It has not been on display since 2011 and will be only for a short time this spring.
In 1865, Abraham Lincoln ordered an overcoat for his second inauguration from the clothing company Brooks Brothers.
Brooks Brothers, founded in 1818, is an American institution - a ready-made clothing manufacturer located in New York. The company was a key player in the uniform business of the civil war. Situated in the heart of the city, the building was nearly destroyed during the earlier draft riots.
Lincoln was a frequent customer of Brooks Brothers and in honor of his second inauguration, and as a promotion for the store, they made him a very special, elaborate overcoat. The coat was displayed in the Brooks Brothers store window as advertisement before finally being presented to Mr. Lincoln.
The spectacular overcoat is a double-breasted coat made of the fine wool with silk edging around the outside of the collar, cuffs and pockets. Almost the entire inside of the coat is hand-quilted.
The right and left interior front panels feature the design of an eagle symbol holding two streamers with the words “One Country, One Destiny”.
Unfortunately, Abraham Lincoln wore this particular coat on the night of his assassination and this is how this fine piece of clothing found its way to Ford’s Theatre where it was displayed in the main lobby for many years.
Mary Lincoln first gave the coat to Alphonso Donn, a former District police officer who served as a White House doorkeeper.
It was sold in to in 1968 for $25,000 and given to Ford’s Theatre by Donn’s granddaughter.
For a while, the coat, along with other garments that Lincoln wore on the evening of April 14 1864, were displayed in the basement museum of the theatre.
At some point, a decision to mount the coat in the main lobby was made and over time, light and gravity ruined the masterpiece almost beyond repair.
In 2008 a decision was made to pack away the coat for good and it was only one more time in 2011 that it was briefly presented to the public
According to a Brooks Brothers historian, the eagle design was drawn by a boy in the shop and later became immortalized by seamstress Agnes Breckenridge who quilted the design into the silk lining.
Today, this beautiful piece of clothing is in very poor condition after having been exposed to sunlight and also ravaging by souvenir collectors who have removed parts of the upper shoulder area.
Textile conservators have advised the museum to take it of the exhibit and it will be so permanently.
There are however very brief chances to take a look at the coat and the next is coming up soon.