How Teddy Roosevelt Ended Up With Abe Lincoln’s Hair


John Hay, Lincoln’s private secretary and assistant, was as devastated as the rest of the nation when his friend was assassinated by John Wilkes Booth in 1865. He wanted a memento to remember Lincoln by and paid $100 for six strands of hair removed from the President’s head during his autopsy. He later had one of these hairs displayed under an oval piece of glass and mounted into a ring setting. When Teddy Roosevelt was inaugurated in 1905, John Hay - who would become Teddy’s Secretary of State - sent the Bull Moose the ring along with a note that said, “Please wear it tomorrow; you are one of the men who most thoroughly understand and appreciate Lincoln.”

Roosevelt was more than happy to comply. He had always felt a connection to Lincoln and, as a six-year-old boy, even watched Lincoln's funeral procession through the streets of New York City. He wrote in a letter back to Hay, "Dear John, Surely no other President, on the eve of his inauguration, has ever received such a gift from such a friend. I am wearing the ring now; I shall think of it and you as I take the oath tomorrow."