His descendants have donated records of that fundraising, along with
original letters by Mary Lincoln and Robert Lincoln, to the Abraham
Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum.
The documents show a calm
son turning down his shared of the donated money, and a frightened
mother convinced she was on the verge of financial ruin. They also
reveal a generous nation, with contributions coming in from Iowa to
Maine, and even from the South.
The material recently donated is almost entirely new to
historians. Only one of the letters has been published before, and
that was an incomplete version.
"We are delighted to be able to share this important piece of
Lincoln history with all Americans through this gift to the Lincoln
Presidential Library and Museum," said one of the donors, Peter
Thompson Jr. "The letters and cash book offer revealing insights
into the mindsets and feelings of the Lincoln family in the
aftermath of the assassination of President Lincoln."
Thompson and his sisters, E. Park Zimpher and Sharon Giordano,
are fourth-generation descendants of the 1865 banker, Benjamin B.
Sherman. They traveled to Springfield and personally handed the
items to museum officials in a small ceremony Saturday near the
"This is a generous donation to the museum and to our nation's
understanding of a dark period for the Lincoln family," said Eileen
Mackovich, director of the Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum.
"We're grateful to Mr. Sherman's descendants for their decision to
share this family treasure."
The items will go on display once cleaning and other preparations
have been performed by ALPLM staff. Research on the donors listed in
the cash book will continue.
[to top of second column]
The fundraising drive raised $10,750 for the Lincolns.
Mary Lincoln felt she needed the money desperately. "I am
humiliated, when I think, that we are destined, to be forever,
homeless," she wrote to Sherman.
She also asked him to help trim the $26,000 debt she had
accumulated. "May I ask you, as a last favor, to see Mr Moser &
Godfrey, when you receive this, and have the fur bill cut down
considerably," she wrote.
In truth, however, Mary Lincoln had a comfortable income from the
president's estate and the unprecedented decision of Congress to
give her all the money Lincoln would have been paid in 1865, worth
roughly $1 million in today's dollars.
For more information about the Abraham Lincoln Presidential
Library and Museum, visit
[Text from file received from
the Illinois Historic