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When you are given a job, do you save the tools you use for it? Likely you would only for a significant event–like sealing the coffin of a president.

S.S. Elder, a welder in Springfield, Illinois, was given the duty of sealing President Abraham Lincoln’s coffin before his burial on May 4, 1865.

Elder saved each tool he used to perform the task, eventually preserving them permanently in a shadow box. His carefully handwritten labels describe each tool and document his role in Lincoln’s funeral.

Elder was one of the millions of Americans who realized they were witnessing a unique moment in history. Thousands of people who paid their respects to Lincoln as his funeral train wound its way from Washington, D.C., to Springfield, Illinois, saved the ribbons, pins or other mementos from their brush with history. Explore the path of Lincoln’s Funeral Train.

S.S. Elder’s Soldering Tools

From Lincoln’s Funeral

The Springfield welder who sealed Lincoln’s coffin preserved his tools afterwards, knowing they would be part of history.

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Soldering Irons

“The Soldering Irons I used in Soldering the Coffin of A Lincoln, May 4th 1865 By S S Elder.” Elder heated the soldering irons to melt the small pieces of solder. He then applied the melted solder to the casket to be sealed.

Bar of Solder

“This is a piece of the Solder left after Soldering the coffin of A Lincoln May 4th 1865 By S S Elder”   Solder is a soft metal that welders use to fuse together materials. Elder melted part of this bar of solder and applied a small amount to the casket lid, forever sealing Lincoln’s casket. 

Pocket Knife

“The knife that scraped the coffin of A Lincoln. May 4th 1865. By S S Elder”   As part of the casket sealing process, S.S. Elder used this knife to scrape away the extra melted metal, known as solder, before it cools to smooth the surface.

Carte de Visite of Lincoln

S. S. Elder may have gotten this card, which bears a faded image of Lincoln, as a souvenir at the funeral procession. 

Elder's Ticket

Elder's ticket probably allowed him to bypass the thousands of people who came to see Lincoln’s body. Later, Elder wrote that, “the crowd surged against me so that acid from the bottle [sic] splashed on the blue cardboard pass nearly obliterating the words printed on it.”

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The night of April 14, 1865, forever changed our national history. Together, Ford’s Theatre Society and the National Park Service partner to protect the artifacts from that night. Through these objects, we can better understand how that single event transformed our nation. Give to Ford’s Theatre to help continue sharing the stories that shaped a nation.