Saturday, April 15, 2017

My Private Tour of the Lincoln Library in Springfield, Illinois on the 150th Anniversary (April 15, 2015) of President Lincoln's Assassination on April 15, 1865.

I was invited by, Pete Harbison, the Student Historian Program Coordinator to visit the Lincoln Library and Museum for a private tour last month when I judged research papers for the Illinois History Exposition. The day has arrived. We were joined by Dr. Sam Wheeler, the Research Historian for the Lincoln Library. 

Our first stop was the Library’s research room. Here is where the public may request materials to study. 
Artifacts not displayed in the Museum are stored at the Library. I was taken to the sub-level where there are 6 miles of movable, electronic filing shelves. 
The Preservation Department is a very important function of the Library. I was introduced to the staff and allowed to take a few photos. They were working on a few projects.
One being the removal of tape residue from a Lincoln document from the mid-1850s.
Another person was working on the preservation of the “Members of the House of Representatives of the thirteenth General Assembly of the State of Illinois” photo- montage.

I was escorted into a private conference room where Sam left for a few minutes and came back pushing a cart with boxes and items on it. The painting and bronze statute were in the room along with other historical artifactsthat were never displayed to the public.

I was privileged to be allowed to photograph a couple of the items, but not all of them. 

The first item is Lincoln’s personal house key to the now “Lincoln Home National Historic Site” at 426 South 7th Street. Just imagine Lincoln using this key every day! 
The second item is Lincoln’s personal travel shaving kit which he took with him on his travels. Lincoln was clean-shaven when he began running for president.
Lincoln grew a beard after receiving a letter from Grace Bedell, an 11-year-old girl from New York, in October 1860, a few weeks before the election. Grace said that with a beard he “would look a great deal better for your face is so thin.” Furthermore, she wrote, “All the ladies like whiskers and they would tease their husbands to vote for you and then you would be President.” 

Lincoln responded to Bedell a few days later in a letter. “As to the whiskers, having never worn any, do you not think people would call it a piece of silly affectation if I were to begin it now?” he wrote.
Abraham Lincoln's first whiskers in 1860.
Little Known Fact: By growing a beard, Lincoln nearly bankrupted a young entrepreneur named Milton Bradley, who had a booming business selling daguerreotypes of the clean-shaven candidate. Bradley destroyed his supply of daguerreotypes and turned to board games to make money.
I was shown (no photos allowed) a beautiful Tiffany (from New York) heart pendant owned by Mary Todd Lincoln. On one side were perfect diamonds covering the entire heart – on the reverse side was a single heart cut diamond allowing you to view the spectrum of colors from the reverse side making it see-through. 

I saw a hand written letter from Mary Todd Lincoln the day after the assassination, written on mourning stationary (paper with a black border) where Mrs. Lincoln is giving instructions (i.e. last will and testament) about what she desired after her death. The very first sentence asked that she be in state without the top of the casket on for 48 hours. She was very afraid of waking up after being pronounced dead and buried alive, then not being able to summon for help. (The term "Dead-ringer" comes from being buried with a rope in the casket hooked to an above group bell. If the person awoke in the casket, they would pull the rope that rang the bell to summon help in digging them up.)  

Last but not least, I saw 1 of the 3, real Lincoln stove-top hats. This was an early one, before becoming President. It is made of beaver fur where the other two hats are made of silk. There were two worn spots on the brim that were worn through. It is where Lincoln's fingers would grab the hats brim to tip it in greetings.

All in all --- a wonderful way to celebrate the 150th anniversary of President Lincoln's assassination. 

1 comment:

  1. Outstanding! Thank you for sharing. I just finished reading the book "Twenty Days" by Kunhardt & Kunhardt. Lincoln has always been a favorite reading subject for me. John J. Kornfeind originally from Freeport, Illinois site of the 2nd Lincoln Douglas Debate of 1858 and the resultant "Freeport Doctrine"


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