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Victorians in Disguise


Early in the morning of February 23, 1861, near Willard’s Hotel in Washington D.C., Joseph Howard of the New York Times awaited Abraham Lincoln’s arrival from Springfield. His editors sent a telegram informing him that the president-elect would be wearing “a Scotch plaid cap and a very long military cloak, so that he was entirely unrecognizable.”

Seems Lincoln had heard assassination warnings when he was in Philadelphia, so a sudden change of schedule had him going “through Baltimore at an hour when no one expected him.”

But the story of Lincoln’s disguise was inaccurate. Seems someone in New York gave Lincoln a soft wool hat. So, he wasn’t wearing his customary tall, stiff hat. But the story of Lincoln in disguise appeared in the Times and hundreds of other newspapers. Cartoons published before the war began alleged Lincoln “reached Washington so carefully disguised that no one who saw him would recognize him.”

From More Civil War Curiosities by Webb Garrison



  1. You’d think that tall hat would be a target for a wacko, wouldn’t you? How interesting about the disguise. 🙂

  2. You would think so, Paisley! That’s likely why all the newspapers of the day grabbed onto the story, even if it did turn out to be a fluke. LOL.

  3. Nancy C says:

    Susan, what a hoot to try to visualize Lincoln in a plaid cap. The pix always show him with that stovepipe hat, so I never considered he might wear something else … although I guess that stovepipe would have been difficult to wear in the wilds. Fun post. Thanks for sharing.

  4. That would be a funny picture, Nancy! Thanks for stopping by.

  5. Love this blog. I absolutely forget the American point of view in the Victorian ages. Great post!

  6. Great blog! I would never have guessed Lincoln tried to disguise himself. Making him look like someone else would have been a tall order!
    I love the new tv commercial which is made to look like a grainy old black and white movie, and features an actor who’s a dead ringer for Honest Abe.
    Wonderful blog, Susan.

  7. Interesting blog Susan.



  8. Harper, I think a lot of people don’t think of the Civil War period as Victorian, but it was right in the heart of it.

    LOL, Mary Ann, I saw that commercial too! And I agree, he was so tall, I don’t know how he could have disguised himself so no one could recognize him.

    Thanks for stopping by, Margaret.

  9. Caroline Clemmons says:

    Interesting story, Susan. It’s hard to visualize Lincoln without his stovepipe hat.

  10. Denise Eagan says:

    We forget in the love that we have for Lincoln these days, how many people disliked him on both sides of the war. Great post, Susan.

  11. The stovepipe hat was definitely his signature, Caroline.

    Thanks, Dee. It’s amazing Lincoln made it all the way through the war.

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