Collections > Electronic Theses and Dissertations > Decay on Display: The Funeral Train Journeys of Abraham Lincoln and Tsar Alexander III

The circumstances surrounding the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln in 1865 and Tsar Alexander III's death in 1894 shared little in common, but each leader's funeral evolved into a train journey traversing hundreds of miles that allowed citizens to participate in the mourning process in ways previously unimaginable. These lavish obsequies occurred on the heels of the extreme trauma associated with America's Civil War and Russia's two famines and an accompanying cholera epidemic, each of which claimed hundreds of thousands. I argue that survivors were able to mourn others recently lost by mourning the leader; a grandiose, serial funeral for one man served as a proxy ceremony for citizens denied a proper burial. Perhaps equally magnificent in scale and splendor, these funeral pageants differed in their success. Lincoln's elevated him to political sainthood for decades to come, whereas similar attempts to perform a secular canonization of Alexander ultimately failed.