Wednesday, December 07, 2011
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13th Amendment copy restored by conservator, to return to Lincoln Presidential Museum

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[December 07, 2011]  CHICAGO -- It officially freed the slaves, and now it's being returned free of charge in better condition.

A fully signed copy of the congressional resolution for a 13th Amendment to the Constitution, the official act that abolished slavery in the United States, has been carefully restored free of charge by a Chicago conservator and will soon be on its way back to the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield for a public display starting Feb. 1.

Russ Maki, president of Graphic Conservation Co. of Chicago, one of the largest paper conservators in the United States, was approached by ALPLM curators early this year to assess the condition of Illinois' copy, which bears Abraham Lincoln's original signature and those of 143 members of Congress who had voted for the amendment. After examining the wrinkled and somewhat faded 20-by-16-inch vellum document, Maki offered to conserve it on a pro bono basis. Lincoln and the others had signed this and the other commemorative copies on Feb. 1, 1865, after the House passed the resolution the night before.

"When we examined the condition of the almost 150-year-old document, it was clear that conservation services were necessary. We also understood that in this unique case, financial resources were scarce," said Maki. "Given the importance of the document and the obvious need for conservation services, we felt compelled to perform the treatment. We are honored to have provided conservation services on such a significant document from our nation's history.

"The fact that this important handwritten document was drafted on vellum and signed with iron-gall inks meant that the planar distortions, or wrinkles, had to be eliminated," added Maki. "This gentle flattening served to preserve the bond between the inks and the vellum, and greatly enhanced the legibility of the document."

There was no legal reason for the 13th Amendment copies to be created, but the signers wanted to capture the historic change permanently in ink for friends in either chamber of Congress. When the vote passed, joyful congressmen had "wept like children," and women in the observer's gallery "rose in their seats and waved their handkerchiefs," according to the Congressional Globe. The next morning, the Washington Daily Morning Chronicle vowed that the signers' names would go into history with those who signed the Declaration of Independence.

There are 15 remaining original copies of the 13th Amendment resolution signed by Lincoln. Only eight of these also include the congressional signatures, including Illinois' copy. The state of Illinois purchased its copy in June 1941, and it has since been part of the ALPLM's Lincoln Collection. It had rarely been displayed because of its fragile condition.

"This is fantastic holiday news, a gift to the people of Illinois during the Civil War Sesquicentennial from a skilled craftsman and business owner, concerning the most permanent and momentous political effort of Lincoln's presidency," said ALPLM Lincoln Curator James Cornelius. "The document now looks fabulous, and everything is again flat, legible and radiant."

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Two of the principal architects of the 13th Amendment were U.S. Sen. Lyman Trumbull from Alton, who suggested the final wording, and President Lincoln. Under the U.S. Constitution, any such resolution from Congress has to be approved by three-quarters of the state legislatures. The Illinois General Assembly was proud to be the first to ratify the 13th Amendment, within minutes of the passage of the House resolution in Washington, since they were following its progress by telegraph from the Old State Capitol in Springfield.

Sadly, President Lincoln did not live to see the amendment officially enacted, though there was little doubt the states would agree. When Georgia's newly reorganized state government ratified it on Dec. 9, 1865, the amendment cleared the final hurdle.

The newly conserved document will be displayed beginning on its 147th anniversary date, Feb. 1, 2012, in the presidential museum's Treasures Gallery.

Graphic Conservation's work generally consists of three main areas: works of fine art and collectibles; important family documents and corporate archives; and historically important documents. The company, whose roots date to 1921, has been serving museums, historical societies and private clients by offering the highest quality full-service restoration and conservation of all works of art on paper. This includes prints, drawings, watercolors, pastels, photographs, wallpaper, blueprints, globes, books, historical documents and ephemera. Situated in Chicago's South Loop, the company maintains a large state-of-the-art lab that provides the unique ability to treat oversize items such as antique advertisements, billboards and maps.

Graphic Conservation Co. has been entrusted with rare and important pieces, including Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address and Frank Lloyd Wright's personal manuscripts. Along with these valuable documents, the company is employed to preserve fine works of art by such notables as Picasso, Degas, Rembrandt, Warhol and Escher. The company upholds the highest level of museum quality and excellence when performing conservation treatments for single items to large collections. More information about the company may be found at

For more information about the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, visit

[Text from file received from the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency]

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