"Young Abraham was said to have written numbers with a cinder upon a
fire shovel and with a stick in the dirt or snow. He almost
certainly tore an endpaper or two from a bound book to use as
scratch paper," said James Cornelius, ALPLM curator. "Once when he
got 12 or 16 sheets of plain paper, he stitched them together to
make a little book and practice math in it -- long division,
calculating acreage and interest, figuring in British or American
currency, and lots of multiplication. Page one of that sum book is
The pages are the oldest surviving paper and marks from
Lincoln's pen. The first page is one of just two pages that also
include some homemade rhymes by teenager Lincoln, scratched out in
Abraham and his sister Sarah shared an Indiana log cabin with
four to six other family members, in a space about 16 by 14 feet.
They walked to temporary schools for a few weeks at a time, a total
of about nine months during their childhood. They learned only
reading, writing and simple math. There in the woods it was hard
enough for him to find anything to read, and often it was harder to
find something to write upon.
The sum book shows that his hard work paid off -- as an Illinois
legislator, he was often his party's spokesman on economic issues.
His schools did not offer any science, but Abraham's curiosity
about how to move people and things inspired his 1849 patent for a
riverboat device and then historic transportation legislation as
president. As a boy he had the stars to ponder at night, and as
president he made visits to the Naval Observatory and its giant
His semi-literate stepmother, Sarah Bush Johnston Lincoln, could
sense much of Abraham's acuity, and she saved his sum book for 35
years after Lincoln moved off to New Salem. In September 1865, five
months after his death, she passed it along to his law partner
William Herndon, who gave away the pages to Lincoln's friends. Today
10 of the pages exist; an unknown number were lost in the Chicago
Fire of 1871. Page 1 came to the presidential museum as part of the
Taper Collection, along with Herndon's September 1865 letter to
Abraham's stepmother about that ragged little homemade book.
The sum book page will be taken off display on Aug. 31, and
another key artifact from the Taper Collection will take its place.
The artifacts of the month are displayed in the central case in the
presidential museum's Treasures Gallery and include interpretive
text explaining their significance.
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The story of the August artifact as told by the museum's Lincoln
curator may be viewed at:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LiY39BQyVNY. A podcast may be
accessed at http://ow.ly/1v0YDp.
The artifact displays also highlight the Abraham Lincoln
Presidential Library Foundation's Permanent Home campaign. The $27
million fundraising drive, established to ensure that the 1,500-item
Louise and Barry Taper Collection remains together as a collection
and is preserved in perpetuity for the benefit of the public, began
in 2008 and continues through 2013.
The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library Foundation, in
partnership with the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and
Museum, offers monthly artifact sponsorships entitled "An Evening of
Wine, a Nibble of Cheese, and A Hint of History." The private
events, hosted by a Lincoln historian, highlight a featured artifact
from the Taper Collection and include light hors d'oeuvres and wine
for a select number of guests.
For more information on how to become a sponsor or to donate to
the Permanent Home campaign, contact Phyllis Maynerich at
email@example.com. Event sponsorships are tax-deductible as
allowed by law.
The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library Foundation supports the
educational and cultural programming of the Abraham Lincoln
Presidential Library and Museum; fosters Lincoln scholarship through
the acquisition and publication of documentary materials relating to
Lincoln and his era; and promotes a greater appreciation of history
through exhibits, conferences, publications, online services and
other activities designed to promote historical literacy.
[Text from file received from
the Illinois Historic