Tag Archives: Mary Todd Lincoln

The Abraham Lincoln Library and Museum’s newest exhibit features a glimpse at Hollywood’s Lincoln

The newest exhibit at Lincoln Memorial University’s Abraham Lincoln Library and Museum opened this week.  “Clouds and Darkness Surround Us”: The Life of Mary Todd Lincoln examines the tragic fate of Lincoln’s widow, and features original costumes from Steven Spielberg’s Oscar-winning film alongside additional material from the ALLM collection.  This exhibit runs through November 20, 2015.

In conjunction with the exhibit, the museum is hosting a number of special events, including a screening of Spielberg’s film and presentations on the history of Lincoln in the movies.  For more information about the exhibit and upcoming events, visit the ALLM website.

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Mary Todd Lincoln reconsidered in new book

In a new biography, Betty Boles Ellison argues that the Union’s First Lady doesn’t deserve the bad press she’s gotten for the past 150 years.  Ellison discussed her findings with Kentucky.com:

Ellison says in her new book, The True Mary Todd Lincoln: A Biography (McFarland: $39.95), that the first lady was both frugal and outspoken, her son Robert a priggish manipulator who had his mother committed while Mary Todd Lincoln masterminded her own release from an asylum by gathering together friends and supporters who did not want to see a first lady humiliated.

“No person should have had to experience what she did, perpetuated by her own son and Lincoln’s so-called friends,” Ellison said in a recent interview at her Lexington home.

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LMU’s museum receives Mary Todd Lincoln items from graduate

The Abraham Lincoln Library and Museum (ALLM) received a belated Christmas Gift on Friday, December 27, 2013, when alumnus Randy Bumgardner, assistant chief of protocol and general manager of the Blair House, the President’s Guest House in Washington, D.C., delivered two handkerchiefs that belonged to Mary Todd Lincoln.

“This significant contribution to our Lincoln collection is deeply personal. The LMU collection includes many personal treasures of the entire Lincoln family and these additions certainly enhance our view of Mary Todd Lincoln,” LMU President B. James Dawson said. “LMU is fortunate to have alumni like Randy Bumgardner who not only epitomize her mission, but also continue to contribute to her success.”

The handkerchiefs were among personal effects from the wife of 16th President of the United States that were recently sold at auction. While her husband was in office, Mary Todd Lincoln was known to indulge in shopping trips to New York and Philadelphia for personal items and to furnish the White House. Historians often note the large debts Mary Todd Lincoln was left with following her husband’s assassination. Much of that debt is attributed to her shopping habits.

Bumgardner acquired the “ML” monogrammed handkerchiefs in a lot that included around a dozen handkerchiefs. The pair received by the ALLM included a basic white cloth monogrammed with white letters and a more delicate white cloth embellished with light blue embroidery and white letters. Both will be put on display in the museum’s galleries following cataloging.

Bumgardner, a 1983 graduate who worked in the ALLM as a student, also brought the Museum’s collection of presidential signatures current with a hand signed copy of the February 12, 2013, State of the Union Address to the 113th Congress. President Obama signed a bound copy of his address while after a special request from Bumgardner. In his role as manager of Blair House, the President’s Guest House, Bumgardner has put his degree in history and museum studies from LMU to good use as he rolls out the red carpet for world leaders, diplomats and even royalty from around the globe.

Admission to the ALLM is $4 for adults, $2 for children and includes entrance to the galleries. Admission is free for LMU employees and students with their University ID. For more information regarding the ALLM, contact Program and Tourism Director Carol Campbell at 423.869.6439.

The Abraham Lincoln Library and Museum is located on the historic campus of Lincoln Memorial University in Harrogate, Tennessee. Housing one of the top five Lincoln and Civil War private collections in the world, the Museum is open Monday-Friday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturday from noon to 5 p.m. and Sunday from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. For more information about this and other programs at the Abraham Lincoln Library and Museum, call 423-869-6235.

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“Of the killed, one Major Genl. and five Brigadiers, including your brother-in-law, Helm”

There were thousands of casualties at Chickamauga in late September 1863, but one death was particularly notable: Brig. Gen. Benjamin Hardin Helm. Although he was a Confederate officer, he was also the brother-in-law of the Union’s first family, having wed Mary Todd’s half-sister Emilie in 1856. (To add to the irony, it was fellow Kentuckian—a sharpshooter in the 15th KY Infantry—who took Helm’s life.)

Benjamin Hardin Helm (Wikimedia Commons)

David Davis remembered that he “never saw Mr. Lincoln so moved” as when he heard of Helm’s death, claiming that he “found him in the greatest grief.” On Sept, 24th, Lincoln sent this message to his wife, who was visiting New York:

We now have a tolerably accurate summing up of the late battle between Rosecrans and Bragg. The result is that we are worsted, if at all, only in the fact that we, after the main fighting was over, yielded the ground, thus leaving considerable of our artillery and wounded to fall into the enemies’ hands, for which we got nothing in turn. We lost, in general officers, one killed, and three or four wounded, all Brigadiers; while according to rebel accounts, which we have, they lost six killed, and eight wounded. Of the killed, one Major Genl. and five Brigadiers, including your brother-in-law, Helm; This list may be reduced two in number, by correction of confusion in names.

The widowed Emilie Helm came through enemy lines to visit the White House after her husband’s death, but remained a defiant Confederate.

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Mary Todd Lincoln goes on trial

This fall, Mary Todd Lincoln will have two chances to prove that her son’s charges of insanity were unwarranted.  The mock trials will offer historians and mental health experts the chance to teach the public about changes in attitudes toward mental illness since the nineteenth century.  Click here for the details.

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Lincoln’s Confederate in-laws

The Abraham Lincoln Library and Museum is currently hosting a temporary exhibit from the Mary Todd Lincoln House about Lincoln’s Confederate relatives.  This is an unknown aspect of Lincoln’s life for many people, but it’s also one of the most fascinating; some of his relatives by marriage held important positions within the Confederate military, and they were a political liability for him during the war.

You can see an online version of the exhibit by visiting the Mary Todd Lincoln House website.

Benjamin Hardin Helm, a brother-in-law to Abraham and Mary Todd Lincoln, was a brigadier general in the Confederate States Army who was killed at Chickamauga in 1863. His widow, Mary Todd Lincoln's half-sister Emilie, was a guest at the White House. Image from Wikimedia Commons

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Lincoln’s birthday around the Web

Here are a few links to enjoy as you celebrate Abraham Lincoln’s 203rd birthday.

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