Thursday, June 28, 2007

An $8 Lincoln Letter!

Firefighters save lives everyday, but when was the last time you heard of them saving a primary document?

Joseph Skanks, a firefighter in Tampa, Florida, collects old photographs. One morning, just after a 24-hour shift, he stopped by an estate sale and purchased a pile of old photos, books, and letters for $8. He carried the stack home and began to sort through it. And then he saw it.

It was an old letter, dated August 2, 1858, addressed to Henry Clay Whitney, signed…A. Lincoln.

Yes, it turns out this is an original! The PBS show "History Detectives" will highlight his discovery on August 27th.

Whitney was a fellow lawyer and traveled the law circuit with Lincoln throughout the 1850s. He also helped promote Lincoln’s political prospects. After the assassination, Whitney wrote about Lincoln’s life. In 1891, Whitney published a poor facsimile of the letter in question. The editors of the Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln deemed it authentic and transcribed the letter (CW, 2:534-535).

To Henry C. Whitney [1]

Dear Whitney Springfield August 2d. 1858

Yours of the 31st. [2] is just received. I shall write to B. C. Cook at Ottawa and to Lovejoy himself on the subject you suggest.

Pardon me for not writing a longer letter. I have a great many letters to write.

I was at Monticello Thursday evening. Signs all very good. Your friend as ever A. LINCOLN


[1] ALS-F, ISLA, and copy, DLC-HW. The facsimile from Whitney's A Souvenir of Abraham Lincoln (1891), like other facsimiles in the same source, is so poor as to suggest forgery, but there seems little reason to doubt that the original was once extant.

[2] Whitney wrote from Chicago that ``a large body of Republicans & many Democrats acting in concert with them'' were planning to run Churchill Coffing as an independent candidate for Congress in the Third Congressional District and ``republicans of the [Hugh T.] Dickey stamp for the legislature---those candidates to be understood as Douglas men. . . .'' (DLC-RTL).

No comments: