Booth bobbleheads do booming business

A bobblehead of Lincoln assassin John Wilkes Booth was on display next to one of the slain president before the Booth figure was removed from the Gettysburg battlefield visitors center and bookstore. (Courtesy Photo)

Even as bobbleheads of Lincoln assassin John Wilkes Booth are pulled from gift shops, the sculptor of the statuette says business is booming.

“We live in a capitalistic society — if you find something you don’t agree with, then just move on,” said the bobblehead’s creator, Rick Lynn.

A first run of 250 Booth bobbleheads were manufactured about four months ago by Lynn’s Kansas City-based BobbleHead LLC. Lynn always planned to produce more, but said he will now increase a second run to at least 1,000 dolls.

The dolls depicting Booth, an actor who assassinated President Lincoln in April 1865, attracted national attention after it was reported they were for sale at the Gettysburg Museum and Visitor Center. A subsequent story reported they’d been removed from the shelves.

Lynn says sales of the bobbleheads peaked midweek, when five dolls sold online in a single minute.

“It’s been a hornet’s nest around here,” he said. “We have hundreds of names on a waiting list, we can’t even count them all. We’re trying to process requests as fast as they come in.”

Officials at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield, Ill., said yesterday they decided to remove the Booth bobbleheads after reading that Gettysburg had done so.

“The bobbleheads tend to glorify Lincoln’s assassin, and we felt that was inappropriate,” said library spokesman Dave Blanchette.

And at Ford’s Theater in Washington, the site of Lincoln’s killing, a privately owned gift shop in the lobby said it, too, would no longer sell the dolls. According to the National Park Service, the bobbleheads have never been sold in the official bookstore and museum at the Ford’s Theater National Historic Site, where only historical materials are sold.

After The Evening Sun newspaper in Hanover, Pa., received an anonymous complaint regarding the dolls about a week ago, a reporter questioned Gettysburg battlefield visitors, nearly all of whom said they thought the dolls were inappropriate. After being called for comment, park service and Gettysburg Foundation officials said they had removed the bobbleheads.

Also contacted was respected Lincoln historian Harold Holzer, who likened the situation to selling a Lee Harvey Oswald doll at the Kennedy Center.

“Wiser bobbleheads prevailed,” Holzer said when informed of the decision to remove them.

But Lynn insists the Booth bobbleheads are worthy of posterity, comparing them to bobbleheads of Supreme Court justices that have been added to the collection of the Yale Law School library.

“I’m not being apologetic,” he said. “And I’m not backing off the fact that this is a historic artifact.”

And at least one occasional collector of Civil War memorabilia agreed. Gettysburg resident Richard Wajda bought 24 of the bobbleheads online and said he planned to give them to friends as gifts.

“If these were really offensive,” Wajda said, “they wouldn’t be selling.”


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