Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library & Museum
Listing Abraham Lincoln: Postal and Irish

(A post from Dr. James Cornelius, the curator of the Abraham Lincoln Collection here at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum)

Lincoln’s name makes it on to lots of lists these days, so you might ask: when did he first get listed, at least in print?  Service in the Black Hawk War in 1832 got him on to muster rolls, and a pension list, as has long been known.  Election to the state legislature in 1834 / 1836 / 1838 / 1840 also put him forward.  We think his name first appeared in national newspapers in 1840, when he was an elector for the Whig presidential candidate, Gen. William Henry Harrison.

Two very out-of-the-way listings — one of them a new discovery — are worth listing here.

1.  The federal government put out a biennial Register of All Officers and Agents, Civil, Military, and Naval, in the Service of the United States.  (Today this is known as the Federal Register.) A copy of this dull and hard-to-find publication has recently entered the collection at the ALPLM.  As of Sept. 30, 1835, amid the 297 pages of small print, including all people doing printing work for the government, and all cashiers of the Bank of the United States (which ceased operations about a year later, triggering a panic), is a long list of every postmaster in all 24 states, plus 3 territories.  

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   Lincoln took home $56 for his work that year; the Irishman in Chicago, $649.00.

This 1835 edition is thus the first time that Lincoln’s name appeared in a federal publication.  Somehow the Democratic President Andrew Jackson had commissioned the known Whig legislator A. Lincoln as postmaster of New Salem, Illinois, back in 1833.   Lincoln did not appear in the 1833 biennial report, having taken up duties too late in the year; and he appeared again in 1837 only as a quarter-time employee, after his post office had been closed.  (Jackson earned $25,000 a year as president; Lincoln earned that same salary, much reduced by inflation, 30 years later.)  We do not know who exactly prevailed upon Jackson — more likely upon his postmaster-general, Amos Kendall of Massachusetts — to give Lincoln the tiny job, since the U.S.P.O. burned all such recommendation letters in the 1890s.  

2.  A more momentous and surprising listing came a decade later.  Prof. Christine Kinealy of Drew University in New Jersey, for her book Charity and the Great Hunger in Ireland (2013), read the thousands of names printed in an official report and extracted, among others, Lincoln’s name. She mentions this directly on page 209.

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The 1849 report from London listed subscribers to the “extreme distress” fund from all over the world.

He donated £5 (roughly $24.00 then, or very roughly $1,000 today) for famine relief.  As a new Congressman from Illinois’s 7th district, Lincoln had tried and mostly failed to win the Irish-American vote.  He was the only Whig in the entire Illinois delegation of 7 representatives and 2 senators, and the Irish voted Democratic.  He also had many Scots-born constituents, who were drifting Whig.  Let us dispense with politics, though: Lincoln always felt the burdens of the poor, and gave what he could, and the new level of catastrophe spawned by blighted potatos throughout Europe caused special harm in the bulk of Ireland where the one-crop food source left millions vulnerable.  Prof. Kinealy reports that an earthquake in Caracas, Venezuela, and a famine in India had previously generated international relief help, but the severity of the potato blight, worse in 1846 than in 1845, had engendered the first truly organized international relief effort.  Most donations arrived in 1847.  Democratic President James Polk contributed; so did any number of British lords and ladies, Canadian and Indian expatriates, and U.S. bankers and shipping magnates.  And a humble married man, father of two, from Springfield, Illinois, who never mentioned this donation in his next four runs for public office.

Thanks for assistance to John Hoffmann, and to book donors June and George Wiggins.

A Link to Abraham Lincoln’s backwoods education

A backwoods cabin, a combination of teacher, preacher and farmer, and a room full of poor, virtually illiterate children. That was the scene nearly 200 years ago when a teacher named Caleb Hazel encountered a student named Abraham Lincoln.

Now Hazel’s slate, one that may very well have been used by Lincoln in that Kentucky classroom, has been donated to the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum.

The slate was donated by Hazel’s descendants: cousins Cathy Bowers Dixon; Marcia Lynn Tenney; Richard Douglas Byers; and Sue Ellen Sparks, in memory of their grandfather Erma Maurice Bowers. Hazel’s son was also a teacher and kept his father’s slate. Once Lincoln became famous, the family held onto the slate generation after generation.

The slate is 16 inches tall by 12 inches wide – larger than a standard computer screen. The wood frame has a hole so the slate could be hung on the cabin wall. Hazel likely used it to explain lessons to the whole class and then let each student come up to practice their writing or arithmetic.

The slate will be displayed in the museum’s Treasures Gallery.” The display will also include a page covered with teenaged Lincoln’s math practice, the earliest surviving writing from the future president, and a quill pen from his White House years.

“The descendants of Caleb Hazel have done a tremendous service by donating this slate so that everyone can see and learn from it,” said Amy Martin, director of the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency. “The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum has benefited greatly from the generosity of people who want to share their Lincoln artifacts with the world.”

Lincoln listed Hazel as the second of his five teachers when he wrote a brief autobiographical sketch in 1860. Lincoln was 7 years old when his parents scraped together a little money to send him and his sister, 9-year-old Sarah, to school after the 1816 harvest.

The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum’s collection now contains the slate from Lincoln’s boyhood teacher and a page on which young Lincoln practiced his arithmetic – the oldest surviving writing from the future president.

“As much as we prize Lincoln for his leadership in saving the Union and ending slavery, we greatly admire him as a writer. He was also very good with numbers, and here is the earliest surviving item to illustrate his boyhood beginnings at both of those skills. Lincoln proved that any kid could start small and become expert, maybe end in greatness,” said Dr. James Cornelius, curator of the presidential library’s Lincoln Collection.

Hopeful Hint of a German Abraham Lincoln Newspaper

(Today we revisit an August, 2011, column from the curator of our Abraham Lincoln Collection, Dr. James Cornelius)

A selfless and tireless researcher connected with the Presidential Library and Museum has made a discovery that provides fresh hope that some day, some how…

On May 30, 1859, Abraham Lincoln signed a contract with a German immigrant named Theodor Canisius. Lincoln had bought a set of German type and the printing presses that would allow a newspaper to be published in Springfield, with Canisius as editor.  It was called the Illinois Staats-Anzeiger — roughly, the Illinois State Advertiser.

As Lincoln wrote in the contract, “said paper, in political sentiment, not to depart from the Philadelphia and Illinois Republican platforms.” The goal was to appeal to German immigrants, “until after the Presidential election of 1860.”

Lincoln’s ownership of the paper – profits going to Canisius, for his efforts – was secret. Unfortunately, its contents have remained secret, too, since not a single copy of it exists today to the knowledge of anyone in the Lincoln field. But Lincoln sent a copy in early July 1859 to another German, and later released Canisius from the terms of the agreement because evidently he had held up his end of the bargain. So we know that roughly 15 months’ worth of weekly papers did exist.

Now, that selfless researcher reports this to me: “A number of members of the 1861 Illinois General Assembly subscribed to the Staats-Anzeiger at state expense, as legislators were allowed. On February 23, 1861, the state auditor issued warrant #9297 (for $312) to Theodore Canisius for 312 copies of Staats-Anzeiger for members of the state Senate; #9309 (for $92) to Theodore Canisius for 240 copies of the Staats-Anzeiger for the House.”

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The date and those figures may mean that 1860 subscriptions were now being paid; or perhaps that 1861 subscriptions taken out. Whether or not the paper continued past the November 1860 election that saw Lincoln win a large number (though not, it is thought, a majority) of German-American votes, we do know that at least 500 copies a week were sent to elected officials, most likely for distribution to voters in their districts.

PLEASE!  Bitte schoen!  If anyone has an old German newspaper sitting in the attic, notify the Presidential Library immediately!  The type will confound most people, which is one reason that we suppose no copies have come to light since. The script is called Fraktur, in which some of the letters do not resemble the standard Latin alphabet used in modern English or German. But the word ‘Illinois’ on the masthead should be fairly apparent.

Thank you very much!  Danke schoen!  And thank you especially, Mr. J.

Postcards from the ALPLM: Windy City Post Card Club
The Windy City Postcard Collectors Club was founded in 1948 by Robert Finnegan. The club was created to provide deltiologists (postcard collectors) a place to meet, view each other’s cards, and trade with one another and would meet every month for this purpose. With more than 400 active members from all around the country, the Windy City Postcard Club held an annual show so that everyone could enjoy their postcard collections, and to provide a location for everyone to come and buy or sell postcards regardless if one was a collector or not.
This particular card, from our A/V Collection at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library, was made by Dexter Postcards in 1958 and was sold to club members so they could distribute them to their friends. A package of 25 of these cards cost $1.00. The postcard also encourages one to subscribe to the Windy City Bulletin, which touted itself as “The Magazine of Deltiology,” and coincidentally, found Robert Finnegan as the editor as well. Those who subscribed to the Bulletin could also receive a free copy of “The Guide to Deltiology” which was published as a special supplement to the Windy City Bulletin.
The back of this postcard describes who is in each of the photos on the card. The upper left image has the officers of the WCPCC and states that meetings were held the last Thursday of each month. The upper right picture shows a group of members at an annual exhibit and convention held every year in the fall. The lower left picture shows how postcard collectors from across five states attended meetings and exhibits. Finally, the lower right picture shows members viewing cards at an exhibit which was open to the public.
The first postcard in the United States was copyrighted in 1861, and the government first issued a pre-stamped postcard in 1873. In 1893 the first picture postcard was revealed at the Chicago World’s Fair. It wasn’t until 1898 that private publishers were given the right to publish their own versions of postcards. Despite all of the publicity, postcards failed to catch on with the public until the 1900s. Many people were not in favor of the idea that the postman, who sometimes was also the town gossip, could easily read what was written on the card. The fact that their personal business was open to be read by anyone who picked up the card was a major deterrent. However, as the cards became more interesting and prettier, the public began to see them as “souvenirs” rather than “tattlers.” Postcards became a cheap and easy form of communication and entertainment between correspondences. The cards were cheap to buy, and postage was only a penny. This helped to increase the presence of postcards into everyday life.

Postcards from the ALPLM: Windy City Post Card Club

The Windy City Postcard Collectors Club was founded in 1948 by Robert Finnegan. The club was created to provide deltiologists (postcard collectors) a place to meet, view each other’s cards, and trade with one another and would meet every month for this purpose. With more than 400 active members from all around the country, the Windy City Postcard Club held an annual show so that everyone could enjoy their postcard collections, and to provide a location for everyone to come and buy or sell postcards regardless if one was a collector or not.

This particular card, from our A/V Collection at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library, was made by Dexter Postcards in 1958 and was sold to club members so they could distribute them to their friends. A package of 25 of these cards cost $1.00. The postcard also encourages one to subscribe to the Windy City Bulletin, which touted itself as “The Magazine of Deltiology,” and coincidentally, found Robert Finnegan as the editor as well. Those who subscribed to the Bulletin could also receive a free copy of “The Guide to Deltiology” which was published as a special supplement to the Windy City Bulletin.

The back of this postcard describes who is in each of the photos on the card. The upper left image has the officers of the WCPCC and states that meetings were held the last Thursday of each month. The upper right picture shows a group of members at an annual exhibit and convention held every year in the fall. The lower left picture shows how postcard collectors from across five states attended meetings and exhibits. Finally, the lower right picture shows members viewing cards at an exhibit which was open to the public.

The first postcard in the United States was copyrighted in 1861, and the government first issued a pre-stamped postcard in 1873. In 1893 the first picture postcard was revealed at the Chicago World’s Fair. It wasn’t until 1898 that private publishers were given the right to publish their own versions of postcards. Despite all of the publicity, postcards failed to catch on with the public until the 1900s. Many people were not in favor of the idea that the postman, who sometimes was also the town gossip, could easily read what was written on the card. The fact that their personal business was open to be read by anyone who picked up the card was a major deterrent. However, as the cards became more interesting and prettier, the public began to see them as “souvenirs” rather than “tattlers.” Postcards became a cheap and easy form of communication and entertainment between correspondences. The cards were cheap to buy, and postage was only a penny. This helped to increase the presence of postcards into everyday life.

Banjo plucking Abraham Lincoln?

(A post from Dr. James Cornelius, the curator of the Abraham Lincoln Collection here at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum)

Abraham Lincoln, by his own admission, was unable to carry a tune, and certainly played no instrument.  That fact did not prevent artist-jokesters from placing him in musician’s garb.

Words on the song sheet below— a popular, inexpensive way for new song lyrics to old tunes to circulate in the soldiers’ camp or the civilians’ parlor — support the idea of African-American soldiers fighting for the Union cause.  References to General Fremont, “Little Mack” McClellan’s defeat near Richmond, and finally to Gen. William Birney leading black volunteers indicate that this miniature artwork appeared in 1863.  Depictions of African-Americans playing the banjo or other musical instruments are certainly older but need not always be seen as racist in that era.  The banjo, and the word itself, were African-born. 

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What of the little carte de visite of Lincoln, acquired by ALPLM in 2011?  Maybe it also dates from 1863, but more likely 1864.  Whether the artist who simply dropped Lincoln’s face into the existing portrait of the black man intended a pro-Lincoln or an anti-Lincoln statement is less clear than the obvious visual joke.  Of course Lincoln wishes he (and his executive reach) was in Dixie, maybe Tennessee or Georgia, with Sherman’s army!  He makes his point with the chorus of the widely known 1859 song, by tossing aside for a moment his soldier’s jacket and his Union shield — the symbol of the National Union party, the new name for the Republican party in 1864.

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A little bit of research shows that the publisher of the song sheet, Charles Magnus, appears in New York City directories at 12 Frankfort St. (near City Hall and Wall Street) for 1861 through 1867; but that his imprints also listing Washington, D.C., appear only in 1863-1864.  As for the hand-colored cdv, only 4 inches x 2.5 inches, no markings on its front or back tell us its origin. 

In some respects the joke is timeless.  It is racist in one sense: the garb was standard stage costume for a black musician; anti-Lincoln in the sense that we detect an allusion to the “black Republicans”; but pro-Lincoln for stating the administration’s policy accurately and plainly, and by indirectly promoting blacks’ efforts.  Indeed, after Sherman and Grant had led the way, Lincoln did go to Dixie, in March and April 1865.  It was and is, after all, part of the United States, black and white, North and South, artless or artful.

April 14, 1865. Abraham Lincoln is shot."Don’t know the manners of good society, eh? Well, I guess I know enough to turn you inside out, old gal - you sockdologizing old mantrap!" Immediately after Harry Hawk delivered that line during the play, “Our American Cousin”, the assassin John Wilkes Booth pulled the trigger of his single shot pistol and shot President Abraham Lincoln as he sat in his Ford’s Theatre box with his wife Mary. April 14, 1865 would be a date forever etched into American History.
This pair of kid leather gloves, currently in our collection, were in Mr. Lincoln’s left pocket on that fateful night 149 years ago and became stained as blood dripped in the pocket. Due to the fragile state of these moving artifacts they are not on display, but housed safely in our vault.

Hear more about Mr. Lincoln’s gloves and his assassination in a past episode of our podcast here: http://bit.ly/SFTV-Podcast

April 14, 1865. Abraham Lincoln is shot.

"Don’t know the manners of good society, eh? Well, I guess I know enough to turn you inside out, old gal - you sockdologizing old mantrap!" Immediately after Harry Hawk delivered that line during the play, “Our American Cousin”, the assassin John Wilkes Booth pulled the trigger of his single shot pistol and shot President Abraham Lincoln as he sat in his Ford’s Theatre box with his wife Mary. April 14, 1865 would be a date forever etched into American History.

This pair of kid leather gloves, currently in our collection, were in Mr. Lincoln’s left pocket on that fateful night 149 years ago and became stained as blood dripped in the pocket. Due to the fragile state of these moving artifacts they are not on display, but housed safely in our vault.

Hear more about Mr. Lincoln’s gloves and his assassination in a past episode of our podcast here: http://bit.ly/SFTV-Podcast

Sniffing Around for Abraham Lincoln’s Dog Fido

(A post from Dr. James Cornelius, the curator of the Abraham Lincoln Collection here at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum)

The well-known photographs of the Lincolns’ pet dog Fido have their own story, just as that poor dog did.  Like so much in the Lincoln field, the old story may not be true.

Spoiler anti-alert: There is nothing politically important in this minor discovery.  But people like dogs — the Lincolns liked dogs — so let us put our noses down and follow the trail.

'Everyone says' that because Fido could not join the family for the exciting and loud train ride to Washington, D.C., in 1861, Willie and Tad took along a photo of him instead; or perhaps all three, as seen here.  But I cannot find this story printed any earlier than a 15 February 1954 Life magazine article by Dorothy Meserve Kunhardt.  The great myth-maker Carl Sandburg, who loved a shaggy dog story, does not mention Fido in his 6 volumes on Lincoln (1926-39).

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Nowadays, lots of people recall the outline of Mrs. Kunhardt’s lively write-up about Fido and the neighbor, John E. Roll, who inherited him when the Lincolns left town.  She had recently met the son John L. Roll, age 90, who told her the story.  She admitted he was aged, and he admitted that his memory was fading.  But she was a skillful writer who determined to enliven one of the many photos in the great Meserve / Kunhardt horde of photos.

The story: that Willie and Tad, perhaps with adult help, took Fido to Mr. F.W. Ingmire’s photographic studio in late 1860 or early 1861 for these three snaps — then left their beloved mutt with the Roll boys, till they returned to Springfield some day.

Thanks to the pioneering work in Dick Hart’s book “Springfield, Illinois’ Nineteenth-Century Photographers” (2005), we can check all of the known backmarks on Ingmire cdv’s over his many years at work.  (If you do not already have a copy of Hart’s book, you probably must find one in a library; he printed only a few, and mostly gave them away.)  More recently, thanks to the digitized editions of both Springfield newspapers, the Register and the Journal, we can also hunt for ads.  Census records and city directories help, too. 

And guess what?  In 1860-61 Rev. Ingmire was working as a Baptist minister and a sewing-machine agent.  He ran dozens of ads in those years for his agency.  He began to pay for a photographer’s license ($10.00 during wartime) in 1862.  And he first ran an ad for that new business in October 1864, when lots of soldiers passing through Camp Butler made it a profitable trade.

Although these facts do not prove that Ingmire did not snap Fido in 1860 / 1861, it seems to make it very unlikely.  The ‘matched set’ of 4 photos that Ingmire sold — with identical backmarks, dated in the Hart book to 1865-66 — includes Fido, Old Bob, Lincoln’s Home, and the hillside (2nd) tomb at Oak Ridge Cemetery.  True, 2 of those could have been taken earlier, but Old Bob was held by two mournful grooms, Rev. Wm. Trevan and Rev. Henry Brown, only when the Lincoln Home was draped in black, at funeral time, 4 May 1865.

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I speculate that Ingmire saw a commercial opportunity after Lincoln’s death and quickly took those photos.  The font on the labels is identical on the four.  So is the design of the backmark.  We can forgive John Roll in forgetting by 1953 whether his long-ago dog got a picture in 1861 or 1865.

Here is the kicker: If the Lincoln boys had a Fido photo in the White House, why does it not have an 1860-61 backmark?  In fact, their one surviving copy today (middle, chin up) is identical to the 1865 images, in backmark and label.   If someone took it for them in 1861, why would it have needed a label ‘President Lincoln’s Dog’?   The family’s photo album is today in the ALPLM, along with about half of the photos that it once held.  The other half, including the Fido photo the Lincolns owned, belong to the Lincoln Financial Foundation Collection, in Fort Wayne, Indiana.  All evidence points to its creation in 1865.  Okay, maybe Willie or Tad lost 1, 2, or 3 originals, and the album got refilled with 1 after 1865.  That is rangy guesswork.  The physical evidence is that every image of Fido we have seen at ALPLM bears the late-Ingmire backmark. 

Susan Haake, curator at the Lincoln Home, points out that the non-descript gray background in the Fido photos does more or less match the background seen in Willie and Tad photos from Springfield in late 1860.  This is a fair point.  But many studios then used only a gray background, and there is no evidence that Ingmire took those boy photos, or any others, that year.

In 1893, John Roll became an entrepreneur, too: he copyrighted his old 1865 photo (Ingmire was dead) and had it enlarged by a local man named Pietz, possibly to sell at Chicago’s Columbian Exposition.

The Kunhardt story soon got legs.  Ruth Painter Randall’s 1952 full biography of Mary Lincoln does not mention Fido.  But her 1955 book “Lincoln’s Sons" does (p. 85), repeating Kunhardt’s speculative 1954 tale about the photo.  Oddly, RPR’s 1958 book "Lincoln’s Animal Friends" omits the photo story, though Fido’s life is lovingly described over a few pages.  Since then, every writer seems to have cribbed from the 1954-55 tales of one woman or the other.

I mentioned the “poor dog” Fido.  Aficionados know that he was killed by a drunk man in 1866.  A forthcoming book by Matthew Algeo about Lincoln’s wide-ranging contact with animals will give new details of that episode, including the Rolls’ response.

For now, let us remember man’s best friend — how he ambled leash-free in Springfield, while he lived in the hearts of the Lincoln boys and adults in Washington, D.C.  The costliness of any of the three Fido photos on the market today is evidence that a lot of other people have a heart for him, too.

Please write to me if you know if Roll’s Fido story was written down before 1954; or if you know of physical evidence that Ingmire had a studio before 1862.

My thanks to Mark Johnson, Susan Haake, and Dick Hart for their input, and to Jane Gastineau in Fort Wayne.

Mystery of a Censored Abraham Lincoln Letter SolvedThe note is scrawled in Abraham Lincoln’s distinctive hand and carries his signature, but little else is clear. When was it written and to whom? What are the views that Lincoln wants to know more about? And, above all, why was a key name cut out of the note?
Historians at the Papers of Abraham Lincoln believe they’ve solved the riddle of this new Lincoln document. It was a note asking one of Lincoln’s allies to maintain a secret relationship with a notorious political insider during the election of 1860.
Manuscript dealer David Lowenherz of Lion Heart Autographs, Inc., in New York City recently contacted the Papers of Abraham Lincoln about the document, which says: 
 
My dear Sir,
I thank you for the copy of [clipped section] If you can keep up a correspondence with him without much effort, it will be well enough. I like to know his views occasionally.
Yours in haste
                                                                        A Lincoln
 
Learning more about the note required a close look at its language. The most distinct phrase is “keep up a correspondence.” A quick search of the database created by the Papers of Abraham Lincoln yielded a handful of documents with this phrase, not all written by Abraham Lincoln. One was from fellow attorney and Republican Leonard Swett of Bloomington, Ill.
Swett shared the details of a letter he had gotten from “our friend T W of Albany.” Swett ended by telling Lincoln, “I shall answer the above soon, and if you approve, try to keep up a correspondence during the Campaign.  It may be questionable propriety sending this to you yet I can see no harm in it. I would how ever request you not to show it.” 
“T W of Albany” refers to Thurlow Weed, the Republican newspaper editor and political boss of New York state. Less than a month earlier, Lincoln had won the Republican presidential nomination, stunning Weed’s candidate, front-runner William H. Seward.
Lincoln wanted – and ultimately got – Weed’s support in New York (and Seward got the job of secretary of state under Lincoln). But Lincoln couldn’t afford to be seen as close to Weed during the presidential campaign. Swett solved the problem by offering to play intermediary to the East Coast insider, letting Lincoln receive political intelligence from the critical state of New York without having an open correspondence with Weed.
This political intrigue likely explains why Swett referred to Weed as “T W” and clipped Weed’s name from Lincoln’s letter. 
The phrase “keep up a correspondence” was the key to linking these two letters and providing the approximate date, recipient, and subject of Lincoln’s note. It likely was written in the third week of June 1860 in response to Swett’s letter of June 13. Lincoln’s reply merely echoed Swett’s phrase about corresponding with Weed. 
Why was Lincoln “in haste”? A quick review of The Lincoln Log: A Daily Chronology of the Life of Abraham Lincoln (www.thelincolnlog.org), also maintained and updated by the Papers of Abraham Lincoln, provides the answer. In the third week of June 1860, Lincoln received hundreds of visitors at his temporary office in the Illinois State Capitol and thousands of pieces of mail providing advice and asking for jobs and favors.
That Lincoln took the time, even “in haste,” to respond to Swett’s letter suggests the importance he placed on Weed’s political news from New York. 
“This linkage once again demonstrates the value of the careful work of the Papers of Abraham Lincoln,” director Daniel W. Stowell said. “To be able to identify the date, recipient and subject of such a brief letter is a remarkable achievement.”
“It was only through the active, generous and committed efforts of the editors at the Papers of Abraham Lincoln that the mysteries of this unpublished Abraham Lincoln letter were solved,” said David Lowenherz, president of Lion Heart Autographs.  “Without their assistance, my research would have wound up at a dead end.”
The Papers of Abraham Lincoln is a long-term documentary editing project dedicated to identifying, transcribing and publishing all documents written by or to Abraham Lincoln during his lifetime. The project is administered through the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, a division of the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency, and is cosponsored by the Center for State Policy and Leadership at the University of Illinois Springfield and by the Abraham Lincoln Association.

Mystery of a Censored Abraham Lincoln Letter Solved

The note is scrawled in Abraham Lincoln’s distinctive hand and carries his signature, but little else is clear. When was it written and to whom? What are the views that Lincoln wants to know more about? And, above all, why was a key name cut out of the note?

Historians at the Papers of Abraham Lincoln believe they’ve solved the riddle of this new Lincoln document. It was a note asking one of Lincoln’s allies to maintain a secret relationship with a notorious political insider during the election of 1860.

Manuscript dealer David Lowenherz of Lion Heart Autographs, Inc., in New York City recently contacted the Papers of Abraham Lincoln about the document, which says:

 

My dear Sir,

I thank you for the copy of [clipped section] If you can keep up a correspondence with him without much effort, it will be well enough. I like to know his views occasionally.

Yours in haste

                                                                        A Lincoln

 

Learning more about the note required a close look at its language. The most distinct phrase is “keep up a correspondence.” A quick search of the database created by the Papers of Abraham Lincoln yielded a handful of documents with this phrase, not all written by Abraham Lincoln. One was from fellow attorney and Republican Leonard Swett of Bloomington, Ill.

Swett shared the details of a letter he had gotten from “our friend T W of Albany.” Swett ended by telling Lincoln, “I shall answer the above soon, and if you approve, try to keep up a correspondence during the Campaign.  It may be questionable propriety sending this to you yet I can see no harm in it. I would how ever request you not to show it.” 

“T W of Albany” refers to Thurlow Weed, the Republican newspaper editor and political boss of New York state. Less than a month earlier, Lincoln had won the Republican presidential nomination, stunning Weed’s candidate, front-runner William H. Seward.

Lincoln wanted – and ultimately got – Weed’s support in New York (and Seward got the job of secretary of state under Lincoln). But Lincoln couldn’t afford to be seen as close to Weed during the presidential campaign. Swett solved the problem by offering to play intermediary to the East Coast insider, letting Lincoln receive political intelligence from the critical state of New York without having an open correspondence with Weed.

This political intrigue likely explains why Swett referred to Weed as “T W” and clipped Weed’s name from Lincoln’s letter. 

The phrase “keep up a correspondence” was the key to linking these two letters and providing the approximate date, recipient, and subject of Lincoln’s note. It likely was written in the third week of June 1860 in response to Swett’s letter of June 13. Lincoln’s reply merely echoed Swett’s phrase about corresponding with Weed. 

Why was Lincoln “in haste”? A quick review of The Lincoln Log: A Daily Chronology of the Life of Abraham Lincoln (www.thelincolnlog.org), also maintained and updated by the Papers of Abraham Lincoln, provides the answer. In the third week of June 1860, Lincoln received hundreds of visitors at his temporary office in the Illinois State Capitol and thousands of pieces of mail providing advice and asking for jobs and favors.

That Lincoln took the time, even “in haste,” to respond to Swett’s letter suggests the importance he placed on Weed’s political news from New York. 

“This linkage once again demonstrates the value of the careful work of the Papers of Abraham Lincoln,” director Daniel W. Stowell said. “To be able to identify the date, recipient and subject of such a brief letter is a remarkable achievement.”

“It was only through the active, generous and committed efforts of the editors at the Papers of Abraham Lincoln that the mysteries of this unpublished Abraham Lincoln letter were solved,” said David Lowenherz, president of Lion Heart Autographs.  “Without their assistance, my research would have wound up at a dead end.”

The Papers of Abraham Lincoln is a long-term documentary editing project dedicated to identifying, transcribing and publishing all documents written by or to Abraham Lincoln during his lifetime. The project is administered through the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, a division of the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency, and is cosponsored by the Center for State Policy and Leadership at the University of Illinois Springfield and by the Abraham Lincoln Association.


Abraham Lincoln Meets General Ulysses S. Grant for the First TimeMarch 8, 1864, President Abraham Lincoln and General Ulysses S. Grant meet face to face for the first time. The meeting took place the evening before the president officially presented Grant with his commission as Lieutenant General.John Nicolay, one of the President’s secretaries wrote of the meeting, “The President here made an appointment with him for the formal presentation next day of his commission as lieutenant-general. `I shall make a very short speech to you,’ said Lincoln, `to which I desire you to reply, for an object; and that you may be properly prepared to do so I have written what I shall say, only four sentences in all, which I will read from my manuscript as an example which you may follow and also read your reply—-as you are perhaps not so much accustomed to public speaking as I am; and I therefore give you what I shall say so that you may consider it. There are two points that I would like to have you make in your answer: First, to say something which shall prevent or obviate any jealousy of you from any of the other generals in the service; and second, something which shall put you on as good terms as possible with the Army of the Potomac. If you see any objection to doing this, be under no restraint whatever in expressing that objection to the Secretary of War.’ ”

Abraham Lincoln Meets General Ulysses S. Grant for the First Time

March 8, 1864, President Abraham Lincoln and General Ulysses S. Grant meet face to face for the first time. The meeting took place the evening before the president officially presented Grant with his commission as Lieutenant General.

John Nicolay, one of the President’s secretaries wrote of the meeting, “The President here made an appointment with him for the formal presentation next day of his commission as lieutenant-general. `I shall make a very short speech to you,’ said Lincoln, `to which I desire you to reply, for an object; and that you may be properly prepared to do so I have written what I shall say, only four sentences in all, which I will read from my manuscript as an example which you may follow and also read your reply—-as you are perhaps not so much accustomed to public speaking as I am; and I therefore give you what I shall say so that you may consider it. There are two points that I would like to have you make in your answer: First, to say something which shall prevent or obviate any jealousy of you from any of the other generals in the service; and second, something which shall put you on as good terms as possible with the Army of the Potomac. If you see any objection to doing this, be under no restraint whatever in expressing that objection to the Secretary of War.’ ”

Abraham Lincoln’s Liquor LicenseOn March 6, 1833, Abraham Lincoln and William Berry were issued a license to keep a tavern in their store in New Salem, IL for one year. Lincoln and Berry paid seven dollars for the license which allowed them to serve 1/2 pint of wine or French brandy for 25¢ and 1/2 pint of rum, peach brandy or Holland Gin for 18¾¢. In addition, the license allowed them to serve food and offer lodging. Unfortunately, the store did not last very long and Abraham Lincoln sold his interest in April of 1833 and became postmaster of New Salem on May 7, 1833.Of note is that Abraham Lincoln didn’t actually sign the above document. It is likely that William Berry signed for Mr. Lincoln. You will also see their friend John Bowling Green’s signature on the document.

Abraham Lincoln’s Liquor License

On March 6, 1833, Abraham Lincoln and William Berry were issued a license to keep a tavern in their store in New Salem, IL for one year. Lincoln and Berry paid seven dollars for the license which allowed them to serve 1/2 pint of wine or French brandy for 25¢ and 1/2 pint of rum, peach brandy or Holland Gin for 18¾¢. In addition, the license allowed them to serve food and offer lodging. Unfortunately, the store did not last very long and Abraham Lincoln sold his interest in April of 1833 and became postmaster of New Salem on May 7, 1833.

Of note is that 
Abraham Lincoln didn’t actually sign the above document. It is likely that William Berry signed for Mr. Lincoln. You will also see their friend John Bowling Green’s signature on the document.