Downstate auctioneer sues to recover unique deathbed photo of Abe Lincoln

Belle Montgomery

Sergeant Major
Oct 25, 2017
It’s the case of the missing Lincoln death photo.

The strange case involves a Downstate auctioneer, his ex-wife, a dentist, a distant relative of Lincoln — and even former Illinois Gov. James “Big Jim” Thompson.

Larry Davis of Quincy filed a lawsuit Friday to recover what he says is a unique deathbed photo of Abraham Lincoln taken in a boarding house across from Ford’s Theater in Washington, D.C.

The bed and linens in the Petersen House bedroom where Lincoln died. The photo of the empty bed was taken the day after the assassination by Petersen House boarders Henry and Julius Ulke. | Meserve-Kunhardt Foundation via Smithsonian

“If you asked me to describe a photo that would be more historically significant than this, I can’t think of one,” said Chicago attorney Andy Hale, who represents Davis.

The lawsuit is asking an Adams County judge to order Jerald Spolar to return the photo to Davis.

Davis, an auctioneer, says his ex-wife stole the photo in 2006.
Spolar, a dentist and Lincoln buff from Macomb, then bought the photo from the ex-wife and kept it, the lawsuit says.

Hale says the photo is “larger than a baseball card and smaller than a postcard.”

But he acknowledges he doesn’t have any photographic proof it exists.

The story begins in the 1980s when Davis says he befriended Margaret Hanks Schreiber, an impoverished Quincy woman. Schreiber was a distant relative of Lincoln’s mother Nancy Hanks.

Davis says he would take food to Schreiber and her husband on Sundays and discuss her family history. In 1984,...

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John Hartwell

Forum Host
Aug 27, 2011
Central Massachusetts
Well, if that's truly genuine, as far as I'm concerned an exact copy is as good as the original. Who owns that, I don't care, as long as the copy as available. It's just an old piece of paper, the image on it is what's important.

[The grumbling of a non-collector ... just not into gathering "stuff."]
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