I hate Presidents’ Day; it obscures the achievements of those individual presidents which it claims to recognize. We should celebrate, or at least remember, the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and George Washington even if we do not have the day off from work. Today is Lincoln’s birthday, and for the occasion I’ve assembled some scraps of paper which bear witness to his personal life more than his presidential one (but ultimately they become inseparable). There is a vast sea of Lincolniana, and this was just my way of navigating through it.
The clever little “business card” of young lawyer Lincoln, and the Cotillion Party for which he is listed as a “manager” (I suppose this is the equivalent of today’s “sponsor”), along with a certain Mr. Todd. As that is his future wife’s maiden name, I like to think that he met Mary Todd at this party, though I could be wrong. These items, as well as the four images below, come from the William E. Barton Lincoln Collection at the University of Chicago. Because they are quite charming, I’ve included some digitized exhibition labels from the Lincoln Centennial as well as the records.
The Marriage License of Abraham Lincoln and Mary Todd, the last bit of a letter from Abraham to Mary written while he was serving in Congress in Washington: the majority of it is about money, indicating that Mary’s reputation as a spendthrift is well-deserved, and he closes with “kiss and love the dear rascals” referring to their boys. A check for $5 to Tad, one of the rascals.
The items above are all from the Alfred Whital Stern Collection of Lincolniana at the Library of Congress: a dance card from Lincoln’s first inaugural ball, a Union envelope from the Civil War, a Massachusetts Republican ticket for the election of 1864, and a mourning ribbon for Lincoln from later 1865. All manner of ribbons survive, as everyone must have worn one; this is a particularly fancy one, I think.