Blog | April 29, 2016

A particularly nasty letter from Mary Todd Lincoln will be on the block May 5 at Leslie Hindman Auctioneers as part of a rare three-volume biography of Abraham Lincoln. Offered during the Fine Books and Manuscripts auction, the biography has been supplemented with over 100 autographed letters, documents and photographs from the President himself, his family and his contemporaries. Mrs. Lincoln’s letter stands out as the most controversial of the bunch.


The First Lady’s tenure at the White House was marked by mood swings, cattiness and excessive spending. In the letter, written on the occasion of the Lincoln’s first New Years Eve at the White House, Mrs. Lincoln scolds a certain Mrs. Harris for sending a lesser gift than she had expected. She writes: “I am surprised to find that you have sent me no flowers – the bonnet is perfectly useless. If you cannot do better, send me some white ones – like the one you sent in the bonnet,” and closes with, “I did not suppose you would treat me thus.”


The letter, revealing of Mrs. Lincoln’s temperament, is filled with sarcasm, condescension and hypersensitivity, supporting recent theories that Mrs. Lincoln may have suffered from bipolar disorder. Within the biography to be offered at auction, the letter strategically appears in a chapter devoted to the Lincoln’s early courtship. Other historical manuscripts in the rare tomes have likewise been carefully positioned to coincide with formative moments in the President’s life.

The set was previously owned by Frank Lowden, the 25th Governor of the state of Illinois (in office. 1917-1921), adding to its importance. It will be brought to auction with a presale estimate of $10,000 – 15,000 at Leslie Hindman Auctioneers’ May 5 Fine Books and Manuscripts auction, which takes place in the Chicago saleroom with online bidding via LHLive and Bidsquare.


The biography also includes a document autographed by Abraham Lincoln, Mary Todd Lincoln, Robert T. Lincoln, John Quincy Adams, Ulysses S. Grant, James A. Garfield, Millard Fillmore, David R. Atchison, Hannibal Hamlin, William H. Seward, Salmon P. Chase, Cassius M. Clay, Stephen A. Douglas, William Pinkney, Lewis Cass, Horace Greeley, Alexander Stephens, Winfield Scott, Stephen Logan, Gideon Welles, Jefferson Davis, George B. McClellan, Ambrose Burnside, Fitz-John Porter, W. S. Rosecrans, William T. Sherman, David Dixon Porter, Alfred H. Terry, Schulyer Colfax and Oliver Wendell Holmes.

It also includes original photographs of Abraham Lincoln, Mary Todd Lincoln and others. Ephemera includes a political silk ribbon of John Cabell Breckinridge, Vice President (1857-61) and a printed election advertisement for Jefferson Davis and Alexander Stephens. One interesting document also attests to an 18th Century account held on behalf of Abraham Lincoln’s grandfather.

The biography will be sold near the end of the Fine Books and Manuscripts auction on May 5 in Chicago. To view the full catalogue, click here.

Full Preview schedule:
Saturday, April 30 | 10am – 3pm
Sunday, May 1 | 12pm – 4pm
Monday, May 2 | 10am – 5pm
Tuesday, May 3 | 10am – 5pm
Wednesday, May 4 | 10am – 5pm



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