Dogs at Lincoln’s Funeral

color close-up - The Nation is Weeping (funeral poem, 1865) - LOC

Crowds gathered in Springfield, Illinois, on May 4, 155 years ago to lay Abraham Lincoln to rest following the last funeral to be held as his body made its journey home from Washington, D.C. To all those who knew that the late President loved dogs, it might come as no surprise that a dog would be present at Lincoln’s Springfield home for the occasion.

quote-dogs at Lincoln's funeralNot only did Lincoln love dogs, they seemed to love him in return. Stories of his companionship with dogs span Lincoln’s life from his youth to his presidency. As a young man moving west to Illinois, he saved his small dog from drowning in an icy creek. At Springfield, stray dogs, and cats too, found comfort and care at the Lincoln family’s home. Perhaps his famous dog Fido was one of these.  In Washington, a dog once followed Lincoln home to the White House.

It seems fitting that a man who loved dogs so well should be accompanied by dogs even in death. On at least three occasions, dogs were present at funeral ceremonies or viewings held after Lincoln’s assassination.

Fido was a well-known figure in Springfield, where he had lived with the Lincolns for about six years, frequently accompanying the future president around town. He would wait for his master outside the barber shop, and often carried papers for him as the two walked along.

When the Lincolns left for Washington in 1861, Fido remained behind with the family of John Roll, whose boys were friends of the Lincolns’ sons. Concerned that Fido would be fearful and unhappy with the bustle of Washington, the Lincolns had arranged for the Rolls to care for him. They specified that Fido could not be tied up alone in the yard, must be allowed in the house whenever he asked to come in, and allowed in the dining room at mealtime. To help Fido feel at home, the Lincolns gave the Rolls the dog’s favorite horsehair sofa.

Fido Lincoln (front)


When Springfield held Lincoln’s funeral on May 4, visitors flocked to the Lincoln home. John Roll took Fido there as well. It is also possible–perhaps even likely*–that on this occasion he also took Fido to the photography studio of Springfield photographer F.W. Ingmire. Cartes de visite of the yellow dog became popular keepsakes connected with Lincoln’s funeral.

Days earlier, in New York City, another dog who also  knew Lincoln took part in meeting his casket when it arrived by train. The New York Times reported on the episode in its April 28, 1865, edition:

Bruno, the Dog Mourner at Lincoln's Funeral




On the day that Lincoln’s casket reached Indianapolis, heavy rains curtailed plans for a procession to the Statehouse, where Lincoln would lie in state. Instead, his casket was quickly transported, preventing a public gathering at an elaborate building that had been erected as an archway and memorial exhibition hall. But event organizers would not allow their tribute to be missed. The next day, a crowd assembled at the arch for photographs, with a substitute casket in the hearse.

A photograph taken that day is in the collection of the Lincoln Financial Foundation at the Allen County Public Library in Fort Wayne, and can be seen here. Zooming in on the photo reveals one small figure in a prominent position directly beneath the front of the hearse. Behind its front wheels stands a small dog, facing away from the camera.

If the dog looks familiar, it may be because of his remarkable resemblance to another dog who had been present during Lincoln’s historic visit to Gettysburg on November 19, 1863. The Indianapolis dog, with his short legs and distinctive white ruff of fur at the base of his neck, looks much like the dog who stood with the crowd watching the procession that filed through Gettysburg’s streets to the dedication of Soldiers’ National Cemetery.

Close-up of dog in crowd

Close-up of a dog in the crowd at Gettysburg, November 19, 1863


Crowd watching Gettysburg dedication procession

The small dog at Gettysburg appears at the center of this view along Baltimore Street.


Like that little dog of Gettysburg, these three–the Indianapolis dog, Bruno, and Fido–all were witnesses to history. And, as dogs, ever keen to perceive human emotion, maybe they too felt the solemnity of the events they witnessed.

For Further Reading: “Twenty Days: A Narrative in Text and Pictures of the Assassination of Abraham Lincoln and the Twenty Days and Nights that followed—The Nation in Mourning, the Long Trip Home to Springfield,” by Dorothy Meserve Kunhardt and Philip B. Kunhardt Jr.


*An article by a researcher with the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum discusses in fascinating detail the uncertainty about the origin of F.W. Ingmire’s series of photographs of Fido. Were they taken in 1860-1861, as the Lincolns prepared to depart Springfield for Washington, as some accounts claim? Or did Roll have Fido photographed at the time of Lincoln’s funeral?

Our header image above, with accent color added, is a detail from the covering illustration for the poem “The Nation is Weeping” by Chas. Magnus, c. 1865. It pictures a crowd gathered to watch Lincoln’s funeral cortege in New York City. You can view the original illustration and the poem in the Library of Congress at the link below.


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Puppies in the Lincoln White House?

(Not the White House puppies)

Did Abraham Lincoln have another dog—besides Jip—as a pet at the White House?

A brief historical reference dated January 1863 in the Northern Illinois University Digital Library’s collection suggests that Lincoln had a female dog at that time. The unnamed dog appears in a single sentence describing a visit with the President by several prominent Boston abolitionists who came to discuss the effects of his emancipation policy.

Moncure D. Conway’s reference to the dog appears in an entry that is part of the University’s Abraham Lincoln Historical Digitization Project. Conway wrote, “The President met us laughing like a boy, saying that in the morning one of his children had come to inform him that the cat had kittens, and now another had just announced that the dog had puppies, and the White House was in a decidedly sensational state.”

If the First Family had taken in another dog, it should be no surprise. The Lincolns had often cared for stray dogs and cats while living in Springfield. And the tale of a doctor’s dog following the Lincoln carriage home to the White House–where the President sheepishly suggested to the dog’s owner that perhaps the pet should stay–suggests Lincoln would have readily welcomed any dog who was looking for a home.

The companionship of dogs had appealed to Lincoln from boyhood, and it’s likely their soothing presence meant the most to him during the war years and times of personal loss. Rebecca Pomroy, a nurse who had cared for Mary Lincoln and Tad following Willie’s death in 1862, saw first-hand how Jip’s presence buoyed the President’s spirits. An account of her service as an army nurse, including her time at the White House, notes that Jip “was instrumental in relieving his master of some portion of the burden, for the little fellow was never absent from the Presidential lunch. He was always in Mr. Lincoln’s lap to claim his portion first, and was caressed and petted by him through the whole meal.”*

Conway had himself observed the profound effect of dogs on Lincoln’s emotions that January day in 1863. He describes an abrupt change in Lincoln’s demeanor after his remark about the puppies and kittens gave way to his visitors’ business: “Some of our party looked a little glum at this hilarity; but it was pathetic to see the change in the President’s face when he presently resumed his burden of care.”

We know from many soldiers’ letters, diaries, and memoirs how dogs helped them withstand the worst of times during the war. It’s fitting that their Commander in Chief, as well, benefitted from the presence of dogs—and maybe more than one of his own–during his most trying times.

*From “War Reminiscences or Echoes from Hospital and White House, A Record of Mrs. Rebecca R. Pomroy’s Experience in War-Times,” by Anna L. Boyden, 1884.

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