Two significant collections donated to Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum     Send a link to a friend

[APRIL 29, 2004]  SPRINGFIELD -- President Abraham Lincoln died on April 15, 1865. On April 15 this year, 139 years after his death, the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum announced the donation of two significant Lincoln collections, each with materials pertaining to the 16th president's death and funeral.

The donated items include a rare collection of 11 photographs of people who were at Lincoln's deathbed -- images that were then used to create the historical painting "The Last Hours of Abraham Lincoln" -- and a major collection of photographs, documents, printed materials and scale models of Lincoln's funeral train, car and hearse.

The materials pertaining to "The Last Hours" were owned by a private collector, and the acquisition was made possible by a gift from LaSalle National Bank. The other collection was donated by Benedictine University in Lisle.

"‘The Last Hours' photographs are a valuable documentary record of the individuals who were at Lincoln's side when he died on April 15, 1865," said Richard Norton Smith, director of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum. "The Benedictine University materials are a wonderful, eclectic mix of documents, artifacts and reproductions that greatly expand our library's world-class Lincoln collection."

John Badger Bachelder collection of photographs and subscription book used to help create "The Last Hours of Abraham Lincoln"

A significant and rare collection of materials documenting the origins and evolution of a historical painting and print, "The Last Hours of Abraham Lincoln," was acquired by the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum.

The collection features a subscription book containing 11 rare photographs taken by the famed Civil War-era photographer Mathew Brady of people who were at Lincoln's deathbed. These include Robert Todd Lincoln, President Andrew Johnson, and Clara Harris and Henry Rathbone, who were in the box with President and Mrs. Lincoln at Ford's Theatre. The collection also features a one-of-a-kind albumen photograph showing the Alonzo Chappel painting "The Last Hours of Abraham Lincoln," commissioned by Bachelder, along with a "key" of the people at Lincoln's bedside. Also included in the collection are letters by President Andrew Johnson's secretary and Secretary of War Edwin Stanton's secretary, agreeing to pose for the project.

John Badger Bachelder was an artist and engraver who excelled at illustrating historical events of national importance. He was in Washington, D.C., on April 14 and immediately determined that Abraham Lincoln's death must be documented in a monumental painting and more affordable prints. Bachelder immediately began contacting everyone who was at President Lincoln's bedside the evening of April 14 and the final hours of April 15, when Lincoln took his last breath at 7:22 a.m. He arranged to have photographs made at Mathew Brady's famous gallery. From the photographs, Bachelder made a design and then arranged for Alonzo Chappel, the well-known painter, to create the scene on canvas. Two different canvasses were executed. The first, with some individuals in different poses, is at Brown University. The more finished version is at the Chicago Historical Society.

Bachelder had photographs of the paintings made and acquired the services of H.B. Hall to execute the work on engravings, priced at $100, $60, $35 and $15. The prints would be sold by subscription only and the subscribers in the book include Robert Todd Lincoln, Postmaster General William Dennison, and members of Congress, including Schuyler Colfax and Isaac N. Arnold. The final prints were never realized, but two different draft designs are part of the collection.


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Benedictine University's Thomas Dyba Collection of numerous items relating to Lincoln and the Civil War

A unique collection of photographs, documents, printed materials, postal volumes, sculpture and scale models relating to Abraham Lincoln and the Civil War has been donated to the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum by Benedictine University of Lisle, Illinois.

The Thomas Dyba Collection is named after Benedictine's former dean of academic affairs and past executive vice president, a Lincoln author and enthusiast, who died in 1989. In his honor, the Thomas Dyba Lecture Series of the Lincoln Group of Illinois was presented at the university annually for a number of years into the late 1990s. Dyba wrote "Seventeen Years at Eighth and Jackson: The Lincoln Family in Their Springfield Home."

The collection features exact scale models built by former Benedictine professor Wayne Wesolowski of the Lincoln funeral train, car and funeral hearse. The models are based on period photographs, illustrations and eyewitness accounts, and graphically demonstrate the lavish, cross-country funeral for America's first martyred president.

The Dyba Collection also includes approximately 4,500 Lincoln publications, including extremely rare items, such as campaign pamphlets, biographies and funeral eulogies. Approximately 300 Lincoln-related prints and broadsides and a life-size Lincoln bust by an unknown sculptor are part of the collection as well.

Dyba was a member of the Lincoln Society of Philately, and his collection of approximately 10,000 Lincoln-related stamps and postal covers is included in the Benedictine University donation. The donation also includes several Civil War are letters and documents.

Finally, the Dyba Collection features a large cache of photographs, documents and scale models relating to the restoration of the Lincoln Home National Historic Site in Springfield, including the rededication of the Lincoln Home on June 16, 1988.

The funeral train and hearse replicas in the Benedictine University donation will be part of "President Lincoln Comes Home," an exhibit at the Old State Capitol State Historic Site in Springfield. The exhibit will be open from April 21 to May 4, which coincides with the martyred president's funeral train ride from Washington, D.C., to Springfield. Also included in the exhibit will be original furniture from Lincoln's funeral train, several original funeral artifacts and a replica of Lincoln's casket.

The Bachelder and Benedictine University collections are now part of the Henry Horner Lincoln Collection at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library. The library contains more than 160,000 books, 65,000 reels of Illinois newspapers on microfilm, 6,000 maps and broadsides, 200,000 prints and photographs, and 10 million manuscripts.

The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum is a $115 million complex now under construction at the corner of Sixth and Jefferson streets in downtown Springfield. The library building will open in summer 2004, with the museum building slated to open in early 2005. The complex will showcase the state's Abraham Lincoln Collection, the world's largest, and will serve as a gateway to other Lincoln and Lincoln-era sites across the country. It is administered by the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency.

[Illinois Historic Preservation Agency
news release]

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