Allan Pinkerton

Allan Pinkerton began his career as a detective on the Chicago Police Force in the 1850s and later established Pinkerton's National Detective Agency. He achieved national recognition for his efforts to protect Lincoln during the alleged Baltimore assassination conspiracy; Chicago Mayor John Wentworth maintained that the plot was a hoax designed to enhance his business. Pinkerton was appointed head of the Civil War intelligence operation that subsequently became the Secret Service. He appointed Alexander Gardner chief photographer to help detect and identify military spies among the troops.

Carte de visite

Photographic visiting cards that became popular in the United States in 1859. Small (approximately 2.5 x 4 inches), inexpensive, and easily produced, carte de visite photographs were soon mass produced. Carte de visites of famous personalities were displayed in homes or saved in parlor albums.


A raised structure on which a coffin rests during a state funeral. Benjamin B. French, the commissioner of public buildings, designed an enormous catafalque for the East Room of the White House where Lincoln's coffin lay in state. A chandelier had to be removed to accomodate the eleven foot high structure, which was called the "temple of death." The catafalque, mirrors, and remaining chandeliers were swathed in black crepe. Catafalques were built in each of the cities where Lincoln's remains lay in state en route to Springfield, Illinois, and catafalque souvenirs were widely collected.


An escaped slave who fled or was taken behind Union lines during the Civil War. The term was usually applied to smuggled goods seized during warfare.


A derogatory term used to describe Northern Democrats who advocated making peace with the Confederacy during the Civil War, comparing them to the poisonous copperhead snakes that hide in the grass.


A garment with a low neckline, which might expose a portion of a woman's breasts.

Mitochondrial DNA

Mitochondrial DNA is found in the mitochondria, or energy-producing organelles, of both plant and animal cells. Mitochondrial DNA is passed on from mother to child and lacks the coded genetic sequences that determine hereditary characteristics.


A French term that distinguished custom dressmakers, who designed and crafted individual women's garments, from seamstresses, who stitched together precut garments.

Sic Semper Tyrannis

Latin for "Thus always to tyrants." Booth was alluding to his home state's anthem, "Maryland, My Maryland," which called for vengeance against Lincoln's tyranny :

Dear Mother! Burst the tyrant's chain, Maryland!
Virginia should not call in vain, Maryland!
She meets her sisters on the plain --
"Sic semper!" 'tis the proud refrain
That baffles minions back again,
Maryland! My Maryland!
(Furtwangler 65)


An optical instrument that creates a three-dimensional effect from two photographs of the same scene taken at slightly different angles and viewed through two eyepieces. Oliver Wendel Holmes, a nineteenth-century physician, microscopist, and poet, designed portable stereoscopes that were widely marketed during the Civil War era as inexpensive photographic printing techniques became widely available. Holmes wrote of his invention:

Oh, infinite volumes of poems that I treasure in this small library of glass and pasteboard! I creep over the vast features of Rameses, on the face of his rockhewn Nubian temple; I scale the huge mountain-crystal that calls itself the Pyramid of Cheops...and then I dive into some mass of foliage with my microscope, and trace the veinings of a leaf so delicately wrought in the painting not made with hands, that I can almost see its down and the green aphis that sucks its juices. (Hamilton 14).

Writ of Habeas Corpus

A court order requiring authorities to bring a prisoner before the court so that the court can determine whether the prisoner is being held legally.