The Truth About The Lincoln Bedroom “too Ricketty To Venerate”

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In a sense then, the true, vivid legacy of this historic site has indeed been demeaned—but not by recent overnight guests. Long before, it was corrupted by Truman-era redecorators who blithely transformed Lincoln’s “shop” into a combination theme park and guest room. (A history buff, Truman himself conceived the idea of moving the bed here to create the now-infamous guest quarters.) Today’s sleepovers hardly violate the private sanctum of a national saint. Ironically, and apparently unknowingly, they renew a tradition of access to a room once fully open to the American people.

Some have persuasively suggested that tradition should now be expanded: the White House should aggressively search for and reacquire both the old pigeonhole desk (sold long ago, its current location unknown) and the cabinet table (among those who believe they own the original are the Baldwin Museum of Connecticut History in Hartford and the Concord Free Library near Boston). Then the original pieces could be reinstalled, alongside the cabinet ministers’ chairs, so ordinary Americans might again be invited up to see the simple surroundings in which Abraham Lincoln labored at an unimaginably complex job. After all, this room was once the site of bustling activity, not of privileged rest. Perhaps it should be so today, its furnishings again looking just as an observer described them at the end of the Great Emancipator’s first term: “too ricketty to venerate.”

True, Lincoln probably was embalmed on the bed that was eventually moved and enshrined here. But fake history should not be.