Saturday, June 12, 2021

The first five congratulation telegraphs sent to Lincoln after the May 18, 1860, Chicago convention.

At least five telegrams reached Abraham Lincoln in Springfield shortly after he had been nominated at the Chicago convention on May 18, 1860. Although there is some difference of opinion as to which one he received first, the order most generally accepted follows:
  1. Lincoln: "You are nominated." John James Speed (J.J.S.) Wilson.
  2. Abe Lincoln: "We did it, glory to God.'' Knapp. (Lincoln abhorred the name "Abe.")
  3. Abraham Lincoln: You're nominated and elected.'' J.J. Richards.
  4. Hon. A. Lincoln: " You were nominated on 3rd ballot.'' J.J. Richards.
  5. Hon. A. Lincoln: "Vote just announced. While number necessary to choice; 234 Lincoln, 354 votes not stated. On motion of Mr. Evarts of New York, the nomination was made unanimous amid intense enthusiasm." J.J.S. Wilson.
J.J.S. Wilson (later a civil war Colonel) was superintendent of the Eastern Division of the Caton Telegraph Lines (later the Illinois Telegraph Company) with headquarters at Springfield. Mr. N. M. Knapp lived in Winchester, Illinois, and worked hard for Lincoln's nomination. J. J. Richards was a resident of Springfield and was connected with the Great Western Railroad. 
Compiled by Dr. Neil Gale, Ph.D.

Reactions to the 1860 Republican National Convention in Chicago, where Lincoln was nominated as the presidential candidate.

The intelligence of the convention which nominated Abraham Lincoln has often been challenged. Many held that the candidacy of Lincoln was successful because his friends bought votes, bartered offices, and packed the convention with a howling mob, "filling every available space and much that they had no business to fill." The immediate reaction of the two radical elements in America was the best evidence that the convention had made a sagacious choice. 
Drawing of the Wigwam interior during the 1860 nominating convention. Note the second-story gallery and curved ceiling structure to allow for better acoustics.

The Abolitionists of the North, whose one obsession is indicated by their name, began at once a vicious attack on the Republican nominee. Wendell Phillips, the editor of the "Liberator," published an article under the title, "Abraham Lincoln, the Slave-Hound of Illinois." He took occasion to remark that "notwithstanding the emptiness or Mr. Lincoln's mind, I think we shall yet succeed in making this a decent land to live in."

The Slavery group of the South was more pronounced in their dissatisfaction with the Republican nominee than the Abolitionists. Slavery meant more to them than the preservation of the Union. They immediately attacked Lincoln as a recognized foe of the institution they had nourished and which now sustained them.

That "politics make strange bedfellows" was never more clearly exhibited than in the united attack upon Lincoln by both the Slavery and Anti-Slavery groups. Those who sponsored the candidacy or Lincoln anticipated just such a reaction and saw the wisdom of choosing a man whose course would not be influenced by either of these radical elements.

Such literary men as Oliver Wendell Holmes, John Greenleaf Whittier, William Cullen Bryant, George William Curtis, and James Russell Lowell sanctioned Lincoln's nomination and gave him their support. They recognized in him one whose chief passion would be to save the Union. Lowell set forth his convictions as follows: 
"We are persuaded that the election of Mr. Lincoln will do more than anything else to appease the excitement of the country. He has proved both his ability and integrity; he has had experience enough in public affairs to make him a statesman and not enough to make him a politician."
One of the reporters who made the Chicago convention was Charles Carleton Coffin. After the convention adjourned Coffin was with the group that traveled from Chicago to Springfield to advise Abraham Lincoln that he had won the party's nomination for the presidency.
Engraved portrait of Charles Carleton Coffin.
The ten men who were chosen to advise Lincoln of the convention's decision were:
  • George Ashmum of Massachusetts
  • Francis P. Blair of Missouri
  • George S. Boutwell of Massachusetts
  • Samuel G. Bowles of Massachusetts
  • David K. Carter of Ohio
  • William M. Evarts of New York
  • William D. Kelley of Pennsylvania
  • Carl Schurz of Wisconsin
  • Amos Tuck of New Hampshire
  • Gideon Wells of Connecticut
Coffin remained for some days gathering items about the newly nominated Republican candidate for President. The second morning after his arrival, he made this interesting observation: 
"I crossed the public square and entered the office of Mr. Lincoln. A pine table occupied the center of the room, a desk in one corner. The May sun shone through uncurtained windows upon ranges of shelves filled with law books, pamphlets, and documents—a helter-skelter arrangement. Newspapers littered the floor. Mr. Lincoln was seated at the desk, clad in a linen duster, with a pile of letters and a wooden inkstand before him. He had a hearty welcome for all who came. There was no sign of elation. To friends, neighbors, old acquaintances, and strangers alike, he was simply Abraham Lincoln."
Compiled by Dr. Neil Gale, Ph.D. 

Friday, June 11, 2021

What Happened to the Boots Lincoln was Wearing the Night he was Shot?

One of the most valued treasures presented to the Chicago Historical Society was a coat which affidavits attest is the garment worn by Abraham Lincoln on the night of his assassination. 
Lincoln on his death bed.

In 1924, there came to light in Philadelphia several pieces of wearing apparel said to have been worn by Lincoln on that fateful night. The items displayed were: "An old black suit, the collar stained with the lifeblood of the martyred President, the trousers wrinkled, and a badly torn overcoat. The clothes were sold for $6,500 ($25,200 today).

The gloves and handkerchief which Lincoln Is said to have with him on the night of April 14, 1865, were exhibited in New York City in 1924. 

In 1859, while on a visit to Springfield, Illinois, Lincoln ordered boots from Conrad Loch reputed to be the finest bookmaker in America. The Moroccan leather boots cost $19.50 ($633.00 today) and Abe put down a $10 deposit. A good pair of boots then cost $12.50 ($405.00 today). It took 10 months to make them and he wore them during his campaign for the presidency and at his inaugurations. Indeed, in 1865, the night John Wilkes Booth shot President Lincoln he was wearing Conrad Loch’s maroon and black Russian Calf boots.

Peter Kahle, a humble German immigrant, a shoemaker from Scranton, Pennsylvania thought he could make a pair of comfortable shoes for his President. He was a modest man and worked from a store basement, but advertised it as the “largest boot and shoe establishment in the County.” Using the diagrams as a template he crafted a pair of shoes then sent them to Lincoln by way of a present from a humble admirer. The shoes fitted perfectly and Lincoln was delighted and sent a personal thank you letter to Kahler. The shoemaker was no fool and the Presidential letter of recommendation was published making Peter Kahler a celebrity shoemaker. Henceforth he promoted himself as ‘Doctor Kahler, official bootmaker to the President.'”
Boots fit for Lincoln.
Lincoln's Foot Measurements.
During the Civil War (1861-1865), it was very difficult for the President to find private time for boot fitting, and almost impossible for bootmaker to have an audience with the Commander in Chief. Lincoln was determined, however, to have comfortable boots and sent for Dr. Kahler to attend him at the White House. There were several conditions, including he must never talk of their meeting, not even to his family. The President’s instructions to Dr. Kohler were to follow the Native Indian method of moccasin measurement i.e., stand barefoot on a piece of rawhide and with his hunting knife cut out the sole, following the contour of the foot. The President pulled off his boots, stood upon the sheet of thick brown paper and Dr. Kahler outlined the feet. After the diagram was concluded and the President signed and dated it to show his approval. President Lincoln’s right foot was half an inch longer than his left foot.

There appeared an article in the "Superintendent and Foreman" in 1895, setting forth the story of how a man in Lynn, Massachusetts, had come in possession of the boots Lincoln wore to Ford's Theatre that fateful night.

William T. Clark, a 23-year-old army clerk, rented the back bedroom on the first floor in the Petersen's boarding house across the street from Ford's Theatre. Clark found the Conrad Loch boots under his bed after Lincoln’s body was removed. Clark had just lost his job and used the boots as collateral for a personal loan, from Justin H. Hatch (a civil servant at the U.S. Treasury), to go West to the goldfields and seek his fortune.

Eventually, the boots were given to a school teacher, possibly Hatch’s granddaughter who brought them to her classroom every year on Lincoln’s birthday for the kids to see, try on and play with. The Conrad Loch boots were finally obtained by the National Park Service in 1947.

Kahler’s boots remained Lincoln's favorite and he was buried wearing a pair.

If only the stovepipe hat that Lincoln wore that night to the theatre could be located.

Compiled by Dr. Neil Gale, Ph.D.

After Lincoln's assassination, Mary Lincoln bequeathed the coat to Lincoln's favorite doorman, Alphonse Donn. The Donn family held the coat for over a century, allowing curious visitors to cut swatches of the bloodstained lining. Eventually, souvenir seekers did so much damage that the sleeve separated from the body of the coat. Because of its fragile condition, the coat is not currently on display, but the Ford's Theatre Museum contains a replica.