tv Discussion on President Lincolns Funeral Hearse CSPAN May 9, 2015 1:37pm-2:06pm EDT
>> you are watching american history tv. 48 hours of history television every weekend. follow us on twitter at c-span history. after president lincoln died on april 15 1865, his body lay in state at the white house and u.s. until it was moved to a train car on april 21 to begin the journey to his home town of springfield, illinois. his funeral was held on may 4, 1865. his coffin, placed in an ornate hearse was taken to oak ridge cemetery. up next, funeral director p.j. staab talks about the effort to
re-create the hearse that carried lincoln's body to his grave site. he discusses the 1865 funeral, as well as the research that went into duplicating the original hearse, which was destroyed in the early 20th century. the illinois historical preservation agency hosted this 30 minute event. >> a way to remember, educate, and heal. i want to tell a story about a brief and interesting story, a summary of what has taken place for the last 18 months. abraham lincoln hearse build. to remember, thank you president lincoln for affording us a reason to remember. to educate, thank you elizabeth simpson, president of the allstate capital foundation which afforded us a way to
educate by reaching out to me last december for the opportunity to speak you this evening. to heal, thank you katie spindel, chair of the 2015 lincoln funeral coalition, for the opportunity to heal through this project and the upcoming reenactment event. thank you, our audience, our friends at c-span, our host, justin blanford, for being here and allowing us to share our story this evening as well. it is truly an honor to be here. my name is p.j. staab, representing the staab family of springfield, illinois, usa. i am a funeral director. not a historian. even though i have devoted hundreds of hours in researching this topic that i am very passionate about.
a historic moment in time, about 150 years ago today, at 7:22 a.m., abraham lincoln was officially pronounced dead, news that shocked the nation. president lincoln was the first american president ever assassinated. president lincoln's body was carried hundreds of miles by train, passing through more than 100 cities, with formal ceremonies in 12 cities, finally arriving here to his home in springfield. millions of people witnessed -- 7 million to be exact, estimated, the procession or viewed -- approximately one million viewed -- the body firsthand. remember, no tv broadcasts or radio. that is about 25% of the nation witnessed personally.
in fact, in this very room, is where his body lay before being taken to its final place of honor. this is the same room that abraham lincoln served the last of his four terms as legislator and delivered his house divided speech. after an estimated 75,000 mourners viewed the president's body here, right in front of us, in this very room, pallbearers carried him from this location to the hearse, which made a slow procession to oak ridge cemetery, where thousands more lined the street to watch the hearse that carried president lincoln to his final journey. with this year marking the 150th anniversary of president lincoln
death, the special event and reenactments that take place will not be complete without the abraham lincoln hearse at the center of it all. getting involved -- one might ask how did our family get involved? after a meeting with katie spindel chair of the 2015 lincoln coalition, i was asked can i find a suitable hearse? my response was, sure, we will. not really knowing at that time what it would entail. [laughter] katie's countless hours, hard work and her dedication fueled our family's passion to get involved and perform to the best of our ability.
katie is just one of many of the great people that i've met along the way. another person that i would like to mention here is artist ray simon. ray recently completed a commissioned original life painting of america story yet to be seen. "the life and legacy of abraham lincoln." after i began researching, i found out the hearse was destroyed by fire in st. louis missouri at the livery stable in 1887. all that was left was a photo that you see here and to two silverplate medallions just recently found for all to see. after the initial research, we cannot find a suitable hearse that adequately represented the hearse used for abraham lincoln. much like the historical account
of 150 years ago. in an effort to give back and contribute to this historic anniversary, our family decided to assemble a team of historians, artisans, and old-school craftsman to reverse engineer and re-create the elaborate and ornate hearse. this is a mission that is not only vital to the reenactment , but a true honor and privilege for a family to play such an important role in this is tort moment. historic moment. it even fits our family's own mission to remember, to educate, and to heal. we quickly prioritize this sort of project into three phases.
phase one began in november of 2013 with design, guidance, and research phase. the object was to find the best photographs -- plural -- available. we could only find one. engage historians to find out more information. engage architects and fabricating consultants to determine the scale, dimensions, and to provide a blueprint for the build. professional guidance of this sort was sought by none other than one of our local architects john schaefer andrew martin of schaefer architects springfield, illinois. attorneys for our legal guidance
was the sterling firm, jim fayhe. we then prepared a timeline for the project for each of the phases. the search for the builders began. the pressure builds to understand how to use old-school craftsman to reverse engineer and re-create an 18th-century vehicle in the 21st century. we had to determine a scale, the dimensions. we had to review the scale revised and start the process all over until we got it just right. we knew the rear wheel had 16 spokes. when you get to 16 spokes together, you have to have a certain size hub. with a certain size hub, it brings the diameter to about 56 inches for the rear wheel, which is about here.
from the wood cut carving you have seen previously, i measured to the ground. i almost got kicked out of the cemetery that evening. [laughter] until they saw the plate on the car and they said, oh, it is just one of the staabs. [laughter] to talk about the height, when you see that wood cut carving at the bottom of the gable where it needs and you measure down to the ground, it is about 13 feet to the top of the plume of the hearse to the ground. it matches that exact height -- 13 feet. the hearse build can now commence. we found a medallion confirming the scale with the help of the build team, construction got
underway. phase two began june of 2014. the blue ox school and mill works have the pattern photos that you are seeing of screen. they were done by eric hollenbeck of blue ox mill, you eureka, california. it is not a simple process. once you know the scale, you make a pattern. you make a mold. you pour the mold. you prepare for the 24 carat gold leaf that is upon the gold. this was a process that we had no clue about and so further
research began to describe as i , as i will read a little bit later, about how we determine the colors of the hearse. again, eric hollenbeck of blue ox mill in eureka, california began as we knew the scale and dimension to start the chamber build from wood and finished in maple. and again, this is not a simple process. we know the scale. we build the chamber frame. and the hearse begins to take shape. after hundreds of phones calls in the evening because of our time frame difference, we had builders on the east coast. we were in the midwest and we had builders on the west coast. the west coast follows daylight savings time, but the company that we engaged with out of arizona did not go to daylight savings time.
so to try to coordinate between almost four different time zones, my wife thought i would film a commercial about the state farm commercial about how are you on the phone all night long. [laughter] it was that funny for a while for me, but it wasn't for her. the lantern build -- i thought i would take out three specific elements of the hearse. this is the second one. it might be the third one -- i've lost track. mark and tony of steel out of illinois bob, survivesservaggio
steel, fabricators out of springfield, illinois. we knew the scale, the dimension, we prepared the mock up in wood. then we made the fabrication and lantern. the lantern as you see in front of you here is not complete yet. there is what i phrased a mini me that goes on the top of this. when i said that term over, the servaggio boys built a mini me that turned out to be of many a mini abraham lincoln. it was just a little stick figure out of steel. i thought that was really cool . it turns out it was the wrong mini-me. abraham lincoln would not have been on top of the lantern. we got through that. that was kind of neat. [laughter]
p.j.: the travel team begins phase 3, february 2015. the travel team escorted the hearse from northern california to tombstone, arizona. here you will see eric hollenbeck and jack feather offloading at tombstone, arizona. the challenges we faced were tremendous. in northern california, if anyone has ever been there near the redwood forest it is very , wet and moist in the sun really shines. you cannot fly in or out without the fog getting in your way. we never anticipated the amount of shrinkage that we would experience due to the climate change. we had to wait two weeks in tombstone, arizona before we even began to do anything with it.
so that was a challenge. we assembled the assembly of the chassis and the finishing processes would now take place after that two week period. the chassis finally arrived from pennsylvania through the company of j jones, owner of custom wagons in kentucky. i believe that is about an hour and a half from where abraham lincoln was born. once arriving in tombstone arizona, we had to disassemble everything. we had to take it all back apart in preparation for the paint reassemble many, many parts, including upholstery, the chassis, and all the finishing touches by jack feather of tombstone hearse company in tombstone, arizona.
the pressure does not stop here. in the newspaper accounts that were revealed to us through our research, we found two accounts -- and i will quote "equals great in black." was this photo taken in st. louis or was it taken somewhere else? here is just a couple of accounts of pressure that are our build team now have to face when the surface. -- had to face when this surfaced. "hearse attracted much attention," "illinois state register," may 5, 1865.
in the funeral procession, no object attracted more deserved attention than the magnificently decorated hearse. i get choked up when i read this. because it really happened. drawn by six splendid, black horses. the establishment belongs to the livery stable of mr. arnott of st. louis and was generously tendered by mr. arnott himself to be used on the occasion. it has been erroneously stated that the mayor of st. louis tendered the hearse and its splendid paraphernalia. this is a mistake. mr. arnott not only gave the use -- of the establishment, but drove it himself. lincoln funeral hearse, ornate
silver and black. "illinois state journal," may 5, 1865. the hearse used on this occasion , lincoln's funeral, is the same used to convey the remains from the depot to the capital on wednesday. it is probably the most beautifully designed and finish ed carriage of the kind in the western country. the body is black, oblong in shape, the sides relieved by silver bands giving the appearance of panel work. from this body spring silver pillars of gold, base in
capitals. on the tops of each are representations of flames, etc.. the spaces between the pillars are filled with heavy plate glass, around the top figured in gold. around the top of the carriage runs ornaments of scrollwork of the color of gold. the doors in the rear are plate glass with figures of a rock tomb wrought in silver. each color is surmounted with black ostrich feathers. between which are eagles draped in black. the lantern's are silverplated
and of the usual form. the hearse containing the remains was drawn by six superb black horses, richly draped in and bearing upon the crest bunches of ostrich plumes. we have never seen a better or more elegant hearse in all of its appointments. the spirit which led the mayor st. louis to tender so beautiful carriage for the obsequies is highly credible to his feelings and judgment. you can see that after finding these through our research that raised the bar over any hearse i have ever seen and i've seen a lot of hearses. we now had to prove that this photo was taken in springfield.
the build team introduction at this point was jack g feather, craftsman and friend who , ultimately became the lead builder of phase three for help with the project. he is currently in tombstone arizona, formerly of bedford pennsylvania, at which he when he accepted the challenge to build the hearse last year. he had to go down from his mountain home through three feet of snow every day for like two months. so he decided to pick up and move to tombstone, but his company was named tombstone hearse and he had never been in tombstone. [laughter] that was the first time he had ever been there when he moved his entire operation to tombstone. it is just one man. eric hollenbeck, old-school expert craftsmen, lead builder
of phase two. his equipment that he uses in his mill there are mostly from of equipment of 1948. he is in eureka, california. the blue ox mill was asked by the white house to talk to a forum which included a number of years ago president clinton and vice president al gore. j jones re-created the rolling chassis. i sent him my pencil sketches that i thought were pretty cool. he said i needed blueprints. again, thanks to john schaefer
and drew martin. the blueprints were john -- drawn based on my pencil sketches and they could build it exactly the way it turned out, which was perfect. he is from kentucky and his company name is custom wagons, llc. his company makes about 500 wagon wheels a month, plus other custom carriages. one of the questions i have at this point is -- what do think these builders have in common? the picture you see before you there. they are all veterans. they are all veterans. jack feather, vietnam veteran, served as crew chief from 1972 to 1975.
abandoned there as most of the troops were gone from 1972 to 1973. eric hollenbeck, vietnam veteran in the tet offensive in 1968. the blue ox school for veterans was established because of this very build project. the abraham lincoln hearse. it was established by eric and his wife, viviana hollenbeck for returning veterans from iraq and afghanistan. men and women finding it difficult to come back to civilian life after being trained in the fields of combat. jay jones. three tour vietnam veteran. as you saw earlier, these veterans wanted to put their
mark on the abraham lincoln hearse and for the day, a be lower jewelers provided are proud family friend sheaths of black onyx. they wanted to shape what will be placed upon a crown beneath each of the plumes. i there happens to be four on each plume, which is 16 for our 16th president. i our combat veterans build this icon of freedom for the nation. the request by katie spindell for a hearse and the response by the staab family to research and
coordinate a build team. the result that was by our veterans. [applause] p.j.: forged in resolve, reverse and i engineer and re-created the icon of freedom for the nation. and we hope that through this process we have exceeded the expectations for all. there will be additional time is you are watching you history tv. like us on facebook is these bit history. >> up next, professor ralph
nürnberg or discusses john wilkes booth. secretary of state william seward and vice president andrew johnson. he also looks at a variety of larger assassination conspiracy theories. and talks about how lincoln's death altered american history. this event from the smithsonian associates is about two hours. prof. nurnberger: no event in american history that i can think of change the course of american history as much as a single event, as much as the assassination of abraham lincoln. maybe 9/11, maybe pearl harbor. but in terms of boom, one second, history changed -- abraham lincoln's plans for post-civil war america were to bring the southern states back into the union.