Abraham Lincoln's opera glasses and final speech up for sale

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The Independent US

The opera glasses Abraham Lincoln was holding when he was shot at a theatre in Washington on Good Friday in 1865 are expected to fetch up to £43,000 at Christie's auction next week.

The 16th President of the United States had been watching the performance of the farce Our American Cousin through the German-made gilt metal and black enamel glasses, but they were resting on his lap when his assassin, John Wilkes Booth, made his way to the Presidential box undetected. A single revolver shot to the head killed Lincoln, and in an instant Booth took centre stage, leaping 12 feet down and shouting "Sic Semper Tyrannis ("As Always to Tyrants"). The opera glasses fell to the ground when the President was carried from the scene and were picked up by Captain James McCamley, a member of the Washington City Guards, who was later in command of the honour guard which accompanied Lincoln's casket to Springfield, Illinois, for internment.

The Christie's sale, in New York on 27 March, will also auction Lincoln's final speech in which he makes his first call for the right to vote for African-Americans. The handwritten speech, delivered just four days before his death, is estimated to fetch up to £1.4m. The beautifully-preserved speech constitutes the longest and most significant Lincoln transcript which is still in private hands.

A dramatic and rare War Department poster, dated 20 April 1865 and which offers rewards for information leading to the capture of the Lincoln assassination conspirators, is expected to fetch up to £21,000.

Other items for sale include, an unmailed draft of a letter written by Albert Einstein to President Franklin Roosevelt in 1939 – among the most momentous letters of the 20th century – is estimated to realise up to £860,000.

In the letter, the scientist informs President Roosevelt that "recent advances in theoretical physics" have suggested ways to harness the inherent power of the atom to construct powerful bombs. As a result, President Roosevelt ordered the launching of the Manhattan Project, a secret scientific effort, which in five years successfully developed the world's first nuclear weapons.