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December 27, 2012

For sale: A link to Lincoln through lock of hair

AMESBURY — Collectors often flock to auctions like those at McInnis Auctioneers in hopes of owning a piece of history.

On Monday, a most unique item will come up for sale — a locket that’s not only a piece of history itself but far more valuable for what it contains.

Called a mourning locket, the 3/8-inch, 14-karat gold piece has an inscription that reads, “A Lincoln, Obt. April 15, 1865” — the day President Abraham Lincoln was assassinated.

Inside the locket, underneath a glass bezel, is not just a part of Lincoln’s history, but a part of him — a lock of his hair.

“I’ve known about (the locket) for 30 years,” said Dan Meader, a Georgetown historian and antiques dealer who consults for John McInnis Auctioneers. “I’ve coveted it the whole time. It’s been passed down through generations.”

Mourning lockets were quite common in Lincoln’s time. Placed on a chain around the neck as a way to honor lost loved ones close to the heart, they were often the only jewelry worn during a time of mourning. Some people still wear them today.

While the original owner of the Lincoln locket must have been relatively close to the president, its true origin is unknown. The current owner putting it up for bid is from the North Shore, but is remaining anonymous.

The locket was definitely not owned by Mary Todd Lincoln, the president’s widow. She wore a mourning locket for many years containing a photo of the president and her son, Willie, who died in the White House in 1863 at the age of 11. That locket was sold in 2010 at the famed Christie’s auction house in New York City for $10,000, according to the Christie’s website.

Similar to the locket to be sold in Amesbury, Mary Todd Lincoln’s locket had a weeping black flower on the front.

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