This plaque commemorates the assassinations of presidents Abraham Lincoln, James A. Garfield, and William McKinley. Made using a combination of techniques, including parquetry and inlay, it frames photographic images of the three martyred presidents. Closely packed columns of block letters are inlaid below the images of the presidents and spell out their dates of birth, the dates they were shot, and the dates they died. Two opposing American flags crown the plaque. A tremendous outpouring of grief ensued after the deaths of each of these leaders, and it is likely that this tribute was made to mark a landmark anniversary of one of the assassinations, which occurred in 1865, 1888, and 1901, respectively.
McKinley was shot while visiting the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo. His tour of the exposition had been filmed using Thomas Edison’s early process to produce moving images. After McKinley’s death, Edison created a mourning film entitled The Martyred Presidents, which showed photographic images of Lincoln, Garfield, and McKinley fading in and out of a tomblike structure. Although it would seem likely that the cenotaph was made soon after 1901, the angularity of the form and the rayed effects relate most strongly to decorative arts made during the Art Deco period, suggesting it was made after 1925.
Stacy C. Hollander, "Cenotaph to Three Martyred Presidents," in American Anthem: Masterworks from the American Folk Art Museum (New York: Harry N. Abrams in association with American Folk Art Museum, 2001), 371—372.