Royal OakJuly 23, 2012
Piece of U.S. history featured in Royal Oak
By Chris Jackett
C & G Staff Writer
ROYAL OAK — When PBS viewers turn on their televisions July 31, they can get a glimpse of some national history that came to light in Royal Oak.
The Royal Oak Historical Museum discovered a signature from an “A. Lincoln” among a collection of items donated by the Dondero family in 2006, and PBS sociologist Tukufu Zuberi verified the signature’s authenticity April 20. It was part of a military prisoner discharge letter from President Abraham Lincoln during the Civil War.
Museum volunteer Johanna Schurrer was the first one to discover the signature among the collection items.
“We inherited a lot of Lincoln memorabilia from the Dondero family, and I was cataloging it. I was looking at the signature not knowing what the rest of it was,” Schurrer said. “I thought it looked like an authentic signature, but I wasn’t sure because I’m not an authority on such things.”
Museum Curator Muriel Versagi said former U.S. Congressman George A. Dondero was a Lincoln fan who corresponded with Robert Todd Lincoln, the president’s son, and even went on to name his own son Robert Lincoln Dondero. When Robert Dondero went into senior housing in 2006, he donated his father’s collection to the local museum.
The donated letter reads, “Let John S. Ennis take the oath of Dec. 8, and his discharge. Jan. 16, 1864 A. Lincoln.”
PBS discovered that Ennis, originally thought to be a Union sergeant, was a Confederate private from Kentucky and a teenage prisoner of war who was allowed to take an oath switching sides in exchange for his freedom.
“For me, this was an emotional several minutes, holding in my hands this small piece of paper that Lincoln had held in his hands, the war was almost at an end, the 13th Amendment had been introduced, and handing me the now-authenticated artifact was host Tukufu, a young black professor of sociology at the University of Pennsylvania,” Versagi said in a release.
Although the historical document was authenticated in April, the PBS show “History Detectives” will air at 8 p.m. July 31. The show features segments on four different artifacts, featuring the Royal Oak piece second.
The Royal Oak Historical Society is hosting a 7 p.m. ice cream social and 8 p.m. screening of the show at Emagine Theatre, 200 N. Main, when it airs live July 31.
Versagi asks that attendees RSVP by July 25 via email to email@example.com so the group knows how much ice cream to order. There is no cost to attend, but donations will be encouraged to help pay for the $4.50 ice cream sundaes and raise funds toward a new rear awning for the museum.
For more information on the museum, visit www.royaloakhistorical society.org.
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