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Grand Army of the Republic Museum and Library

Hugh Boyle

I visited the GAR Civil War Museum and Library on Sunday December 4th during their monthly public program.  I didn’t have much time to spend and so I did not get my fill of history, music, pictures, exhibits and stories from Hugh Boyle and Tom O’Toole.  I hope to do better next time.

There are lots of reasons to go to the GAR.  If you have an interest in the Civil War as we enter the 150 anniversary years of the conflict, this is a place to see some historic artifacts for yourself.  The GAR was the original Civil War veterans organization.

Google Old Baldy and General Meade and you will find a ton of hits.  Then troop on down to the GAR Museum and see what they have.  You will find Old Baldy himself.

Old Baldy

If you’ve been to Washington DC and toured and Ford’s Theater, you know about the house across the street (Peterson boarding house) where President Lincoln died.  On display at the GAR Museum is a piece of the pillow case where Lincoln lay which still has his blood still on it.  There is a great display of Lincoln material on hand.

Did you ever hear about Dr. Mary Edwards and her experience in the Civil War. You can see her tool kit right there on Griscom Street.  You got the Congressional Medal of Honor for her service.

The Ruan House itself is a historic gem.  It was built in 1796 and is on the National Register of Historic Sites.  It is in amazing condition and a treat to see.

28th Pennsylvania RegimentalBrass Band in Concert

An unexpected highlight of my brief visit was the performance by the 28th Pennsylvania Regimental Brass Band.  They were doing music of the Civil War era and it was interesting to hear songs that the troops would have heard back in that time.    The venue at the museum is cozy and intimate with the musicians and audience in close proximity.  It is more like having a concert in your own living room.  That is the best way to enjoy this music and the acoustics were really great.

Put this place on your schedule.  It should not be missed.  Bring the kids.  They have parking in back.




2 thoughts on “Grand Army of the Republic Museum and Library

  1. The story of “Old Baldy” is an interesting one and is deserving of a stand alone story. Pictures taken at the Grand Unveiling of the Old Baldy exhibit have been uploaded onto our Flickr photo web site, with 78 thumbnail pictures.

    Perhaps I will revisit Old Baldy latter, as I am more interested in Busting the Myth of Lincoln’s Blood.

    For several years I have remonstrated on the authenticity of the blood stained cloth which the GAR continues to promote as “Lincoln’s Blood.”

    It was about this time when I first thought about it:

    Civil Warriors January 8, 2004
    By William Kenny
Times Staff Writer

    “When we came here (in 1980), everything was packed in boxes on the floor,” Bud Atkinson said.

    “There was no money and they were about to lose the building. Luckily, we got enough people behind us.”

    Today, visiting the place is like stepping into Gen. George Meade’s giant walk-in closet. The time-warp effect gets even better when the Atkinsons show up wearing their period costumes — Bud as a blue-coated cavalryman and Margaret as a gowned matron.

    The artifacts are too numerous to name or even count, but several amazing pieces would alone be worth the price of admission — even if it weren’t free.
Among the many highlights:

• A strip of the pillow case on which Abraham Lincoln laid after being shot in the head by assassin John Wilkes Booth, complete with blood stains.

    • The handcuffs found in Booth’s suitcase when he was captured. He had originally planned to kidnap the president, but those plans fell through.

    • The 40-star flag flown over Independence Hall while Lincoln’s body lay in state there. At the time, there were only 35 states, but the flag-maker erred in his haste to finish the job.

    I sort of had a falling out with the GAR, when I challenged “their” history.

    I blasphemed Lincoln by voicing the possibility that Lincoln was taking mercury, not for depression, but syphilis, and also that fact that other authors presented a case (made by someone else) that he may have also been a homosexual.

    I said that Lincoln may have also been insane as a result of mercury poisoning, and many of his decisions should be scrutinize while keeping this in mind.

    The fact that his wife was institutionalized for insanity may have resulted from her also taking mercury for syphilis.

    All of these things could be confirmed by testing blood.

    But that is not going to happen for several reasons – Read on:

    Test of Lincoln DNA may prove cancer theory – Doctor contends president had disorder that likely would have killed him
    Fri., April 17, 2009

    PHILADELPHIA – John Sotos has a theory about why Abraham Lincoln was so tall, why he appeared to have lumps on his lips and even why he had gastrointestinal problems.

    The 16th president, he contends, had a rare genetic disorder — one that would likely have left him dead of cancer within a year had he not been assassinated. And his bid to prove his theory has posed an ethical and scientific dilemma for a small Philadelphia museum in the year that marks the 200th anniversary of Lincoln’s birth. …

    Eric Schmincke, president of the museum and its board, said members may decide at a meeting May 5. They must consider not only possible damage to the artifact but also moral issues, he said.

    “You have to look at it as questioning someone that more or less can’t defend themselves,” Schmincke said. …

    [Hugh Boyle poses for a portrait with what he believes is a section of a pillowcase that has Abraham Lincoln’s blood and other material on it from Lincoln’s assassination. The museum is considering a researcher’s request to do a DNA test on the piece of pillowcase.]

    More Reading:

    Report: Gene mutation may have caused Lincoln’s ‘clumsy gait’
    Associated Press Published January 29, 2006

    MINNEAPOLIS – Historians have long puzzled over whether Abraham Lincoln might have had a genetic disorder called Marfan syndrome, but new research has members of the former president’s family tree wondering if his clumsy gait could have been caused by something else.

    Researchers at the University of Minnesota have discovered a gene mutation in 11 generations of relatives who descended from Lincoln’s grandparents.

    The gene causes spinocerebellar ataxia type 5, a degenerative neurological disorder that affects coordination, including walking, writing, speaking and swallowing.

    There’s a 25 percent chance that Lincoln also inherited the mutation, said Laura Ranum, a genetics professor who led the research.

    “Because the historical literature talks about his clumsy gait . . . it raises the possibility that that was caused by a mutation in this gene,” Ranum said. …

    Did Mercury in “Little Blue Pills” Make Abraham Lincoln Erratic?
    By Hillary Mayell for National Geographic News July 17, 2001

    Brain Work  This Week Volume 2, Number 29 – 07/20/01:
    History Meets Science as Researchers Reproduce Lincoln’s Anti-Depressant Medication:

    In a study that combines historical research and medical expertise, researchers contend that Abraham Lincoln may have suffered mercury poisoning….

    Lincoln’s Little Blue Pill:
    Civil War President May Have Suffered From Mercury Poisoning

    Lincoln’s Little Blue Pills:
    Source:  University Of Chicago Medical Center

    The BBC News: Lincoln ‘suffered mercury poisoning’
    “Abraham Lincoln may have been poisoned by the medication he took to combat depression, research suggests…”

    POX: Genius, Madness, and the Mysteries of Syphilis:

    See chapters on: Mary Todd Lincoln & Abraham Lincoln
    William Herndon wrote that Abraham Lincoln contracted syphilis in the late 1830s and then infected Mary.

    Mercury’s fall from medicine to  toxin 12/19/2003:

    “One of the ironies of this pollutant is that it was used to treat  illnesses for more than a thousand years. It was so often used to treat syphilis  in past centuries that symptoms of mercury poisoning were confused with the  disease itself. Two U.S. Presidents, Andrew Jackson and Abraham Lincoln, took  mercury for their ailments and undoubtedly suffered the consequences.”

    Lincoln’s Locks: The Relics Of A Secular Saint:

    Many photos- Blood-stained handkerchief Abraham Lincoln was carrying at the time he was shot. Photo: Courtesy of the Chicago Historical Society

    SFU archaeologist analyses ancient DNA:

    SFU’s first expert in ancient DNA analysis, Dongya Yang (above), is developing methods for identifying syphilis-causing bacteria on human remains.

    His work will ultimately help determine the origins of syphilis, ending a 500-year-old debate on a disease that killed millions and stigmatized many more before the advent of antibiotics. … The presence of Treponema pallidum
    DNA on human skeletons would confirm syphilis infections. …

    Was Lincoln gay?


    As far as asserting that Lincoln was gay, I am only reporting that there were writers making money by writing books on that very subject.

    The GAR has exhibited no interest in promoting Science.

    That dirty little bloodstain they are protecting is their “Shroud of Turin” & their “Holy Grail” as long as it never receives any scientific testing.

  2. Excluding Center City, Frankford is a unique community in that it has 2 museums, the Historical Society of Frankford and the G.A.R. They are not far from each other. These museums offer programs to the public and are very informative. I encourage the community to embrace them and join. Many of the people who help make these programs and exhibits possible for both museums are volunteers and some don’t live in the community . I thank the volunteers for bringing culture to the community!

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