Flea Market Find Might Carry Lincoln's Last Signature

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The note is believed to be one of the last written documents by the 16th president. i

The note, dated April 14, 1865, the day of Abraham Lincoln's assassination, may be one of the last written documents by the 16th president. Nate Parsons/Courtesy of The Morning Journal hide caption

itoggle caption Nate Parsons/Courtesy of The Morning Journal
The note is believed to be one of the last written documents by the 16th president.

The note, dated April 14, 1865, the day of Abraham Lincoln's assassination, may be one of the last written documents by the 16th president.

Nate Parsons/Courtesy of The Morning Journal
Bruce Steiner i

Bruce Steiner, of South Amherst, Ohio, discovered a small note written on the back of an envelope that may have been signed by President Lincoln in a box Steiner purchased at a flea market. Nate Parsons/Courtesy of The Morning Journal hide caption

itoggle caption Nate Parsons/Courtesy of The Morning Journal
Bruce Steiner

Bruce Steiner, of South Amherst, Ohio, discovered a small note written on the back of an envelope that may have been signed by President Lincoln in a box Steiner purchased at a flea market.

Nate Parsons/Courtesy of The Morning Journal

On a trip through a flea market in northern Ohio, amateur historian Bruce Steiner stopped to rifle through a box of old papers.

In the box was a book, an IRS receipt requesting $1 from a man for his use of a horse carriage and, at the bottom of the box, an envelope with a note written on it: "Let this man enter with this note. April 14, 1865. A. Lincoln."

Most interestingly, the note was written on the day the 16th president was assassinated. Steiner was skeptical that the note was real, but he decided to bring the box home.

"The man wasn't asking such a high price. I thought I'd just pick it up for something to look at, something to enjoy," Steiner tells NPR's Robert Siegel.

Steiner's trip to the flea market was three years ago, but it has recently come to light that the signature might be real. John Lupton, associate director of The Papers of Abraham Lincoln project says he is fairly certain that the signature is authentic.

Now the speculation is over what the note means. Lupton has a few theories about what building Lincoln was granting permission for the note's carrier to enter. The top contender, in Lupton's mind, is the executive mansion — Lincoln had an open-door policy, and may have been giving someone permission to enter the mansion to see him.

"We kind of doubt that it would be the entrance to Ford's Theatre," says Lupton, "which is obviously the most tantalizing scenario."

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