Today’s issue of the Philadelphia Inquirer newspaper contains this article about an interesting dilemma facing a small museum in that city. The Grand Army Of The Republic (GAR) Museum and Library owns a small strip of the pillowcase which supported Lincoln’s head as he lay dying in the Petersen House in Washington, D.C. The piece of fabric contains Lincoln’s DNA in the form of dried blood and brain matter. Now a researcher has asked to borrow this strip so he can test the DNA in order to see if Lincoln had a rare form of cancer.
Mr. John Sotos, a cardiologist and author, wants to test the strip so he can confirm his belief that Lincoln had a rare genetic syndrome called multiple endocrine neoplasia type 2B (MEN2B). Sotos has carefully studied all 130 known images of Lincoln and combined with eyewitness accounts of Lincoln, believes Lincoln would have died eventually from cancer. But he needs to test the DNA on the fabric to confirm it. The article goes on to describe more fully how Sotos and a diagnostician have reached this belief. I wrote about Sotos and his belief previously in this posting.
The dilemma for the museum, of course, is should it grant Sotos’ request and risk damaging this artifact from the assassination? Or should it refuse to loan him the strip of fabric in order to assure its preservation, not to mention honoring Robert Todd Lincoln’s request to let his father rest in peace?
The museum board is going to discuss the issue at its next board meeting, probably on May 5th. It’s retained a biologist to advise it. The president of the board of directors of the museum is against lending it, even if just two or three strands are required for the test. But he would vote only if the other directors split their votes.
My own opinion, for what it’s worth? I would strongly encourage the GAR Museum board of directors to NOT lend this priceless artifact for this testing. I realize it’s important to understand as much as we can about historical figures, but what’s the purpose of knowing if Lincoln did or did not have this syndrome? We know he most certainly did not die from such a disease. He has no living direct descendants who would benefit from knowing if they were carriers of MEN2B. Finally, I’m forced to wonder if the descendants of Abraham Enloe are behind this push for testing, since they claim that Enloe was the true father of Abraham Lincoln. The Inquirer article mentions their longtime claim.
The bottom line is that history’s interest in preserving this assassination relic outweighs the question about Lincoln’s genetic status at the time of his death. I hope the board of directors will vote to retain the fabric as is and preserve it for everyone to enjoy.
The article contains more images of the fabric, including a close-up. Be sure to take a look.