MHS Helps Commemorate The Historic Election And Inaugration Of The 44th President Of The United States
On 20 January, the Society's "Lincoln" table currently on loan to the US Capitol Visitor Center was moved to Statuary Hall in the Capitol for Barack Obama's Inaugural Luncheon. The same table held Abraham Lincoln's bible and glass of water during his second inauguration in 1865. A period photograph may be viewed at the Library of Congress website The table was subsequently used for Ronald Reagan's second inauguration in 1985. For Obama, the Lincoln table displayed two boxes containing the actual flags that flew over the US Capitol during the 2009 inauguration ceremonies. The flags were presented to the president and vice president at the luncheon given by the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies.
The table, which measures 30 inches high by 20 inches wide and deep, was made especially for Abraham Lincoln by B.B. French, Commissioner of Public Buildings in Washington. It was formed c. 1863-1865 from three sections of iron cast for the new dome of the Capitol. In 1866, French offered the table to the MHS, as documented in a letter addressed to Robert C. Winthrop:
Office of the Commissioner of Public Buildings, Capitol of the United States, Washington City, Aug. 26, 1866.
Hon. Robert C. Winthrop.
My dear Sir,--I have an iron table, which I had made of three pieces of the dome of the Capitol: the feet, or stand, being one of the ornaments of the inner dome, inverted; the pillar being one of the balusters of the iron railing around the opening beneath the eye of the dome; and the leaf, a square piece cut from one of the thin iron panels.... It is unique, and there probably will never be another like it in the world. It stood on the platform in front of the Capitol when President Lincoln was last inaugurated....
This table I told President Lincoln I would give to him to take to Illinois as a memento of the Capitol, when he should retire from the Presidency. Alas! the hand of the assassin deprived me of that pleasure.
Then I promised Senator Foot, whose efforts for the completion of the Capitol were far beyond those of any other man, that I would make him a present of the table, to take with him to Vermont, when he retired from the Senate. He has been gathered to his fathers; and I mourn deeply and sincerely his loss, for he was my dear and cherished friend.
The table still stands in my garden, to me a sad memento.... I now have the honor, through you, my old and respected and dear friend, to offer that table to the honored Society....
-B. B. FRENCH, Commissioner of Public Buildings
(Proceedings of the MHS [1866-1867], pp. 353-355.)
The Commissioner's gracious proposal was accepted and the Lincoln table has been in the MHS collections since 1866. President Barack Obama recently divulged he was rereading the writings of Abraham Lincoln because he finds them a great inspiration. The MHS was pleased to help the new president channel his muse during this historic event.