have come from Abraham Lincoln’s deathbed.


The president was taken across the street to the Petersen House and placed in a bed, where he died the next morning, perhaps covered by the artefact headed for the lab.

Wisconsin State Journal owner Richard Lloyd Jones gave the blanket to the Wisconsin Historical Society in 1919. Jones, who was interested in preserving Lincoln artefacts, acquired it from the Petersen family in 1907.

The Wisconsin Historical Society decided to run tests after fielding questions about the small spots on it that appear to be bloodstains, said social history curator Leslie Bellais.

“If the story is true, then it was present during a very seminal moment in American history,” she said.

Sarmadi and the state’s crime lab recently ran preliminary tests on the bedspread and may request the FBI to run its own test. Sarmadi said he would not disclose the findings until all results were back.

If blood is present, Sarmadi said he hoped to confirm eventually whether it was Lincoln’s blood through DNA tests on other assassination artefacts.

No DNA test has been conducted on any artefacts such as a pillow on display at the Ford’s Theatre museum known to contain Lincoln’s blood, because of fears of ruining them, Bellais said.

“Technology now has it that you can actually test these things without destroying the pieces,” Bellais said. “I wouldn’t be surprised that fairly soon we will have Lincoln DNA on record.”

Source: Reuters

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