Abe Lincoln, Assassinations, Museums

Osborn Oldroyd-Keeper of the Lincoln flame. Part III

z osborn-oldroydOriginal publish date:  July 20, 2017

In the past two columns I’ve introduced you to Osborn Oldroyd, king of all Lincoln collectors. Over the years, I have chased Oldroyd from Springfield, Illinois to Washington D.C. to Gettysburg, Pennsylvania and most recently to Marshalltown,Iowa. In Gettysburg, I purchased a collection of Oldroyd memorabilia assembled over two decades by a former Abraham Lincoln impersonator named Bill Ciampa.                                                   The collection of over 300 items included photos, postcards, books, literature, brochures, business cards, certificates and even a paperweight. But the bulk of the assemblage consisted of letters written to Oldroyd spanning the time he spent living in the Lincoln family home in Springfield to his move to the “House Where Lincoln died” across the street from Ford’s Theatre in Washington, D.C.           Granted, the letters were a bit picked over by the time they landed in my lap. Gone were the letters from the big names associated with the life and death of Abraham Lincoln that Oldroyd quoted in his many books about our sixteenth President. There was no U.S. Grant, Andrew Johnson, Mary Lincoln, Winfield Hancock or George Meade, although Oldroyd was known to have corresponded with all of them. But there were a couple famous, albeit obscure, personalities from the Lincoln Era that remained. I recognized a letter from suffragette and women’s Temperance leader Frances Willard as well as another from T.M. Harris, a Brigadier General who served on the Lincoln Conspirators trial in Washington, D.C. Harris wrote the forward to one of Oldroyd’s books.

There was a fascinating letter from Ferdinand Petersen, son of the owner of the House where Lincoln died, who was present the night Lincoln was assassinated. The letter was written in October of 1913 by Ferdinand to Oldroyd in an effort to clear up several myths that had plagued his family for years about that tragic night. “It makes me tired as the youngest man living of the very few left who were there at the time…I own and still have the pillow cases on which President Abraham Lincoln died and I have mostly all of the pictures that were in the room at the time and…I do not wish to sell them to the Government either nor any relic I have…Someday I’ll hand them over to the government for preservation.” Ferdinand also makes it a point to dispel the rumor that the Petersen house was ever a rooming house, “it was a home”.

z Louis-WeichmannAnother of the letters, dated Dec. 10, 1902, touched me personally because it was written by the sister of Louis Weichmann, the main government witness at the trial of the conspirators. Weichmann lived in Mrs. Surratt’s boarding house and many believe it was Weichmann’s testimony that got Mary Surratt hung. Weichmann moved to Anderson Indiana after the trial and founded Anderson business college. He is buried in Anderson’s St. Francis cemetery in an unmarked grave. “Dear Sir-I am sending you a copy of Sundays Indianapolis Journal containing a confession of one of the conspirators of President Lincoln….With best regards from our family, I remain Sincerely yours, Mrs. C.O. Crowley Sister of the late L.J. Wiechmann.” Curiously, Mrs. Crowley misspelled her own maiden name in her letter.

There is an amusing letter dated April 9, 1906 from Teddy Roosevelt’s Secretary of the Treasury to Oldroyd: “It is requested that the flag in which J. Wilkes Booth caught his spur, and which was loaned to you for temporary use in the house in which President Lincoln died, be delivered to the bearer for return to the Treasury Department.” It’s easy to imagine Oldroyd’s dismay at the prospect of returning such an important artifact from his museum. More so, it intonates that this may not have been the first request for return.

However, it was the letters from common, everyday people that proved to be the most fascinating. The letters began in 1869 while Osborn was just an average autograph seeker and continued through to 1929 after Oldroyd sold his collection to the US Government and just months before he died in 1930. Several of the letters are from prospective customers wishing to obtain a copy of one of Oldroyd’s many books or souvenirs about Lincoln. Many of the letters were sent by visitors to his Lincoln museum. They extol the hearty virtues of Oldroyd’s collection and his superior tour guide skills. (Funny, most of these are from women leading me to believe that Captain Oldroyd was an unashamed flirt.) Still more are from folks wishing to send Oldroyd some cherished family Lincoln memento for display in his museum. All of the letters offer a fascinating glimpse into the life of Osborn Oldroyd.

Two of the letters hail from the Hoosier state. One written in 1929 from L.N. Hines, President of Indiana State Teachers College (modern day ISU in Terre Haute): “I always remember my wonderful visit with you a year ago last February. I hope that I may be fortunate enough to come your way again before long.” and the other from a man in Larwill, Indiana written in 1926: “We have in our possession (sic) a campaign button of Lincoln & Hamlin. Would you care to have it among your other relics? Resp. Burton R. White”

The others, well, they’re from all over. They address Oldroyd variously as Colonel, Uncle, Cousin, Father, or Captain. A Boston lawyer writes: “I send you, herewith, a ticket of admission to the ‘Green Room’ (at the White House) on the occasion of President Lincoln’s funeral, April 19, 1865.” A York, Pennsylvania museum curator writes: “We have…a wooden short sword made out of the table that ‘Peanut Johnny’ used in front of Ford’s Theatre the night Lincoln was shot. It was ‘Johnny’ who held Booth’s horse.”

A Chicago businessman writes, “I want you to know how keenly I appreciate the kindness and courtesy which you showed me while in your museum. I count the hours spent there and with you, as the most pleasent (sic) and profitable ones of my weeks visit to our capitol.” A famous Washington DC female lawyer writes, “I have a friend who is in limited circumstances who has a very small lock of President Lincoln’s hair-which she wishes to dispose of-It occurs to me that you must know persons interested in Lincoln relics who might like to purchase this. It was given to Miss Gardner’s father Alexander Gardner, photographer to the Army of the Potomac by the undertaker who prepared Lincoln’s body for burial.”

Over the past several years, I feel like I’ve traveled in the footsteps of Oldroyd many times. I’ve experienced his highs and his lows. I’ve struggled alongside him as he labored to gain legitimacy for what Abraham Lincoln’s son Robert referred to as “Oldroyd’s Traps”. I agonized with his quest to sell his priceless collection to the United States Government (far below value) that took years to finalize. I think I understand him better now and, after three articles, you should too.

I think my feelings may best be summed up in a letter found in the collection that has become one of my favorites: “Washington, D.C. May 2, 1926. Dear Father Oldroyd: Accept hearty congratulations! I am glad I have lived to see your long years of effort rewarded, and your dream of sixty-three years come true. Very Sincerely, Kathie.” That letter sums it all up for me. Besides, my mother-in-law’s name is Kathie and I kinda like her too.

In the few years that have passed since I first wrote this series, a few things have changed. I have continued my pursuit of all things Oldroyd by picking up a few things here and there. I spent a weekend at the Lilly Library (on the campus of Indiana University in Bloomington) to examine a small group of letters and documents written by, or belonging to, Osborn Oldroyd. The library was created in the late 1950s by Josiah Kirby “Joe” Lilly Jr. (1893 – 1966) grandson of Pharmaceutical magnate Eli Lilly. The Lilly Library, named in honor of the family, houses the university’s rare book and manuscript collections.

Lilly was a prolific collector of rare books and Indiana historical memorabilia. His collection included a First Folio of the works of William Shakespeare, a Gutenberg Bible, a double-elephant folio of John James Audubon’s Birds of America, the first printing of the American Declaration of Independence (the Dunlap Broadside), and a first edition of Edgar Allan Poe’s Tamerlane. Lilly’s gold coin collection is in the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C. In a November 26, 1954 letter to I.U. President Herman B Wells, Lilly outlined his intention to donate the bulk of his collection to the university. IU announced the donation, which the New York Times estimated at over $5 million, on January 8, 1956. Lilly’s donation eventually totaled over 20,000 books and 17,000 manuscripts, including over 350 oil paintings and prints.

z IMG_9951Included within that collection was a group of several dozen items that once belonged to Osborn Oldroyd himself. This included correspondence from Anderson’s Louis Weichmann to Oldroyd about shared information for books about Abraham Lincoln both men were simultaneously working on as well as photos and several handwritten eyewitness accounts of the assassination of President Lincoln. My personal favorite was a pencil drawing of Lincoln Conspirator Lewis Thornton Powell drawn by Crawfordsville, Indiana’s General Lew Wallace.

While most people recall General Wallace as the author of Ben Hur, many forget that he had other claims to fame including nearly single-handedly saving Washington DC from capture by Rebel General Jubal Early’s troops at the Battle of Monocacy in 1864. He would later be appointed Governor of the New Mexico territory during Billy the Kid’s exploits and also served as a member of the Lincoln assassination conspirator’s trials. General Wallace made the drawing of Powell during the trial while sitting just a few feet away from the man who nearly killed Secretary of State William Seward. Powell would be hanged for his crime. No doubt this single item is the reason these particular Oldroyd items ended up at the Lilly Library.

What I came away from, after my Springtime visit to IU’s Lilly Library, was an even deeper understanding of the passion that must have driven Osborn Oldroyd’s pursuit of Lincoln Memorabilia. It became easy to understand the euphoria that surely overcame Oldroyd as he received, opened and read these personal accounts written by people connected to Mr. Lincoln. Viewing these priceless relics also reinforced the value of Osborn Oldroyd’s obsession. For without them, precious details and specific memories of historic events would have been lost forever. And thanks to Mr. Lilly, these particular objects are henceforth and forever available for viewing by all Hoosiers at the Lilly Library in B-town. Little did I know that this Springtime visit to my alma mater was just the beginning of a journey that would occupy the next month of my life.
Next week: part IV of “Osborn Oldroyd-Keeper of the Lincoln Flame.”

Abe Lincoln, Museums, Politics

Osborn Oldroyd-Keeper of the Lincoln flame. Part II

Oldroyd Part 2Original publish date:  July 13, 2017

Abraham Lincoln collector and self-appointed curator of the Lincoln legend, Osborn Oldroyd, was not the type of man to stay down for long. After being unceremoniously kicked out of the Lincoln home in Springfield, Illinois in 1893, he soon found a new home for his “Lincoln museum” in Washington, D.C. In typical Oldroyd fashion, “Captain” Oldroyd now set up his “Lincoln museum” in the Petersen House, the home where Lincoln died located across the street from Ford’s Theater. As before, he set up his displays on the first floor and lived with his family on the second floor. One thing changed for Oldroyd though; this time he actually paid rent.
The move was not without controversy as critics charged that Oldroyd’s new museum featured artifacts he pilfered from the Lincoln home in Springfield. “He pretty much cleaned house when he moved out”, says Dr. James Cornelius, curator of the Lincoln Presidential library and museum in Springfield, “He removed property including the cast iron stove once cherished by Mary Lincoln along with the cradle she used to rock three of the four Lincoln boys in. He also removed a lot of the original wallpaper.” It would take researchers decades to decipher the original wall coverings from the Lincoln era; even longer to recreate them. They have all been painstakingly restored today.
According to the official 1992 Lincoln Home report, “By the time Oldroyd had been removed as custodian, the home had suffered irreversibly significant damage, with irreplaceable historic fabric removed and discarded without either a trace or documentary record of its appearance. After Oldroyd, the Lincoln Home would truly never be the same home known by the (Lincoln) family for their 17 years in Springfield.” In defense of Col. Oldroyd, this report was written nearly a century after the Oldroyd’s moved out of the house.
1Ironically, the same year that Oldroyd moved to the Peterson house, Ford’s Theatre, where John Wilkes Booth had shot Abraham Lincoln, collapsed. The building, closed since the President’s death, operated as an office until June 9, 1893 when the interior of the historic building collapsed. Twenty-two clerks died in the tragedy and sixty-eight others were seriously injured. Within a year the damage was repaired and the former theatre was remodeled for use as a government warehouse.
A well-known German-American attorney, Louis Schade, purchased the Petersen House in 1878 for $4,500. He used it as his home and office space for his newspaper, The Washington Sentinel.Frustrated by nonstop visitors, Louis Schade sold the Petersen House to the Memorial Association of D.C. In 1896, this group then hired Oldroyd to live there and showcase his extensive display of Lincoln-related objects. The price for viewing his Lincoln memorabilia collection, you guessed it, twenty- five cents. In 1917, he wrote and published “The Assassination of Abraham Lincoln”, detailing the murder and death of his hero. The book became an overnight best seller.
What makes this particular Oldroyd book (he wrote several) so fascinating is the fact that Odroyd actually walked the entire John Wilkes Booth escape route, over 100 miles, on foot. Along the way, he stayed in homes, barns and buildings wherever he could find them. In some case these buildings had connections to the participants involved in that tragic night. He brought along his early Kodak box camera to record the buildings and scenes as Booth might have seen them. We owe a great debt to Oldroyd for this singular pursuit in particular as the landscape was rapidly changing and the buildings were literally melting into the ground.
In 1925, in failing health, Oldroyd decided to sell his collection of Lincoln memorabilia, including rare books, photographs, mementos, and Lincoln’s original furniture, to the United States government. Oldroyd’s passion for the sixteenth President and collecting Lincoln memorabilia was the focal point of his life. After years of offers and counter-offers, the government finally purchased the entire collection for the sum of $50,000 in 1926. Thirty years later Congress put the Oldroyd Lincoln collection on public display at Ford’s Theater. Here the “Oldroyd Lincoln Memorial Collection” found its permanent home and there it can be seen by the public, free of charge, to this day.
oldroyd-rathboneThe May 2, 1926 Washington Post announced the purchase with a banner headline reading, “Gets Storehouse of Lincoln Relics: Government Action Assures Preservation of Oldroyd Collection Here.” The newspaper column reported, “Captain Oldroyd has been gathering the collection for 63 years, having started on this patriotic work of love for his chieftain soon after he was released from service in the internecine strife (Civil War). Mr. Oldroyd is now 80 years old. Having for years been a student of Lincoln, acting as guide for his collection all through its formation, Capt. Oldroyd has become a rich source of Lincoln traditions. Passage by Congress of the measure authorizing the purchase of the Oldroyd collection, 3, 000 authentic Lincoln mementos now on display in the historic Petersen House where the martyred president died, will preserve for future generations making pilgrimages to Washington a great store house of materials identified with Lincoln tradition.”
Sadly, Oldroyd had only a short time to enjoy the financial success gained from the purchase of his beloved collection. In February of 1929, he applied for a pension, citing “bad age and senility”. At the time, his health was so feeble that he could scarcely write his own name on the designated form. Oldroyd passed away on October 8. 1930. His devoted wife Lida died four years later. They are buried side-by-side in Rock Creek Cemetery not far from Abraham Lincoln’s summer White House at the Old Soldiers home.
Lida A Oldroyd 2What became of the pilfered Lincoln home artifacts? During a near forty year period between the 1950s and late 1980s, the Lincoln Home got back the disputed 25 items from Ford’s Theater that Oldroyd had allegedly removed without permission. “The items were well preserved. For the most part, these were all utilitarian items that might have been used everyday by the residents of the home during the years before preservation became a priority.” says curator Cornelius “An argument could be made that if not for Osborn Oldroyd, these items might have been lost forever.”
Even today, the benefits of Oldroyd’s work are still showing up. In 2006 the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum purchased a “unique” 1858 ambrotype photograph of Lincoln once owned by Oldroyd. “It is the first example of a ‘Photoshopping’ job done on Lincoln that we know of,” says Cornelius. The ambrotype was of an 1854 daguerreotype photo of Lincoln that had been altered. That original daguerreotype was lost in the great Chicago Fire, which makes the ambrotype even more important. “Thanks to Oldroyd for preserving it,” says Cornelius.
My fascination with Osborn Oldroyd rests squarely on the supposition that without collectors like Oldroyd, who knows how much of history might have been lost? After all, while alive, Lincoln was not at all the God-like figure he is today. In fact, it was touch and go with Lincoln at times. There seemed to be no middle ground with Old Abe, you either loved him or you hated him. It was only after his death that he ascended into legend and secular sainthood. To a man like Oldroyd, credit must be given for recognizing Lincoln’s greatness immediately. Without question, a Lincoln collection started in 1860 could have no peer. Add to that Osborn’s natural curiosity and acquisitional ferocity, his collection must have been astonishing. Then to have the opportunity, and charismatic ability, to reside in two of the most important homes in the Lincoln panoply, well that may well be the ultimate commentary on Oldroyd himself.
As for his hawkish, carnival sideshow way of promoting the Lincoln legend by leading boisterous tours accentuated by occasional loud-talking within the hallowed walls of the Lincoln home itself, it must be remembered that Oldroyd was a man of his times. Operating during an era that brought us promoters like P.T. Barnum whose famous credo “there’s a customer born every minute” resonates clearly in the present day vernacular. Barnum’s self proclaimed charge was to find ways to draw new customers in an era when competition was fierce and people could become bored easily. Knowing this, its easy to understand the reasoning behind Oldroyd’s reputed shameless self promotion. After all, he had to keep the museum doors open.
In the end, Osborn Oldroyd was a man who fought hard for his country’s cause in the Union army and afterward did everything in his power to preserve the honor and memory of his hero and commander-in-chief, Abraham Lincoln. Did he step on some toes and ruffle a few feathers in the process? Sure, but as Abraham Lincoln himself once said, “Perhaps a man’s character was like a tree, and his reputation like its shadow; the shadow is what we think of it, the tree is the real thing.” Three months before his death at the age of eighty-eight, Oldroyd took pen in hand to write an expression of heartfelt gratitude to a well wisher in the form of a poem: “Words of cheer and handclasps warm, fragrant flowers and music’s charm, Reminiscences of days gone by, Ah, surely none so blest as I.”

Next week: part III of “Osborn Oldroyd-Keeper of the Lincoln Flame.”

Abe Lincoln, Museums, Politics

Osborn Oldroyd-Keeper of the Lincoln flame. Part I

OLDROYD Part IOriginal publish date:  July 6, 2017

In the seven years since I ran parts I and II of this article, much has changed. Osborn Oldroyd has remained the windmill I tilt at and he has never strayed far from my side. I will share the “new” developments about this man in part III of this series. But first, let me reintroduce you to Captain Oldroyd.
As a fan of history, I find myself drawn to characters who populate the sidelines of historic events in a way that sometimes threatens to overtake the subject itself. Anyone familiar with my musings knows that I am, like many a homegrown Hoosier, a fan of Abraham Lincoln. If Lincoln had never been born, literature would surely have created him. In November of 2010, I traveled to Springfield, Illinois on the 150th anniversary of Lincoln’s election to the Presidency in search of the man who I believe to be the original keeper of the Lincoln flame.
I met with historian James Cornelius, curator of the Lincoln Presidential library and museum. The state-of-the-art museum opened in 2005 and featured as it’s principal speakers President George W. Bush and a then little known Illinois Senator named Barack Obama. However, this is not the first Lincoln museum in Springfield, Illinois. There was an unofficial version housed in the Lincoln Home from 1884 to 1893 created by Civil War veteran Osborn Oldroyd, a man as quirky and controversial as the museum he created.
When Oldroyd began collecting Lincoln items in 1860, Honest Abe was still very much alive. Oldroyd was among the first Americans to attempt such an undertaking, a collection he himself described as “books, sermons, eulogies, poems, songs, portraits, badges, autograph letters, pins, medals, envelopes, statuettes…anything related to the man”. In many cases, it is Oldroyd’s collecting habits we have to thank for the preservation of priceless Lincoln relics. However, to some, he was as much historical huckster as hero. It was Oldroyd’s “P.T. Barnum” sideshow approach that continues to rankle Lincoln scholars to this day.
Eccentricity ran in his genes. The evidence can be found in the very first thing he owned: his name. His parents, William and Mary, named their son “Osborn Hamiline Ingham Oldroyd” so that his initials would spell the name of their beloved home state, Ohio. Sergeant Osborn Oldroyd was only nineteen years old when he enlisted with the 2Oth Ohio Volunteer Infantry on October 15, 1861. He was mustered out of the army on July 19, 1865. During his years in the Union Army, he was a careful diarist keeping day-by-day observations of the war. His 1885 book, “A Soldier’s Story of the Siege of Vicksburg” gives a sixty-five day account of the Vicksburg Campaign. Oldroyd re-enlisted after the Vicksburg campaign but his chronic asthma made him unfit for duty. Following the war, Oldroyd returned to Ohio and was made Steward of the National Soldiers’ Home in Dayton. Friends lovingly referred to him as ‘Captain’ or ‘Colonel’ while others simply called him ‘Ozzie’.
Oldroyd found his life’s calling when he attended memorial services at Lincoln’s Tomb on the 15th anniversary of the president’s death just a few months after his arrival in Springfield in 1880. He came up with a plan to build a Memorial Hall in Springfield to display his growing collection of Lincoln memorabilia. Within two years after that first visit, Oldroyd wrote a 500-plus-page book, containing excerpts from Lincoln speeches and writings, as well as anecdotes and memories collected by Oldroyd from Lincoln’s friends and contemporaries, to raise money for the Memorial Hall. Book sales were fairly good, but Memorial Hall was never constructed.
Oldroyd croppedDuring his early years in Springfield, he ran a succession of failed businesses. All the while, Oldroyd was moving his family ever closer to the Lincoln Home at Eighth and Jackson streets. The Oldroyd family first lived at 1101 South Seventh, then 500 South Eighth Street (immediately south of the home) and then, in 1883, when the Lincoln Home became available to rent, Oldroyd moved his family in before the last occupants had completely moved out. At that time, Lincoln’s only surviving son, Robert, owned the home and reluctantly charged Oldroyd $25 per month rent. Contemporary accounts claim that Robert Todd Lincoln agreed to the idea of a museum as long as it was free to the public, a stipulation in place to this day.
Oldroyd could not believe his luck. He immediately began to arrange his nearly 2,000 piece Lincoln collection on the home’s first floor, while he and his family lived on the second floor. On April 14, 1884, the 19th anniversary of Lincoln’s assassination, he opened the ” Oldroyd Lincoln Memorial Collection” museum. Admission was 25 cents, although later in his life Oldroyd denied ever charging admission. According to the Illinois State Journal “The reception at the Lincoln residence last night was a brilliant affair. Mr. Oldroyd has been at work for years on this matchless collection, and it is believed its equal does not exist in the United States. At last his labors have been crowned with success, and the hundreds of people who thronged the rooms last night are loud in their praise.” z 9c5921de875bf4f37876d22de69952c0--illinois-state-historic-homes
Oldroyd, ever the promoter, found creative ways to publicize his museum while at the same time filling the public’s desire to own Lincoln artifacts. He sold photographs of his collection for 25 cents and a box of “Lincoln relics” for 75 cents. These boxes contained bits of the Lincoln Home and grounds: pieces of brick, shingle, ceiling plaster, elm tree, apple tree, lath, joist, and floor that Oldroyd claimed he saved during house repairs. In an ominous portent of things to come, two years after moving into the home of the man he adored, Oldroyd began stiffing the man’s son when he stopped paying rent in 1885. Robert Lincoln, a lawyer, was reluctant to attract public attention to the matter. He refused to pursue legal proceedings against Oldroyd even after no rental payments arrived for two years.
Not only did Robert feel he was being used, but “he was not happy with the way Oldroyd had turned the home into a sort of carnival sideshow, selling pieces of it and putting other things into it that had not been the Lincolns’,” says James Cornelius. “Robert referred to Oldroyd as a deadbeat and called the exhibits in the house traps.” Even though Oldroyd wasn’t paying rent, he continuously schemed for a way to live rent-free in the home with his collection indefinitely. Behind the scenes Oldroyd lobbied Illinois legislators to acquire the Lincoln Home for the state and let Oldroyd and his museum remain in it. The legislature’s first two attempts to ask Robert Lincoln for the house failed because Lincoln’s eldest son said he wasn’t ready to part with the home just yet. The third time was the charm. In 1887 the legislature succeeded and Robert deeded the Lincoln Home to the state of Illinois. Robert insisted on only two provisions; that his father’s home “be kept in good repair” and that it be”free of access to the public.”
Osborn Oldroyd was appointed custodian of the house for a salary of $1,000 per year (just under $ 25.000 today) and was allowed to continue living in the home rent free. He was also allowed to keep his museum as long as he didn’t charge admission anymore. Ever the operator, Osborn made up for that loss of income by allowing several of his in-laws to move in and charging them rent. The records don’t reveal whether Oldroyd ever paid Robert the two years of rent he owed, but I highly doubt it.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFor the next five years “Captain” Oldroyd kept the Lincoln Home and added to his Lincoln collection. At one point, reports claim that Robert Lincoln was furious when Oldroyd allegedly displayed a photograph of John Wilkes Booth in the home, reportedly on the fireplace mantle. Some sources claim that Robert protested and in 1893, when the Illinois state political tides shifted, Robert had Oldroyd unceremoniously ousted as custodian. The new governor put one of his own men into Oldroyd’s former position as political patronage.
The Illinois State Journal, writing nearly 9 years to the day after its first article on Oldroyd, criticized the move by saying, “The removal of Captain O. H. Oldroyd…means that the Lincoln Home will be stripped of the features of most interest to visitors, which are the personal property of Captain Oldroyd, and…the new custodian…will have nothing to show to those who visit the Home.” Nothing, that is, but the Lincoln home itself. In the July 1888 issue of Harper’s magazine, Charles Dudley Warner wrote after a visit to the home that he could not find Lincoln’s “sense of personality there… although the parlor is made a show-room and full of memorials, there is no atmosphere of the man about it.” Oldroyd, it appears, had wedged himself into the very fabric of the home and many citizens felt that without his passion and guidance, the Lincoln home would eventually fail in its pursuit to attract the steady stream of visitors so carefully courted under the “Captain’s” care. But Oldroyd, ever the huckster, had other plans for his unmatched collection of Lincoln memorabilia.
Next week: part II of “Osborn Oldroyd-Keeper of the Lincoln Flame.”