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
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