Hayes Center's Lincoln artifact featured in new Spielberg movie

The new Steven Spielberg movie, "Lincoln," includes a scene that features the president with his sleeping son, Tad.
Tom Jackson
Dec 21, 2012

The camera lingers on Lincoln's carpet slippers.

"I thought, 'That looked like our slippers,'" said Nan Card, manuscripts curator for the Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Center in Fremont.

In a sense, they were. The slippers featured in the movie were exact replicas of Lincoln's real slippers, which are in the Hayes Center collection.
Gilbert Gonzalez, the center's head of photographic resources, got a phone call in July 2011 from a man asking about the slippers.

"He said he was working on a project for Steven Spielberg, and did we have the Lincoln slippers, and would it be possible to take pictures of them," Gonzalez said. "I said yes, and he said, 'Great, I will have a follow-up email from the costume designers.'"

Gonzalez, following instructions, took several photographs of one of the slippers from each side, the front and back, and also took a photo with a ruler beside the slipper to show its exact size.

"We charged them just under $300. It was mostly for the labor. We didn't know it was for a film," Gonzalez said. "We charged them our customary fees."

Gonzalez didn't ask why they wanted to copy the slippers, and his contacts didn't tell him.

"They were very secretive about the entire project," he said.

The museum's director, Christie Weininger, saw the movie soon after it came out and didn't know about the Hayes Center's connection. Weininger wasn't the director when the call came in during 2011.

But Weininger noticed the slippers, anyway.

"They do get a very prominent five-second shot," Weininger said.

Card spotted the slippers when she went to see the movie in Toledo, and then she remembered the photos Gonzalez took. When she returned to the museum, she told staffers what she had seen.

"It was a well-known fact that Lincoln liked to be casual in the White House," said Nancy Kleinhenz, communications and marketing manager at the Hayes Center.

There's even a book about Lincoln's foreign policy, called "Diplomat in Carpet Slippers."

One remaining mystery is how the movie producers learned the Hayes Center has Honest Abe's carpet slippers in its collection.

In 2011, when the museum was contacted, the slippers would not have turned up in a Google search, although they could be found in a database on the museum's website, said Mary Lou Rendon, collections manager for the center.

Perhaps somebody tipped them off.

"We do have a relationship with the Lincoln museum in Springfield," Rendon said.