Mrs. Kennedy and Mrs. Lincoln had a strong common bond. Both of them were married to men who were Presidents of the United States who had been killed while in office by assassins. After that, both had become widows with children. Both grieved their losses-albeit in different ways. Mary Lincoln virtually never left the White House after her husband’s death. She didn’t attend any of the ceremonies or funerals. Her adult son Robert Todd Lincoln did so. Jackie Kennedy, on the other hand, was quite visable. Who can forget the image of her dressed in black attending her husband’s funeral?
Jackie Kennedy had a historical precedent to look back to in the Lincoln assassination and aftermath. As mentioned in my previous posting, Abraham Lincoln was on her mind. It was decided to look back at the Lincoln funeral. White House staffers and others consulted books on the subject. An artist by the name of William Walton, according to author Jim Bishop, was to aid in the “design” of Kennedy’s funeral setting as it would appear in the East Room.
“”…artist William Walton consulted the book on the Lincoln funeral. It was replete with old-fashioned steel-point engravings. The catafalque looked bigger than it should in the East Room, but was probably artistic license. In the White House warehouse, the dustbin of many administrations, the Lincoln catafalque had been found. Walton would have it set up in the East Room.”
Yes, Lincoln’s catafalque was used for President Kennedy! And apparently, it was Mrs. Kennedy’s idea. Here’s more from Jim Bishop, author of The Day Kennedy Was Shot:
“She walked into the living room and asked someone to phone Sargent Shriver at the White House. In the family sitting room on the second floor, Mrs. Kennedy said, there was a large-size book on Lincoln. It held a lot of daguerrotypes and line drawings of the funeral of the sixteenth President. Tell them , she said, to study those drawings and the lying-in-state in the East Room of the White House. She would like to have her husband’s funeral correspond as closely as possible to Lincoln’s.”
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