A Nation's Loss

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A Nation's Loss
Unknown Artist
5.5 x 3 in.
Chicago Public Library
Grand Army of the Republic Collection,
SPE GAR 72.379

This black-bordered ribbon, made of silk, was worn by Americans after Abraham Lincoln’s assassination. In the nineteenth century Americans wore not only black clothing, but also black ribbons and arm bands to show respect and sorrow. John Wilkes Booth shot President Lincoln while he and his wife Mary were watching the play Our American Cousin at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, D.C. Lincoln died the next day on April 15, 1865. His tragic death created an American martyr.

This mourning ribbon features a portrait of the late president with patriotic and religious symbols. His head is framed by two angels, with a tiny figure of Columbia, representing the United States, at the top of the frame. Below him are more emblems of the nation, including American flags, an eagle, and a shield. The artist included angels as a consoling and protective presence for this “American saint.” The ribbon declares “A Nation’s Loss” and commemorates the date of his death. A number of different mourning ribbons were made for the president; some of them were more elaborate than this, containing famous quotations or additional slogans. Others were even more plain and featured home-made portraits of Lincoln.

For information about the images, please contact Special Collections at the Chicago Public Library (specoll@chipublib.org)